The weirdest place I’ve ever bumped in to someone I knew

I attended my 20th high school reunion last week. I missed the 10th since I was living in … hmm, I guess it was Japan at the time; I was at the 15th, but it was very soon after I’d moved back from Germany and to be honest, I was still feeling totally out of the loop, I didn’t talk to many people and I don’t really remember much about it.

This one was different. And one of the most fun reunions with an old friend was related to this:

Snowy forest in Finnish Lapland

 Yes, that’s Finland. Finnish Lapland, to be precise, at an obviously fairly snowy kind of year – Christmas in fact, about seven years ago. I fulfilled a long-held dream to have a white Christmas (coming from Australia where the temperature can often be over the century on Christmas Day, a white Christmas is indeed a huge fantasty!) and did it properly – trekking through snow-covered forests, snowmobiling across frozen lakes, even meeting Santa.

But a very memorable five minutes of this trip took place at the Kemi train station in the middle of the night. (Well, it felt like the middle of the night. Given that the winter solstice had been a few days earlier, it got dark about lunchtime so my memory might be playing tricks on me there). I was waiting for a train back to Helsinki as, sadly, my holiday was pretty much over. I saw a girl waiting with some friends just nearby. And I stared for a while because she really, really looked like my old schoolfriend Rachel. Eventually, she saw me and stared too, and we took the plunge.

And yes, there we were, some 14,000km from where we grew up (around the corner from each other), we met again! I don’t think I’d seen Rachel since high school, and to say it was a surprise to meet her in the Kemi train station in northern Finland was an understatement. What are the odds of that? We did our best to catch up but unfortunately discovered that although my train was departing very soon, her ticket was for the following train.

On Saturday night at my school reunion, I saw Rachel again. We had a good laugh about how absurd it was to meet up in the middle of Finland. We had a slightly longer chat about what we’re up to these days, and found out more about why we’d both been in Finland at that moment. Of course, being a school reunion with 80 other classmates meant we still didn’t get a long leisurely catch-up, but it was calmer (and warmer) than our Finnish version.

Snowmobiling in Finnish Lapland

Travelling is funny, I think. Most of the time, I travel thousands of kilometres to see new things and meet new people. And then sometimes I travel thousand of kilometres and bump into someone who grew up less than a kilometre away from me. And it reminds me for sure that the cliché about the world being a small place is certainly very true.

Have you had any surprise encounters with old friends in faraway places?


  1. The world is certainly a small place, I have never met anyone I knew during my travels, but I have met someone here in Perth who happened to be related to my parent’s Doctor in Portugal. A school reunion must be fun!

  2. The world is indeed a small place, one of the funniest incidents I recall is meeting one of our daughters teachers in a ladies loo at the top of a mountain whilst on a ski-ing holiday!

  3. While on a 1998 family holiday in Europe, we spotted our doctor in the airport in Amsterdam. He was wearing a big straw hat and looked very un-doctorlike…my sisters and I hid so he wouldn’t recognize us. Years later, I ran into a woman I used to work with in New Zealand when we were both on the same bus in London; neither of us is English. It was bizarre. The world continues to surprise me! Enjoyed reading this story.

  4. Wow, I can really connect with you! I went on a solo hiking trip a couple of years back and met my college professor. Had a great time. Btw loved reading your post. You have a way with words. 🙂

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