The further you are from home…

…the better you get on with people you know*

When I was 17 I went on my first foreign family holiday. It was 2,000 miles from the UK to a Greek island. A that age I was mostly concerned with what I was wearing, if I’d be able to drink alcohol, if I’d meet any girls.

So I didn’t expect to meet one of my heroes at the airport!

You’re probably thinking Tom Cruise, Gary Lineker, Vanilla Ice (there you go, all my pubescent idols in one sweeping admission, ha ha). But it was more local than that.

There was a group of guys in the year above me at school who were uber cool. Into Nirvana and staking and stuff. And I looked up to them in the way you do when you live in a small village and there’s not a lot going on. Where the most exciting thing to have happened in years your parents’ relationship breakdown, and most people, when they leave school, go to work on farms or cutting chicken in the local poultry factory.

What I most admired was their ‘don’t give a shit’ attitude. Not about school – they were bright guys from what I remember – more about social and school convention. They didn’t get excited about football. They had long hair.

By contrast I was a good kid at school. I like learning and I was competitive about grades and house points (got to keep score somehow). But part of me also didn’t care what others thought. When I was 10 I dressed as a woman for a charity day at school. Got laughed at a lot, but didn’t care. Well, not too much.

So I saw in the grunge-loving skater dudes the kid my parents wouldn’t let me be. The ones allowed out later than me, having a lot more fun. Just way cooler.

And then, on this day in Greece, I saw one of them in the restrooms at the airport in Greece.

‘Hi Rab’ I said

‘Alright Jon’? he said.

And then his mum started chatting to me like she’d known me all her life. We had a good chat and went off on our holidays. Him backpacking I think. Us nearly slipping off the side of a mountain in a Fiat 500.

I loved that moment, but thought about it later and realised the encounter would have been different if I’d bumped into him in the local supermarket back home. We simply wouldn’t have spoken. And true enough, this wasn’t the start of some beautiful friendship.

Over the years, the more I travelled, the more this happened. Running into acquaintances in various places. And the idea always seemed to hold true: the further you are from home when, the better you get on with someone you know.

I assumed then, and still do now, that the things you in common matter more when you’re abroad. You’re safer with someone from home, have similar reference points, and maybe also give them the benefit of doubt…they’re more like you than you realise.

But this has its limits. These days I regularly bump into people I know from work when I’m on holiday. This happened today. Nice as it is, it can be awkward when you came to get away from work, but run into someone where that’s the main thing you have in common.

So whilst this idea always held true in the past, today I’m not so sure.

What do you think? Is there a grain of truth here, or is it complete nonsense?

* talking here about people you already know and meet by chance, rather than people you’ve decided to go away with

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