If you’ve followed me for a while on any of my socials, you’ll know I love communication. Like, I am definitely that person to chat to everyone on a plane or to make conversations with anyone staying on the same hotel floor as me. As a result, I would say I form friendships easily. However, this very trait is what led me to solo-travel across the US to meet my online best friend, seven years after we first met virtually.
Let me set the scene. Back when I was 12, like most kids at the time, I loved playing computer games with my friends. I’m sure many of you remember things like Club Penguin or Build A Bear Workshop, right? Well, if you answered yes to the above question then I’m certain you’ll also remember all the European servers always being empty, so most people would join the US ones by default. That’s when I started interacting with someone who ,in hindsight, would turn into a real-life friend. Her name was Cass and she was from Arkansas. After a few years, and the realisation that we would soon start high school, we swapped contact information and left the computer games that connected us in the first place. It was Cass’ idea to Skype for the first time when I was around 16 years old. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Could this be a catfish situation? Sure, we had spoken about our lives, our families and our hobbies with the limited chat functions available on kid-friendly sites but I never felt like anything suspicious was up. My gut instinct didn’t flag up that I should be concerned. Luckily, our first Skype call confirmed I was right to not have doubts.
Fast forward to when I moved to the US, Massachusetts specifically, for university. It was obvious that I would meet Cass during this time because it was probably the closest I would get to Arkansas. I mean, even though communication became less frequent, we still spoke now and then. We didn’t have any set plans, as both of us were focused on settling into campus, but we both knew it would be the year we would meet. This gave me comfort as I was in the US alone. I was genuinely living my best life at Umass but one thing instantly took me by surprise – most student accommodations close over the US holidays. Unless you select break housing, which is typically open to international students so they can stay on campus over Thanksgiving and Christmas, you’re expected to go back home. I’ve since heard this is the norm in most universities but at the time I thought my accommodation WAS break housing. Obviously I wasn’t going to fork out a plane ticket back to the UK for a 5-day break so that’s when Cass reached out, inviting me to spend Thanksgiving with her family. It was perfect timing. I purchased a 500 dollar flight from Massachusetts to Arkansas (Is that expensive or reasonable for the Thanksgiving period btw? I wouldn’t know, as it was my first time flying domestically across the US) and made my way to Little Rock, via a stop at Chicago.
Cass was exactly how she had presented herself online so it didn’t feel like I was meeting someone for the first time at all. We both have different personalities and interests but that didn’t stop us from having the best time. In fact, the whole week was jam-packed with adventure. We had a week of intensive shopping around North Little Rock, especially after Thanksgiving, countryside tours and crocodile watching (which is a major culture shock for a Brit living in an urban city). I even attended University of Arkansas at Little Rock to meet some of Cass’ friends. Southern hospitality was definitely real, but I feel my British accent helped to sweeten the deal just a little haha. One of my biggest regrets, however, was not taking many pictures. I guess I could apply that saying, when you’re having fun you don’t look at your phone, to make myself feel better! Although, I’ve wanted to meet Cass since I was 12, so lack of photos doesn’t take away from the unforgettable experience I had.
This post makes me realise how social media has impacted the way society functions. Who would even think we’re in a world where you can FaceTime someone across the globe in seconds or gain access to content published millions of miles away? There are thousands of people here, why would we want to limit ourselves to individuals from our cities or countries? That’s why I love reading all your posts and stories, regardless of where you might be located!
See you in the next post