Friend Bumping

Friend Bumping
“Am I dreaming or did you just rollerblade past my taxi in Rio de Janeiro?”

So read the text message I received when I returned home from my regular morning rollerblade along Rio’s four beaches – Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana and Leme. It was from a Parisian friend who didn’t know that I was living in Rio and just happened to spot me in the split second he looked up during a cab ride to his hotel. Perfect timing.

And so started a year of ‘Friend Bumping’ – def: when two or more people, whether through coincidence or coordinated effort, meet up overseas; a crossing of paths while on the road that puts in perspective exactly how small the world is!  (To emphasize this point, less than a week later I was bumping into a handful of friends from Sydney – Australians are such great travellers – who also decided to spend New Year’s in Rio. A gaggle of us gathered on Ipanema beach as if it were Bondi – but it wasn’t.)

Like I said, not all Friend Bumping is completely coincidental but is often a mix of good timing with a little bit of coordinated effort.

While I was living in Vancouver earlier this year, my UK-based BestestCuz sent me an email asking where in the world I was because she was in the Southern California desert training for her tour of duty in Afghanistan. I can’t tell you how excited I was to tell her “Not only are we on the SAME continent, we’re on the SAME side of the SAME continent!” So we made plans to meet up in Vegas and toured Utah together.

If that wasn’t exciting enough, I ‘bumped’ into MusicallyAttuned on my first night in Las Vegas (Facebook told us we we going to be in town at the same time). Then, a few weeks later, I bumped into a Vegas-based chum who’s NY relocation interview just happened to coincide with my visit to NYC. Again, lucky timing.

From NYC, I made a concerted effort to get to the Montreal Jazz Festival to catch up with highschool mate BundleOfEnergy before racing onwards to Ottawa where The Queen and I had meshed schedules to arrange a mutual wave (and a wink). Then it was onto Toronto for a brief catch up with DeliciouslyDryWit who happened to be in the city at the same time as I on a well-timed business trip.

I hopped on cheap planes (that’s EasyJet (love) and RyanAir (hmm, no comment)) to catch up with a friends travelling Europe at the same time as I: once in Madrid and again in Palermo. And even more excitingly, I was ‘Friend Bumped’ thrice this year: once, by my dear friend ReallySmartGuy who made a point of coming to Paris to see me during his European business trip; and again by FrequentFlyer who stopped in London while I was there to spend a day trekking around the city; and finally by my mum who came to say G’day while I was in Vancouver. (Family still counts for Friend Bumping if you both meet somewhere away from your respective homes).

Recently, I’ve just completed a couple weeks discovering the wonders (and cramped chicken buses) of Belize and Guatemala with SirHugsAlot. A plan hatched months ago. And will finish the year with two more ‘Friend Bumps’. One with a mate working this month in the Dominican Republic and meeting up with my mum over Christmas in Las Vegas.

My mum often marvels at these coincidences of Friend Bumping, but once you’re part of The Travel Club – and with the power of communication tools like email, facebook whereby you’re able to keep track of others’ movements – it’s not always that surprising to bump into friends around the world.

Does it make me feel international? Yes! Does it make me feel like I’m living the Rich & Fabulous lifestyle? Yes! But it also makes me realise how lucky I am to have travelling friends (and in fact how many of us are travelling these days) that I can Friend Bump with.

I should be used to it by now. I remember at one point I was living in Sydney with the girl that I had travelled through Ireland with, but off for Christmas with the family of the girl that I travelled through Spain with. I was shopping in the hot December Sydney sun for a Christmas gift for TheGirlFromSpain with the advice of two girls I hadn’t seen since we’d travelled through Italy together, when we bumped into the guy I had travelled through Egypt with. (Hadn’t seen him since than either).

Guy from Egypt, meet girls from Italy.

Now that was a strange experience!

When’s the last time you Friend Bumped whether through coincidence or concentrated effort?



  1. Michael:
    You amaze me how you are able to coordinate your travel plans to meet up with all your friends no matter where you are!!. Very honor that we were able to “bumped” into each other in the little town of Guelph :)
    Happy Travel.

  2. You wouldn’t happen to be in Germany in a couple of weeks?

  3. Actually the SMS read “Am I dreaming or did you just rollerblade past me on Copa Cabana?” :-) I feel honored to have opened up a year’s worth of friend bumping! No doubt it will carry on into the next year…
    (that’s the new nickname after RainingInRio!)

  4. Stephan de Roeck

    I am just back from a tour in Rajasthan. The driver of the car we rented tried to convince us to add an unforeseen stop to our route. He said that the small town of Pushkar has a spectacular, once- a -year camel market, which was going on right at the time we were driving through the area. We reflected on it for a while and then decided to leave the main road. After some time on a winding, almost unhardened track, we reached Pushkar. Once there we decided to follow the flow of people up to the only Brahman temple in India and there I Friend Bumped Dominique, an old friend from Brussels!

  5. What a year you’ve had. I can totally relate to the thrill of bumping like this. My dad and I were coincidentally both in the UK (from Australia) in October and we tried our darndest to connect purely for that reason.

  6. Michael – the travel gods surely are looking after you! Great story about friend bumping.

  7. Nareshni (RESH)

    Hey there !
    Did I take that pic of you and Grant at Tikal??!! Please give me some credit 😉

    It’s Resh ! we met at Caves Branch in Belize.
    Hope you doing alright and made it to your next destination (where ever that )

    Will share my pics with you on fb.

    take care,


  8. Howdy Hey, my friend.

    I shared “Friend Bumping” and “The Coffee Experiment” with my mom this morning. Remember you and she went to the Academy of Sciences together?

    I am going to sign her up for your emails, as she enjoys your writing!

    Love to you from us,

    Tom, Nicholas and Blanche

  9. Hi Michael, enjoyed your story on friend bumping, here’s mine… I met George in Miami Beach through a mutual friend three years ago, we met AGAIN in Antigua, Guatemala this spring…and ran into each other AGAIN walking down the street in Bogota, Colombia a city of 8 million people two weeks ago!! I’m buying a lottery ticket.

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