Why you should prioritise making new friends for your wellbeing

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Real tales of adventure, told by real Flashpackers. This piece is written by a member of our incredible Flash Pack community. To share your own Flash Pack story, drop us a DM on Instagram and we'll be right there.

My name is Sara, I’m from the USA and I’m a Flashpacker. Today I’m going to tell you why I think making new friends on a new adventure, especially post-lockdown, is key to your wellbeing. Scratch that, critical.

I’m sure, like me, you’ve found the last two years incredibly hard.

I was isolating in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area of California and had been forced to cancel virtually all of my social engagements. Unable to meet in-person, I was spending a significant amount of time by myself.

I went into the pandemic thinking that I was an introvert and realised quickly during the lockdown I was actually an extrovert, and I thrived on meeting new people and establishing a personal connection with others. So, I found myself looking for a change. I wanted to create a life in a location that valued family, friendship and a slower environment that focused on quality time versus quantity of accomplishments.

I was born and raised in California but, in April this year, I decided to move to Tennessee, to a town I had visited for only 48-hours previously. I didn’t know a soul in the state, was unfamiliar with my new town, and had less than 30 days from making my decision to moving into my new apartment. I was excited, anxious – but ready for new memories!

So why am I telling you this?

The quick adjustment and being thrust out of my normal environment and into the unknown reminded me of my time spent in Finland with Flash Pack, on one of the most memorable vacations I’ve ever taken.

A new adventure

I’m the sort of person that loves lists; to-do lists, checklists, shopping lists – but most importantly, bucket lists. Who’s with me?

I’ve always been focused on tackling items that are on my personal bucket list, and in 2020 I wanted to check off my goal of completing a solo international trip. I wasn’t ready to take the plunge and complete a full adventure entirely by myself, so when I happened to stumble across Flash Pack on social media I was thrilled.

The concept was exactly what I had, unknowingly, been looking for to satisfy my desire for solo travel. I was immediately intrigued by the idea that there was a specific age group ready to travel with me, an adventure where I was surrounded by people with similar interests. And I loved that every adventure had a jam-packed itinerary of interesting, eclectic and exciting activities.

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I wasn’t sure who I’d be meeting on the trip and, to be honest, I was uneasy about what kind of people I’d be spending all my time with while in the frozen tundra of Finland in such close quarters. Feeling both excited and nervous, I boarded my flight from California to Amsterdam and then finally landed in Finland. Also remember, I thought I was an introvert!

Prior to our departure, all the Flashpackers that were embarking on the trip had been introduced to one another in a group WhatsApp chat. It allowed us to get to know one another prior to meeting in person on our first day. As I stepped off the plane in Finland, all I knew was that I was supposed to meet the leader of our group by baggage claim. Without a physical description to go off, I was just hoping that I wouldn’t be left behind by the group while I waited to be reunited with my luggage in a foreign country.

As I was looking around and attempting to make eye contact with any potential fellow Flashpackers, I heard my name – I was greeted by our guide with an enormous smile. He said, “You look like a Flashpacker, it’s so nice to meet you!”

I immediately knew that I was with a like-minded, adventurous group of people.

People like me

From the very first dinner we had on day one, I felt at ease with the whole group, instantly welcomed into the fold, and knew even then these people would turn out to be lifelong friends. While we didn’t know one another at the beginning of the trip, we were able to bond over hilarious moments, share Finnish beverages, and learn more about our various backgrounds (both professional and personal).

Over the next four days, we grew closer as a friendship group over reindeer sleigh rides in the whisper quiet wilderness, husky sledding (even meeting husky puppies!) through majestic forests and snowmobiling up steep terrain and through pillowy soft powder. The laughs were endless. And each activity only served to make the bond deeper, in sharing these incredible moments together.

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It was exhilarating to get out of my comfort zone and establish relationships with people that I wouldn’t normally have ever run into. The experience was one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.

After our trip, we planned to meet again in several months in London to catch up, create more memories and continue to build upon our new friendships. Unfortunately, the pandemic wreaked havoc with our plans, and our reunion had to be postponed.

In the meantime, we continue to keep in touch on WhatsApp and social media, wish one another a happy birthday on our special days, and wait until we can connect again in person when the conditions are more favourable.

I will forever treasure my time with new friends and am thankful for the opportunity Flash Pack gave me to create such wonderful memories. It’s this mentality that I’ve continued to live and breathe in my move to Tennessee, meeting new people and making a new life for myself. My wellbeing is now reaping the rewards.

And so – making new friends is something I believe every person on the planet needs to do more of. Not only have I got some new faces around the world to pop in and see when I visit their country, but my outlook on life has also grown for the better. I promise you, if you try this, it has the potential to be one of the richest experiences you’ll remember.

Perhaps I’ll see you out there.

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