It IS a Small World After All 15


Most of the long-term travelers that I have met have some variation of the “it’s a small world” story that runs in a similar fashion – I ran into so and so a number of countries and weeks after I saw them last time. No matter how many times I have heard variations of this fairly common story, it never ceases to totally amaze me when it happens to me, as it has three times on my trip.

You have already heard the first time this happened to me on my post about the people I met on the cargo freighters. I took a freighter from Brasil to South Africa with a few people, including Ian. Our ship got to Cape Town in early April. I then went overland, basically up East Africa, from there, until I got to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, around the end of June. Four months and 3,500 miles later. There, in a hotel bar one afternoon, in walked Ian, out of the blue.

The second time was a lot less awe-inspiring. I hung out with a Brit named Stephen for two or three days in Hanoi, Vietnam, when I arrived there. Nice guy, we had some beers, talked about football (international style), and compared notes on what we were thinking about doing in Southeast Asia. The then took off to go to southern Vietnam and over to Cambsign petra saying view at the end of the worldodia. I went a little further south, then turned west to Laos, then down to Cambodia, then back to Thailand about six weeks later. I had a late-night train from Bangkok to northern Thailand and was killing a few hours in a pub before the train, actually watching some Premier League football, when Stephen walked in. We both had our backpacks with us – he was leaving in a few hours on a bus, going south.

The latest one happened just a couple days ago, here in New Zealand. In February of last year I meet three girls in Ecuador, two from the U.S. and Lily, from Canada. These were the three that I did the bridge jump with in Banos. Since then, I haven’t been in touch with her at all. She went back to Canada, worked, and a few months ago, decided she wanted to toss her life up in the air a bit and moved to New Zealand. This was all totally unknown to met.

So a couple days ago, I hitchhiked from Fox Glacier to a little lake town in the southern middle of New Zealand, Wanaka. A brother and sister from Oregon were nice enough to pick me up and bring me here. The brother had been traveling around New Zealand for a while and once we got here, he took us to a little local pub off the beaten track, with some cheap beer.

female bridge jumping banos, ecuador

Lily, post-bridge jump when we met in Ecuador

We walked in around 8 p.m. and were the only three customers in there. As we went up to the bar and ordered, from the other side of the bar I heard a quite loud “Michael!” It turns out Lily had landed in Wanaka less than a week ago and just got a job at this bar three days before I walked in. One year later. Literally almost all the way around the world.

It truly is a small world. And we celebrated such a revelation by then going to another bar to torture innocent patrons with our versions of karaoke classics.

So here is what I’d really like to assemble some more of these stories here. If you’ve got a story, post it in the comments section. If you have written a blog post about one of these situations, please feel free to link it here. I love hearing these stories.


About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

15 thoughts on “It IS a Small World After All

  • nodebtworldtravel.com

    That is fantastic. Not as long a period as yours but someone I hung out with in Bangkok and Krabi ended up running into him in Siem Reap two weeks later. No as dramatic as yours, but all the places in the world either one of us could be, who would have thought we would walking down the same street in Cambodia.

  • Chris - The Aussie Nomad

    That's so funny. You expect it when your travelling around your home state or heading to a major city for an event.But to meet up with someone on the other side of the world 1 year later is just so cool. I hope I can gather a story or 2 like that as I travel, great post Michael

  • Cailin O'Neil

    I'm glad my post inspired you to write one too Michael!! Crazy how that happens isn't it? i think your stories may even be crazier than mine!! Its kind of crazy that with 6billion+ people in the world that things like that can happen!

  • Kymelee

    Wow Michael, That’s pretty amazing! A year later and another country…

    I have my own story, though it isn’t as remarkable as yours. My younger sister and I were backpacking around Indonesia in 2009. While we were in Yogyakarta we noticed an Indonesian guy following us. We went into a shopping mall because we figured we were safer in there than on the street. We saw a white guy (the only white person we had seen since we noticed this guy) going up the escalators. We decided we would go join him, hoping the Indo guy would leave us along. We were almost caught up to the guy when we notice the guy following us turned around and left. We figured we were fine then so we just looked around the mall then continued on with our plans.

