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Hi, I'mKelly Merchán

Communicator, advocate & mountain lover

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Building friendships abroad

Friendships take a new form for young travelers. You meet so many amazing people passing by. You meet individuals that are traveling for weeks, months, or even years. You meet people who are grounded in one place for a short 6 months or a year, people who are on an adventure trying something new, just like the rest of us. These passersby friends are incredibly vibrant and interesting individuals but they are doing just that: passing by. 

As someone who is grounded in one place, making new friends can be a challenge. Meeting new folks is totally awesome, but also bittersweet. You make a connection with someone, and then they move on and out of the life you knew together for a brief moment. Many of the girls I know in Cuenca have the same attitude – we are so happy to meet new friends and travellers like ourselves, but we put our guard up to a certain point until we know this person is here for good. It is emotionally exhausting and pretty sad to make a new friend only to know that they will soon be moving on. Saying bye over and over again isn’t easy. It is lonely. To constantly find replacement friends is not realistic. Finding young female friends that are locals serves as a challenge as well. Girls my age are in a very different place, whether that means they are married with a family, have their cliques from growing up, or live with their parents. I was worried it was just me, but it turns out that most gals like me also have a harder time meeting local girlfriends. 

My first time I was in Cuenca, I was here for two months and met three girls within a week that I really clicked with. While our time was short, it was incredibly special, and I know that we will be friends for life even if we don’t see each other. When I returned to Cuenca to live permanently, these girls had passed on, and I found myself with no real friends of my own in the city. Of course I knew people, and had the friends and family of Eduardo, but it is different living a life without your soul sisters by your side. 

After a few months of soul-sister deprivation, I met a few girls that have had a huge impact on my life. We meet regularly for lunches, yoga class, coffees, and girls nights, but recently realized that we really needed to dedicate real time to one another. We had a mini retreat in Yunguilla with the intention of getting to know each other on a different level. We had difficult and personal conversations. We cried, we giggled, we hugged, we loved. We became a real sisterhood. We pushed over that boundary of traveler friends and made a true bond. 

Any time that I’ve made a new friend post-high school, I never expected that I would be so fortunate to have another awesome person walk into my life and make a permanent imprint. This year has been no exception. I am amazed by the fact that we all have different pasts, and surely all of us will move on from Cuenca in different directions, but in this moment our lives intersect. We have met at this intersection of life and made a lasting impact on each other. I cross my fingers that each of us will have more time together in Cuenca. We don’t know where our lives will lead in the next few years, but we know that we have a sisterhood. We have a love for one another that does not know miles, and for that I am so so grateful. I am sure another challenging phase will come without soul sisters on the ground. That is when gratitude and patience comes into play, and you live life knowing that it is better since you have had the opportunity to be in the presence of some pretty incredible people. 

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