January 26th, 2013, I drunkenly stumbled out of the bathroom onto the dance floor of a basement club in Prague. I could see the ice bar through the translucent ceiling above me, hundreds of Australians celebrating Australia Day around me, and the rest of my vision was foggy. Cranberry vodka swimming through my veins, I set out on a mission to find my friend. I elbowed my way through the hammered Australians scanning the dance floor and screaming over the pulsating techno music to each one of them, "have you seen my friend Hope?" A guy in a sombrero, whom we had been chatting with earlier, gestured to the stage: "isn't that her?" I focused my eyes on the stage and squinted hard, and there she was, dancing by herself, floating across the platform, twirling from man to man, drawing attention like only Hope could.
I've never met someone with the confidence that Hope has, which makes her the best travel companion that I could ever ask for. By the time I had left for my first ever real backpacking adventure, I had seemed to acquire some hardcore apprehension, preemptive homesickness, and a hole in the pit of my stomach. Why? I don't know; I had been traveling long enough at this point to know that everything was going to be ok. But meeting Hope at the baggage claim in Edinburgh, Scotland invoked me with that calming feeling that somehow the next few weeks were going to be a-ok.
Traveling alone is a complete joy, don't get me wrong. But having your best friend by your side gives you a reason to laugh when you'd otherwise be terrified. Getting conned out of 40 euros on the tram, getting desperately lost in the middle of no where after getting on the train in the wrong direction, stumbling home from the bars at night, sharing a small hostel room with just one other person: all things that aren't so funny when you're by yourself. Instead you're in stitches rather than in tears. You've got a wingman (or you are the wingman). You've got someone to make sure your selfies are on your good side. You've got someone to split a bottle of wine in your bunk beds with, and someone to crawl from pub to pub with. You know they wont judge you for the amount of pesto you consume, or the fact that you've been wearing the same exact pair of socks for the last 5 days. You've got someone to man the map if you're directionally challenged, and someone who also wants to stay out clubbing so late that you can watch the sunrise.
When you travel, your vulnerability is worn on your sleeve. All your insecurities, your discomforts, your flaws, the things you aren't gifted at are on display. You learn more about yourself than almost any other experience, because your heart and mind are vulnerable. When you travel solo, your vulnerabilities are there, but only for you to see. When you've got your PIC by your side, they can see them too. Without Hope alongside me during one of the biggest learning experiences of my life, my life would be completely different. I won't ever forget the nights we sat up laughing till unbelievably late because what had started as an intense conversation about our hopes and dreams had turned into a laughing fit about the bizarre people that we know and how we pretty much hate everyone.
Before we left for our trip, we were sorority sisters, good acquaintances, friends. But I never knew that what would start out as a short backpacking trip would turn into one of my best friends in the world. She's seen my vulnerabilities and I'm ok with that. With Hope, I know that however far away we are from each other, she knows me on another level, and I can count on her for everything.
In an age where our generation obsesses over technology, resources, the internet, and our Instagram image, we hardly stop enough to realize that the things that matter are right there in front of us. Your best friend is your best travel accessory, farther more than your travel sized lip stick and one of 25 travel hacks that you found on Pinterest. You've got someone to watch your back, laugh with you, cry with you, and adventure with you. And you'll have that bond for the rest of your life.
So cheers to you, Hope. And cheers to all of my close friends who have joined me on my adventures. And cheers to best friends everywhere who make the best travel accessory.