Last week, a colleague asked me if I had any overseas contacts that could help her with a specific work project. She told me what she was looking for, and I told her I had the perfect person for the job. The exchange got me thinking about one of my favorite benefits of traveling: international networking. Spend enough time overseas and you start to develop a list of foreign friends, colleagues, acquaintances and exes that turn your social circle into a veritable United Nations. Even when you eventually (maybe) return home, there will still be a few people you'll stay in contact with forever. Your worldview will never be the same.
Having friends and contacts all over the world is fun for so many reasons. When you travel, you've got people to visit. When they travel, they visit you. When a big news story breaks in their country, you've got someone to give you the real scoop. They teach you about their culture and their language. When the ones you don't talk to on a regular basis send you an email out of the blue it brightens your day. The world seems smaller when far off countries become that place your friend lives rather than some abstract idea. You get to say things like, "Oh yes, well my friend from Guyana will be in town next week..." It's fun because your world is never limited to where you actually are at any given moment in time. International connections expand your horizons.
Of course, you don't have to travel to globally grow your social circle. The Internet allows us to make connections without ever meeting in person. Writing Parisian Spring has put me in touch with other bloggers and people who read my blog all over the world. For those I've actually spent face-to-face time with, the Internet helps us keep in touch and reconnect in the future. And as I saw last week, it can also help you make connections between your connections. But my favorite was to build an international network is still by traveling. It's just plain fun.