Four and a half years ago, I went to Europe for the first time. I’d saved up a little money and bought a spot on a loosely-guided tour through Contiki to London, Paris, and Rome. I went completely by myself, without knowing anyone or having much planned out.
That’s where I met Kristina and Mary.
Kristina was my randomly-assigned roommate, who had a cheery disposition and a habit of touring hard all day and still going out at night. She was also one of the very few people who went on to Rome after Paris, and we got some real quality power-touristing time in together.
Mary was that take-charge person who had all these guidebooks and knew what things we had to do in each city. I, like many others, gravitated toward her during the trip.
After the trip was over, we made a lot of promises to see each other. I didn’t really expect it to pan out, as hopeful as I was. But less than a year later, I met up with them for a US-based Oktoberfest celebration. We wore dirndls daily and drank way too much beer.
Since then, we’ve been all over the world together (sometimes just two of us at a time, too).
When your primary relationship with someone is travel, it’s easy to not really get to know the other person. You’re not a part of their daily lives, so you miss out on a lot of the conversations about things like the person you’re dating, or the weird interaction with your boss, or the things that your parents said when you last saw them. But something started to shift in my friendship with Kristina and Mary. We would take breaks from sightseeing to watch trashy TV (mostly Bravo) and drink beers in our room. We’d have real conversations over dinner or while waiting in line. It started to feel like a genuine and meaningful friendship.
I began to learn a lot about them and understand our ‘roles.’ We are all major planners — which is probably an obvious, since we all travel so much — so we split the burden on putting together these trips. Mary always finds the deals and always has some sort of connection who can hook us up with some new experience (or, frequently, access to Vegas pool parties). Kristina handles a lot of logistics, like the time we went to Calgary Stampede in Canada and she had pre-purchased all of our transportation and scheduled us down to the minute. (It. Was. AMAZING!) And I generally will make sure we have reservations for any meal. (Priorities.)
I learned that Kristina and Mary are both engineers — one oil, one airplane — and I know where they went to college, where they grew up, where their parents live and how many siblings they have. We’ve talked about our exes, our partners, our plans for the future. We’ve taken painfully necessary naps after late nights and gotten each other Pedialyte and Sprite. And they put together a hell of a special Bachelorette experience when they accepted my request to be my two Maids-of-Honor.
They are the definition of rally-ers. They can dance at a Parisian club all night and get comp’d bottles of Grey Goose, then still make it on the bus to Versailles the next day. (True story.) They are true joy in woman form. They are intelligent, hilarious, amicable, contented, organized, weird, enthusiastic, confident, and two super fabulous human beings. They can wear un-laundered dirnls three days in a row and consume all-you-can-consume sausage and beer, then give a killer toast and embrace all your guests at your wedding. They can do it all. They are exemplary women to celebrate any day, but especially today on International Women’s Day. And I’m so glad they became more than just my travel friends.