    Later that day we went to a restaurant and while we were trying to figure out what to order we noticed a young white guy sitting by himself. My sister asked him to join us instead of sitting by him self. This guy was 17 and from Australia too. he was travelling with his grandfather. While we were waiting for his grandfather to come some other guy and his kid came in. This kid and our new friend looked at each other with confusion. The kid came up to our new friend and asked if he knew him, because he looked familiar. Turns out they went to the same school, in Canberra, Australia!

    As the night wore on, and we chatted, we told our new friend about the guy following us, Turns out HE was the guy we were following! I would like to say that’s the end, but not quite…

    We said our goodbyes that night not expecting to see our new friend again. A week later we ran into him in on a random street in Jakarta. Jakarta! population of over 9.5 million people. This time we got his details, and discovered in about 2 weeks time he would be going to Bali, a few days after we would be arriving, so we organised a time and place to meet up the day after he arrived. Of course on my morning stroll through Kuta, who should drive past me in their taxi on the way from the airport? And of course he would pick the same restaurant for dinner as well. We ran into this kid 5 times, in three different places!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      that is a great story. I am amazed at how many of us that have done some extensive traveling have stories like this. Seems so, so odd that you run into people like this, but almost everyone I know has a similar story or two. Thanks so much for sharing yours. Sounds like a good post for you….

  • Kim

    I’m from Chicago and my best friend and I traveled to New York City for New Years Eve with our two friends from Australia who were visiting us in the States. We were eating lunch in the Seinfeld diner while a guy approached our table. He said he didn’t want to interrupt but he couldn’t help but overhear that my friends had Australian accents – he was also from Australia. They chatted for a bit and it turned out they were both from the same city in Australia. Then the guy gave my Aussie friend an odd look and said, “Do you by any chance have a brother name Dave?” Well, yes my Aussie friend does in fact have a brother named Dave. It turns out he was good friends with him. It also turns out my Aussie friend and this guy were actually at the same housewarming party about a month earlier.

    Before we left, my friend and I discussed how it could be possible we would run into someone we know in NYC. We never would have guessed that our friend from Australia would.

    Small world.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      it is just stories like this that I totally love! Seriously… what are the odds??!!

  • Dan Collins

    When I was in Australia I went out on a party tour in Surfers Paradise, a few minutes in to the tour I was tapped on the shoulder by a couple who I knew from back home. I didn’t know they were in Australia and we’d lost contact before I left so they didn’t know I was there either. It was a nice surprise! Also in Australia, around Christmas time I decided to check Facebook to see what my friends back home were up to. I saw one friend “checking in” to a town near me over there, to cut a long story short we ended up spending Christmas day in the rain forest. It was awesome!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      what I like is that pretty much every story I have heard like this is one that ends up well… as yours did, obviously.

  • Linda ~ Journey Jottings

    Thanks Michael for dropping by my blog to let me know how you (and many of your readers) have had the same experience of bumping into someone you know whilst in some far flung land!

    It is extraordinary that out of the 149 million square kilometres of land on the globe and the 86,400 seconds in any one day that we could end up standing in the same place, at the same time, as someone we know from a previous time in our lives –

    I’d still like to know the statistical probability! 😉

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I failed statistics, but agree with you… HIGHLY improbable. But a heck of a lot of fun.

  • Akila

    Love stories like these. We have so many of them, too. We spent one night in the beginning of our 5 week trip in South Africa with another couple at a small safari camp —- 4 weeks later, they come up to us in Hermanus while we’re looking for whales. Just happened that they were there on the same day as us at this one lookout point.

    Another time, we took a boat cruise in the Whitsundays, Australia, and really liked one of the women who traveled with us. 8 weeks later, we ran into the same woman on another ship, crossing from the South Island to the North Island in New Zealand.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      it is so fun, and interesting, when you run into the same people…. in different countries. Makes it seem so random and odd.

  • Alex

    I’ve got a couple of them!

    I met a lady that had been in an Italian course I was in during May 1993 in Florence, Italy, at the Auckland aquarium in December 1996!

    I met another lady that had been on a tour in New Zealand in December 1996 several years later waiting for the same ski bus I was already on in Banff, Canada!

    Nice meeting ladies this way! 😉

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