You meet some pretty amazing people while traveling – whether they’re famous, royal or just have amazing stories and experiences to share, meeting people, forming friendships, and chatting with the locals is part of the traveling experience.
The one thing traveling extensively has taught me is that the world really is an incredibly small place, and that everyone is a person. That sounds like an odd statement – “every-one is a person” – but it’s true. We so often idolize our hero’s to the point where it’s often hard to believe that they are real – like trying to picture a teacher outside of the classroom! But these people still have to catch commercial flights, still have to eat, and have interests which may often align with your own. You really never know who you’re going to be seated next to on a plane, share a hostel dorm with, or bump into in a hotel elevator.
Here are some of the coolest people (in my opinion) who I have met while traveling.
The King of Sweden
Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is an awesome dude! He is a genuinely down to earth, amazing guy, and I met him in 2011 at the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Sweden.
Having been involved in scouting since his childhood days, King Carl Gustaf is currently the Honorary Chairman of the World Scout Movement, and takes part in different types of Scouting activities in both Sweden and abroad.
His visit to the World Jamboree wasn’t fleeting – he pitched a tent and actually camped on the grounds with the other 40,000 of us. During the days he toured the grounds, visited the activities which were running, shook hands and engaged in conversations with those passing by. He and his wife Silvia seem genuinely interested in speaking to you if you are lucky enough to strike up a brief conversation – definitely a King Scout!
Jerry Springer was waiting for a flight in Chicago O’Hare Airport when I decided to turn around and say hi. I try not to make a habit out of approaching “famous” people – but he was really great about it. Actually a really nice guy – we engaged in some brief small talk before he got on the plane.
The Governor General of Australia. Technically I wasn’t traveling at this point, but Quentin Bryce is awesome enough to deserve a mention! Having achieved my Baden Powell Scout Award last year, I was presented with my award at Government House by the Governor General.
A few months earlier she had attended the Royal Wedding between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, so if we’re going by degrees of separation I’m getting closer to meeting Kate Middleton!!
One thing Emma Watson hates more than anything in the world is being called Hermione Granger! Back when I was working in England and Harry Potter was huge, we bumped into her in an Oxford pub – we were entering and she was leaving but it was still pretty awesome!
Gary is one of the biggest travel bloggers in the industry, and honestly I had no idea who he was or what he did until I sat next to him on a plane from Dallas to Brisbane in 2012. It sounds ridiculous but I had no idea before that moment that people were making money online from travel blogging – or that long term travel was something that people (and a lot of people) did.
Gary runs Everything Everywhere, which has become the biggest personal travel blog on the internet. In 2007 he sold his house and has been traveling around the world ever since! That to me is amazing, and our conversation inspired me to turn my own travel blog into a full time thing. I was in awe of this person who had photographed Antarctica, rode out a tsunami in Hawaii, spent Holy Week in Jerusalem and visited over 250 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
You could tell he was exhausted from all of the flying and traveling he does, but even so he still put up with all of my annoying chatter and questions and was really lovely. Genuinely awesome guy!
Pope Benedict XVI
Ok, so this is kind of a half truth, I didn’t actually meet him per say, but I did attend Good Friday Mass in 2007 with 80,000 or so other Catholics outside the Colosseum in Rome where he led the Stations of the Cross. On entering the site he made his way right through the crowd, and he walked right past those of us who had arrived early enough in the day to position ourselves next to the walkways!
You may have figured out by now that Mike is from America and I am from Australia. We met in Tanzania, Africa, and I still love the reactions we get when people ask “so you’re from Australia, he’s from America – where did you both meet?”!
After having both finished the Mt Kilimanjaro climb, we met through mutual travelers at the hotel at the bottom of the mountain. Before we knew it we had spent hours talking to each other and laughing together, and found ourselves sitting beneath a starry African sky in the early AM hours. Dinner had turned into breakfast and we forced ourselves to say goodbye before heading towards separate flights. We swapped emails and phone numbers, not having any clue that our wedding in Hawaii would be less than three years later.
Honestly I have absolutely no idea who these people are, but you know what, that’s what makes traveling so great! Travelers are waiting to meet you in every new place you go – and I have made some of the best friendships and contacts overseas while traveling after striking up conversations with random strangers! Not striking up that conversation means you’re missing out on meeting some amazing people who lead extraordinary lives.
The great thing about traveling is that everyone (generally) travels with an open mind, and are there to meet new people and experience new things. I really didn’t want to quote High School Musical, but “do you remember in kindergarten, how you’d meet a kid, and know nothing about them, then 10 seconds later you’re playing like you’re best friends, because you didn’t have to be anything but yourself?” That’s what traveling is like! They might only be your ‘best friends’ for maybe a day, or even a week before you both move on to your next destination, but that’s ok – some friendships are only meant to last for the moment.
Travelers have the most amazing stories, the best sense of humor, and genuinely want to listen to you as well. Lap it up, because once you get home there’s only so many times you can retell an amazing travel tale before your friends and family loose their patience!
Who are the coolest people you have ever met while traveling?