It’s a small world. If you know me, you know I love small world stories. As we know, it’s a small world, after all.
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world
There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone
Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide
It’s a small world after all
As an avid traveler, these lyrics are a fair reflection of my experiences. No matter where I am, there really is only one sun and moon. And I think it is also fair to say, when you see someone smiling, they are happy. These are known knowns. So despite the annoying music, I’m a proponent of the song’s message.
The small world concept can also nicely be summarized with the Six Degrees of Separation. Wikipedia sums it up as following: “Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of a “friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.”
Wikipedia continues: “The concept was originally set out in a 1929 short story by Frigyes Karinthy, where a group of people play a game trying to connect any person in the world to themselves by a chain of five others.” And 90 years later, party goers are still enthusiastic with this concept when playing Back to Bacon.
Karinthy, a Hungarian, was quite prescient when he posited that the “modern world was ‘shrinking’ due to this ever-increasing connectedness of human beings.” He posited that “despite great physical distances between the globe’s individuals, the growing density of human networks made the actual social distance far smaller.”
Whether it is Disney or Karinthy reflecting on the interconnectedness of those on earth, it really does feel like the world is getting smaller. The internet and social media are connecting people from the far corners of the globe and is making it so much easier to meet people and stay connected with them no matter where they live.
Eritrea on the Horn of Africa has been one of the more challenging visas to get. Some people have endeavored months or years to earn this elusive visa. In 2016, I noted that Young Pioneer Tours on their website were offering a tour to Eritrea which included a Visa On Arrival. VOA? I’m in.
I joined the tour in Asmara and met my fellow intrepid travelers in addition to the Young Pioneer staff, including then tour guide, Shane Horan. My ten days in the country were jam packed, and we all departed a bit richer in our experiences. At the end of the trip, we all parted ways, and headed off in different directions for more travels.
A month later I arrived in South Korea for my second visit. I headed off to the DMZ between North and South Korea. A place that I find incredibly fascinating. Despite the DMZ being the most militarized border in the world, it is a fairly touristy area with gift shops and monuments. Buses of tourist arrive and deposit visitors on a regular basis.
I watched as another bus arrived, and fellow tourists piled out. I did a second take, and then a third.
I locked eyes with Shane. I smiled as I greeted Shane, caught up for some time, and took a photo to memorialize our truly random meeting.
The Gerewol Festival brought me to the African country, Chad. This annual festival at the end of the rainy season united the nomadic Wodaabe people in the bush. The Gerewol Festival is a matchmaking ceremony which takes place in an open savannah.
Our group of intrepid travelers set up our tents with the neighboring Wodaabe. Our group numbered over 20. A diverse group of extremely well-traveled people spent their time photographing the ceremony, fending off the heat, and trading travel stories.
The end of the week saw us parting ways and hugs as we parted to different corners of the globe.
Six weeks later I was touring the Great Ziggurat of Ur. The Ziggurat is a 4,000-year-old structure from the Bronze Age for a Sumerian King. It is located in the southern part of Iraq and while it is a significant historical monument, I was the only foreigner visiting.
My tour ended, and I ambled to my car while I noted a bus pulled up. A group of Russian tourists had arrived. I had seen the same group of Russians a few days before in Samarra. As the Russians filed out, I greeted them with “privets” and “zdravstvuytes”. All of them ignored me, except for the last woman who exited the bus.
I was shocked.
Wide grins erupted. A photo was taken.
Valentina was one of my travel friends in Chad, just four tents over.
I touched down in my 145th country, South Sudan. South Sudan is the youngest country in the world, just celebrating its 10th anniversary. South Sudan has been mired by a brutal civil war for decades and has very limited infrastructure. In other words, tourists are not flocking to South Sudan.
My plan was to spend two nights camping next the Mundari, a semi-nomadic tribe of cow herders. I waited at a mediocre hotel for my trip to begin in earnest. After an extended breakfast I meandered out to the lobby. I gave a double look when I saw a dozen foreigners gathered around the singular couch. I thought to myself what are all these weirdos doing in Juba, South Sudan.
As I passed by the receptionist desk, a bearded man yelled out my name. I turned around and stared at him. My mind raced through its mental rolodex and I yelled out, “Alvaro”.
Alvaro is a well-known Instagrammer who also happens to be the youngest Spaniard who has traveled to every country in the world. We had never met in real-life, but we have traded messages, sharing information on Chasing 193.
We shared some greetings and of course a photo, and we parted ways, waiting for our next serendipitous meeting.
I visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a two-week roadtrip which included a rental car and a couple of thousand of kilometers. My friend and uber traveler Michael Runkel had been in KSA just a week or two before me. Michael entertained multiple messages from me asking for advice while I was on the move.
I was exploring Wadi Lajub in the south and spontaneously met some locals from Jeddah who were also exploring the area. They invited me for tea and dates on top of a nearby mountain where a coffee farm was located. Tea transitioned into a lunch, a lot of photos and laughs.
The owner of the coffee farm was named Faisal. Faisal a charismatic guy is a ‘Flower Man’, a tribe located in the southern part of Saudi Arabia. They are known for their intricately made floral headpieces. Faisal spent time serenading us with some local songs and took time to pose for some photos.
While conversing with Michael, I added in a photo of Faisal and myself showcasing giant grins. A moment later, Michael responded with another photo. Of himself and Faisal.
I was shocked, but not really.
Over 35 million people make their homes in this Arab country. What are the odds that Michael and I both ended up meeting Faisal? Statistically it seems impossible. But just weeks apart, we both ended up spending time with this charming Saudi.
While communicating with Michael I was also trading messages with Drew Binsky, one of the most successful travel content creators. Drew arrived to KSA just a week after me. Unfortunately, our travel schedules did not coincide, but I was able to share some advice with Drew.
Drew creates some of the most watched travel videos on YouTube. I suggested he connect with Faisal. I knew Faisal would be good on camera. I explained the logistics of visiting Faisal and Drew shared the geography was not favorable for a meeting.
Yet, a week later, I was checking in on Drew’s Instagram and who showed up … Faisal and Drew both wearing floral headdresses.
It was my second to last day in Armenia. I walked into the Covid testing center at 8am on the dot, exactly when they opened. As I waited for my paperwork to be processed, I started chatting with a fellow traveler also waiting for a test. We nodded are goodbyes and parted ways.
Three months later I was hosting a Facebook Live providing updates for the Extraordinary Travel Festival. After the live stream ended, I reviewed the comments.
Aniruddh directed a comment to me. While he was watching the FB Live, Aniruddh recognized me from the Covid testing center. Aniruddh who is a listener of my podcast and a reader of my blog, did not make the connection at the time of the meeting, but pieced it together several months later while watching the video.
Seven billion plus people on Earth, but sometimes it really does feel like a small world after all.