It's a small world after all

It Really is a Small World (after all)

As you know, our travels have taken us from Panama, to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, back to Panama, Florida, and now North Carolina. We’ve met so many people on said travels, and a funny thing happens when meeting said people – you end up finding common ground and topics of discussion.

Many expats and travelers start a conversation off with “Where are you from?”, and rightly so. As human beings doings we want to be able to relate to someone. We often noticed people who shared California as their “home” would often refer to In-N-Out Burger. Canadians tend to lean towards reminiscing about Tim Horton’s Coffee, regardless of the province they’re from.

And a funny thing happens when trying to find common ground. You usually find it, and then some!

Exhibit A. The Burlington Effect…

Our first lunch in Pedasi, Panama was at the local expat hangout, Restaurante Smiley’s, mainly for the $4 taco lunch special. While scarfing down lunch we met a few other expats; R, J, and D. We exchanged pleasantries and we were asked the obligatory “Where ya from”. I said we were from a town just outside of Toronto. D replies with “Oh yeah, where exactly? I’m from Burlington”. Shelly and I looked at each other and smiled. “I grew up in Burlington”, Shelly replied, and they discussed schools and other stuff you discuss when you meet someone from your hometown…thousands of miles away! Hmmm, I guess it really is a small world after all.

Exhibit B: Bowmanville? Seriously?

It was our first Sunday Funday at the local beach bar in Pedasi. It was a great way for us newbies to meet other expats. Let’s call it a networking event. Anyway, I start talking with another expat couple, C & D, and in doing so I mention that I grew up in a town called Bowmanville. It’s a small town about 45 minutes east of Toronto, and it was even smaller when I lived there over 18 years ago. Turns out this couple lived there for about five years or so, much after I left, but really? Bowmanville? I moved to Panama and some of the first people I meet not only know where Bowmanville is, they lived there?  Yep, believing this “small world” (after all) thing.

Exhibit C: Captain Hiram’s.

While living in Pedasi we rented a fun little Panamanian home, and two doors down lived another fun-loving expat couple from Orlando. One day I was dawning my Cap’t Hiram’s T-shirt that my wife got me from same-named restaurant in Saint Sebastian, Florida. The aforementioned expat, “Gringo Jim”, sees the logo and tells me he’s been there, and then tells me the story that he went to the wedding of another expat couple that also lived in Pedasi…So six people all very familiar with Cap’t Hiram’s, living in the same small Panamanian beach town. Hmm, it really is a small world, but I’m thinking this could happen anywhere with anyone when it comes to Cap’t Hiram’s.

Exhibit D: Burlington Strikes Back!

We were on a road trip to the mountain town of El Valle, Panama and decided to stop for a bite to eat in town. We had just finished eating when a woman one table over says to us; “Are you Shelly and Al”? Turns out this fellow Canadian expat would see stuff we’d post online in the Panama groups. But here’s where it gets even better…She has a friend with her who she didn’t even know, the friend was filling in for a friend that couldn’t visit from guess where…Burlington. WTF? Okay, funny right? Again, it gets better. As we converse we mention Shelly’s brother still lives in Burlington on NoName Street (not really NoName, I just don’t want to be the one to publicize the street name). So Friend says, “Shut the front door!” (maybe not her exact words), “…I live on the adjoining street, FAKE street”, (street is ironically named FAKE street. Okay, no it isn’t). After further conversation we learn that our sister-in-law and new Friend have morning chats at their children’s bus stop! En serio? WTF?!

Exhibit E: Plenty of Fish in Lake Norman, NC.

Fast forward to our current state of affairs. We’re house sitting in the Greater Lake Norman area. Well, after telling friends we’re off to North Carolina to house sit, we’ve since learned that four acquaintances used to live on Lake Norman, and at least half a dozen more acquaintances who used to live nearby (Charlotte or otherwise) and have also graciously offered sight-seeing advice!

It’s a small world after all!!!

Here’s the thing. Prior to our move we had a very small network. We lived in an uber-conservative town where everyone had their kids, played house, became soccer moms and hockey dads. Many times workplace friends just wanted to pad their LinkedIn numbers rather than become actual friends. Oh sure, we’d make friends, but only to later see them start a family. When that happens, well, nice knowing ya, looks like you won’t have time to hang out. I’m not trying to sound like a douche, it’s just the reality of a couples life without kids vs. a couples life with kids. Throw travel into the mix and it’s “see ya on Facebook, maybe”. 

