The Circles We Run In

In our daily lives, we all have certain circles we run in. We shop at the same grocery store, attend the same church, have a drink at the same bar, get dinner at the same restaurant, grab coffee at the same cafe. And in the process, we see familiar faces. We come to have a favorite bartender or waitress; we share small talk with the girl who pours our coffee; we ask the grocery store clerk about her day. Rarely do these people turn into much more than acquaintances, but when they are no longer there, we miss their presence. They have a role in our lives.

When you travel, moving from one place to another in a matter of days, rarely if ever returning to the same place, you lose your circle. You don’t have your favorites, the old stand-bys. But actually it’s not completely true that you lose your circle, because lately we’ve learned that thought they might not be showing up in the same place, we will often see the same faces.

In Nicaragua, we didn’t do repeats. We’d meet someone in some town, and then never see them again. Not by design, but because that’s just the way it worked. In Chile and now Argentina however that’s the case. We’re on a certain route that a certain type of traveler (the outdoorsy-type I’d say) likes, and we therefore find ourselves repeatedly running into the same people. For instance, we first met Wesley (an electrician from Britain) while cooking dinner in a cramped hostel kitchen in Puerto Varas. A few days later, we walk into our hostel in Chiloe to see him sitting in the common area. About a week later, we’re ascending Valle Frances in Torres del Paine, and who do we see sitting on a log beside a creek but Wesley. We’d pass him multiple times during the rest of the hike. And then, finally, just two days ago while we were eating our lunch at a park in El Calafate, Wesley walks by on his way to an ATM. Each time, we stop and chat, exchange stories about where we’d been in the time between spottings, and then head off with a see you later, since goodbye seems a bit premature.

The same thing has happened with others. Oh, look, there’s the lady from Torres del Paine who did the uphills so slowly it seemed she wasn’t moving. Oh, hey, it’s Nienke and Tijmen, the couple from the Netherlands who we met in Chiloe, I guess they’re done surfing. And on and on. Though I guess some people could find this irritating (and it probably would be if we didn’t like the people we keep running into), I find it a bit nice. Humans are creatures of routine and habit, and when your world changes every day, it can be awfully nice to see a familiar face…even if it’s just for a few minutes, before you again move on, maybe in ultimately the same direction and maybe not.