In September of this year I hopped on a plane to NYC for the weekend to visit someone I had never met before.
Gabi and I first met on Tumblr back when I was in high school. Our friendship quickly moved from Tumblr messaging to Facebook, and then to Instagram when that became popular. We were both curious about other cultures, loved photography, and didn’t find it weird at all that we were friends with someone on the other side of the world. We were the perfect pen pal match.
The first four years of our friendship was spent talking online. We talked about drama with our friends, stupid boys, and our future ambitions. I remember sending each other care packages during our high school years. I received mine only a few days after a good friend of mine passed away, and it was such a mood-booster to know I had such a great friend on the other side of the world. My family and I had a good laugh at me eating vegemite for the first time (I’m definitely not a fan lol) and it was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. I always hoped we would meet in person one day, but honestly I never put a whole lot of thought into how it could happen. I knew there was no chance of her coming to Nebraska (lol) so I figured it would happen in the distant future when I finally made it to Australia.
But life is super fun sometimes, and my awesome pen pal came to live in NYC for three months! I quickly bought a ticket to the city for fall break to meet the person who I’d only known through text and photos for the entirety of our friendship. Our first day in NYC together was spent having a picnic in Central Park and catching up on life. We have both come so far since our amateur high school days (seriously, check out her awesome photography at Oak & Bone).
This whole experience of gaining a pen pal and getting to actually meet in person has been such an eye-opening reminder to me. No matter how big the world is physically, it continues to get smaller everyday and I feel so lucky to live during a time that makes having a friend like Gabi possible. A mere ten years ago, a multi-country friendship like ours would have never been possible. Although I do think it’s important for people to limit their use of electronics and social media, we also need to realize the positive power that these sites have.
When I told people I was going to NYC, by myself, to see someone I had never met before, a lot of people thought I was crazy. “Do you have a back-up place to stay, you know, in case it doesn’t work out?” No, I didn’t, but I wasn’t worried. My favorite author once said that there are no mistakes, only new paths to explore and I was simply exploring something new.
When Gabi posted something on her Instagram about us meeting for the first time, a few other girls tagged their pen pals in the comments with things like “This will be us someday!” I can only hope that we inspire other young people to take advantage of our ultra connected world and the power social media can have. So here’s to long-distance friendships! I had the time of my life exploring NYC with you Gabi. I can’t wait for many more adventures in the future.
Ps. Isn’t it ironic that we both love photography, yet the only picture we got together is a simple, close-up iPhone photo? Lol.