But now we’ve seemed to increase our circle of friends and acquaintances. That’s a side effect of travelling, but also a result when you keep interacting online with the people you meet. This is one of the things about travel that we like so much. You go places, see things, experience things, and it increases your likelihood of finding common ground for the next first-impression conversation. And who knows, you may be able to join us in our new game: 6 degrees of Burlington & Lake Norman, because it’s a small world after all.

Do you have a small world example to add to our exhibit?


Sell All Your Stuff cannot be held responsible for putting the song “It’s a small world…” in your head for the rest of the day.

Now go sell all your stuff and meet people!



22 thoughts on “It Really is a Small World (after all)”

  1. Stuff like this is amazing, i was in Paris and chatting to this other Australian guy, I live in a small town of 5,000 people and his cousin lived there and i knew him lol very small world

  2. This is awesome. And it’s so true. Exhibit F: while stumbling down the stairs of the catacombs in Paris I knocked over a girl I didn’t know that just moved to the TINY town I grew up in and was going to the high school I graduated from. Totes a small world.

  3. I think it’s so true, the more you travel the smaller the world becomes. Last Skype interview we did for a year long sit in BC it turned out that the wife had lived in an apartment in Montreal while going to university 1/2 a block from our house! Granted she was a student and we were ?15 years older with young kids so our paths never knowingly crossed but still we probably did numerous times as I walked by her place many times a day 🙂

    1. Gonna one-up ya (sorta) Diana. Mine and Shelly’s first apartment was on a street called Jaguar Valley Drive in Mississauga, Ontario – small 12 or 16 apartment building. We tell her parents where our new place is, they say “oh, we used to live on that street”. They come over to visit/help us move in…yeah, Shelly’s parents lived in the SAME BUILDING 20-something years before!

      But back to you…did you get the house sit?

  4. It is indeed a ‘small world’, I have not experienced this much, but I have read some where that places like Piazza San Marco in Venice and the Champs Elysees are places where you are likely to meet someone you know.

  5. I believe it is a very small world. Do you know the “7 degrees of separation”. I think for travelers, it a whole lot smaller…maybe two or three degrees!

  6. haha, this is so true and so amazing every time it happens! I actually do have an example to add: few months ago we went camping here in Ireland, to a place I had found on the web. Once there, I started chatting with the owner and she said her partner was Italian, like me. We started talking and it turned out he was not only Italian but from my neighbourhood in Rome and close friends with two of my friends from school! Really, what are the chances??

  7. It sure is a small world coz the number of people you end up meeting through other friends and colleagues is astonishing.

  8. oh I love this! and all so, so true. Still nothing beat the “oh you’re from Melbourne, do you know.xxxx” yeah sure of the 4 million people… and then you realise yeah you did go to school with them. That or your husband shagged them at Uni, typical.

  9. I definitely have that song in my head now…
    I’ve had this happen to me a lot too. Even though the population of New Zealand is fairly small, Kiwi’s seem to pop up EVERYWHERE. I’m just waiting for the moment when I run into my in my city in Spain. It’s the first place I’ve lived so far that it hasn’t happened yet, but I won’t put down money that it won’t! I’ve even met people from my small town (13,000) before! A lot of my family still live in that town, so usually they know them as well!

  10. It is a very small world! When Niko and I started with our hitchhiking journey in France, a man picked us up and gave us a book about a guy who hitchhiked around the world during 5 years (yes, exactly what we’re doing). The next day we meet that guy randomly!! And this is not the end. When we were hitchhiking in Croatia, a very rough but joyful looking cyclist stopped for us. He was going back home after a 7 year cycling trip around the world. When we told him about our encounter with the guy who hitchhiked the world, the cyclist had met him as well during his journey! It’s a small world… (and yes, the song is stuck in my mind…)

  11. Haha. This was perfect. Never happened to us on that level but the world really is small in some ways.
    Keep on adventuring and collection new memories like these ones!

  12. It truly is a small world after all:) People are people no matter where you go and I find common ground with everyone. The Burlington thing- that is wild eh? 🙂 I visited often to ex husband’s family! I guess it is the Kevin Bacon of towns!

  13. It’s indeed sometimes a small world. Although I must say, when I travel in the southern part of Africa, I always tend to see someone I know, however, when I walk around in my hometown I rarely meet people I know. And it only has 60000 inhabitants…:D
    Anyway, I find Belgians don’t tend to like to meet other Belgians when travelling abroad, that’s also why I rarely meet others on my travels.

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