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When a long-lost childhood friend turns out to be your perfect travel buddy

 

Like all of us, I have one or two childhood friends that I lost touch with but often find myself thinking about, even 30+ years later. I’ve wondered about contacting them. After all, it’s not that difficult in this age of social media, and after hearing about the early death of one of my most treasured long-lost friends (through Facebook), the thought comes to me more and more. Unfortunately, one bad experience of meeting up with an old friend about 10 years ago has left me more than a little reluctant to actually make the first move.

I suspect I’m not alone in both this. In fact, I’m willing to bet good money on there being many other women in the Thelma & Louise community who would love to track down an old friend too.
 
So when Thelma & Louise Club member Vini emailed to tell us about reconnecting with her childhood friend, Jan, after 50 years and going on an unforgettable cycling trip together, we had to find out more.
 
“It’s been a true gift to reconnect and pick up where we left off,” said Vini.

“Our mothers would so thrilled to know, since they were friends too.”

We asked Jan for her take on the reunion too. Scroll to the end to read it; it’s interesting to get both women’s perspectives on rekindling their friendship.
 
Their story is bound to resonate with so many of us here, and have us reaching for our old yearbooks.
 
Vini, tell us a bit about you!
I currently live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Although I was born in California I am a Canadian and have lived from coast to coast. I spent time in Vancouver, Victoria, the Okanagan Valley and then headed east, living in Prince Edward Island and now NB.
 
I am 61 years old, married for 36 years, with two grown children. I love to hike, bike, cross-country ski and travel. At home during the long winter months I do a lot of sewing of my own clothes and have fun creating fibre art. I am retired along with my husband, but previously owned and operated a fabric store. I am currently a volunteer literacy tutor and board member.
What was your friendship with your childhood friend like before you lost touch?
My ‘long-lost friend’ is Jan K. I knew her as Janis C, and we met in elementary school in Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver. We learned to ride bikes together, we enjoyed the nearby parks and always spent time at each other’s’ homes. We still joke that we were young enough to believe we were ‘twins’ because we share a birthday. Same day, same year! Personality-wise we are very different and her out-going, chatty nature contrasted nicely with my quieter demeanour. She currently lives in northern British Columbia, Canada with her husband, enjoying horses and dogs, while operating a long-arm quilting business.
 
 
Why did you lose touch?
Our mothers were friends and it’s through them that even after moving away and getting on with our lives, we had an idea where the other lived and what they were doing. However, we never kept in touch ourselves, too busy raising our families and working. Life got in the way, as the saying goes....

How much time passed before you found each other again?
Three years ago, out of the blue, Jan contacted me through Facebook and after chatting a few times, realised how wonderful it would be to get together. We ‘met halfway’ since I live in the east and she lives in the west, which is how our bike trip in Niagara-on-the-Lake happened. Meeting at Toronto Airport, it was surreal to stare at one another as middle-aged women, and see the younger versions of ourselves. We created quite a stir when, in conversation with our B&B hostess and restaurant owners, we shared that we hadn’t seen each other in 50 years. It amazes us still.
 

“We clicked. Just like we had as 6, 7 and 8 year olds...so we talked and talked and talked, catching up and sharing what we had been doing for the previous 50 years.”

What was your reunion like?
We clicked. Just like we had as 6, 7 and 8 year olds...so we talked and talked and talked, catching up and sharing what we had been doing for the previous 50 years. That was our first trip... The next year we went to the Bahamas and last spring we had an amazing three weeks in Ireland.
 
What has been the chief joy of reconnecting?
I think the biggest joy in connecting with Jan has been a sort of ‘re-living our past’ through joint memories, during a fun time in our lives. It has become a link to an era when my parents made particularly impressive decisions which continues to be a source of discussion among my siblings, and for Jan it was a time for discovery of family roots. For both of us, it’s where our future lives began but went in opposite directions.
Is your friendship firmly back in the present, and future?
As a result of this new/old friendship (as we fondly call it) we are in touch daily and will definitely travel together again when possible. I hope to visit her soon, in her home town, to meet her husband and her friends and experience her daily life, which is very different than mine. We were thrilled to learn we share a love of sewing - she earns a living with it now, and I did in the past. She is a huge fan and supporter of my artistic efforts and I admire her dedication to providing a service for quilters in her area.
 
How has your friendship changed? Have you changed a result of this renewed friendship?
I won’t suggest either of us has changed as a result of this ‘new’ friendship, but we certainly appreciate that it’s been possible and we are overjoyed that as adults who had only previously experienced a childhood connection, we have been so compatible. It’s almost like we really are twins!

“There’s a tie that can’t be undone.”

What makes Jan such a good travel buddy?
We experience a comfort level when travelling with one another, making for fun, but honest discussions about what to see and do. She is very easy-going, and very considerate of my ‘needs’ while I make every attempt to do the same for her. In our three trips together, I can’t say we ever had a difficulty to overcome. We travel well together because there seems to be an innate sense of knowing what we both need or want. It’s like we can read each other’s minds. We also have that sense of comfort where we can say or do anything without being judged.

“It’s like we can read each other’s minds. We also have that sense of comfort where we can say or do anything without being judged.”

Ireland - Cliffs of Moher
Ireland - Cliffs of Moher
What tips do you have for other women who would like to reconnect with an old friend or two?
To other women wanting to reach out to an old friend or two from the past, I say GO FOR IT! It will enrich your life in a way nothing else can. It will make you look at that time of your life differently and might even improve memories from formative years. It certainly did for us!

If Vini and Jan’s story has inspired you to meet up with an old friend or find new friends in your area, why not start a local meet-up?
 
The reunion according to Jan:
“My life was full, married, family, work, and hobbies. I did think of Vini from time to time. Mum had kept me posted on the basics: married last name, kids, location. After my kids grew up and my parents were gone, I found I had more time. One day I typed in Vini’s name on Facebook messaging and she instantly responded. It was meant to be. We couldn’t stop catching up, comparing our lives, common interests, outdoors, and hobbies. Talking about long lost friends, we hadn’t seen each other since we were 8 years old - 50 years ago!!
 
With me in Western Canada and Vini in the East, I would wake up excited at 4am knowing Vini would have sent me a new message, as she is 4 hours ahead. I lost quite a bit of sleep in the first few months! Finally we had a phone call, then FaceTime. Next… Meeting. A trip was proposed. Somewhere we both hadn’t been and a place that was interesting. Meeting at the airport was so exciting! Finally got to hug my dear new, old friend! We had so much fun and heart talks, that we planned more trips. One a year.
 
Our friendship is certainly back in the present. Sometimes I regret we didn’t catch up sooner, but we both had busy lives, now we have more time for each other. Our friendship feels so comfortable, our history of long ago is our glue. We are looking forward to a visit in July. One day, the men will meet!!”
 
Meet up with an old friend or find new friends in your area by starting a local meet-up.