In the last few weeks, Derek and I have enjoyed one of the many benefits of long-term journeys: travel friends.  On short vacations, one’s priority is often to catch up on much-needed time with family and other loved ones.  When life on the road is more of a routine than it is a break from one, however, travelers have time to get to know each other–to share meals, stories and travel advice–without worrying about missing out on quality time with anyone from their “real lives” back at home.  This is one of the best ways to learn about must-see places and to begin to understand the different realities of living in a country other than our own. 
We’ve been lucky to meet a lot of great people during our time on the road so far.  In Yangshuo, we met three Americans who live just outside of D.C.  Gene, Betsy and Kitty gave us some invaluable Tibet travel advice, without which we wouldn’t be staying in the wonderful hotel where I’m writing this.  

We met another pair of newlyweds, Peter and Regine (who are also doing a travel blog), on a bus from Ping’an to Guilin.  We later shared dinner with them in what turned out to be one of my favorite cafes on the planet–Prague Cafe in Lijiang.  The next morning, in the same place (yup, we went back!), we started talking to an Australian couple, Phil and Viv, and ended up spending most of the next two days with them.
Tea with Phil and Viv in Shuhe
And, in a small Naxi guesthouse in Tiger Leaping Gorge, we got to know Martin and Martina, a Czech couple with whom we can’t wait to have dinner once we finally make it to Eastern Europe.  These great people and others have made our already great travel memories even better.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Better still is the knowledge that Michael and Kelly, some dear friends from Nashville, are meeting us in Nepal in four days (and counting!).   They come bearing new sticks of deodorant and clean socks.  That, indeed, is what friends are for.