When travelling through SEA earlier this year i ran into people everywhere.
My friend and I ran into my old flatmates in a bar in HCMC which was surprising but i had commented on the plane on the way there that if we run into anyone it'll be them. the amusing thing is that i can't find them in sydney but i can find them half way around the world... After that we went to catch a train to Hoi an and ended up sharing the cabin with a guy i hadn't seen in 5 years which was odd. then in laos we ran into two people that we each knew seperately but they were travelling together. Then in bangkok on our last night at the boxing i ran into two girls i used to go to high school with.
So yes i must agree that the world is indeed a small place. and in some cases it's getting so small it's scary...
During my last vacation in Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) I ran into a friend i met 4-year ago in the Incas trail, it was a great surprise, we couldn't believe we were in the same hostel after all!!!
And we are sure we will meet again in some other part of this small world.
I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me...here are a few highlights:
1. When I was spending 29 months backpacking through Europe I kept meeting the same people...even in the dead of winter. Once as I had just arrived at the Euro Youth Hostel in Munich, Germany I played scrabble with 4 guys from the U.S. 5 months later I was on a sleeper train from Paris to Barcelona...and the guy sitting beside me looked oddly familiar. He looked at me for a minute and then said "Jessica, is that you?" We laughed. Turned out he split from his friends...the scrabble games they were playing in each hostel got too competitive.
2. I checked into Kabul...in Barcelona with the same guy as mentioned above. We both got into the same 10-bedroom coed room...since they were the only two beds left in the place. I walked into the room...and six of the the people occupying the remaining beds were in the room...I knew every single one of them: the two Aussie girls I had met in Vienna, the old man I met in Siena, Italy, the 34 year old man i had met in Rome, and the two guys I had last seen on the train to Narvik, Norway (the Laplands....in which only 7 of us took that train...since who heads to the northern terminus of Norway in late December?...not many people...since its a 34-hour train ride from Stockholm). As my jaw dropped in awe...the remaining two people staying in the room walked in "Hi, Jessica"...one of them said, I turned to find the two American girls I had seen 2 years before...in Amsterdam...who had gone home, lived their lives...and were back to study abroad in a few weeks. It was a large commotion as all 9 people discovered that ALL of them knew me. That was possibly the oddest moment of my entire life. Until you have walked into a 10-bedroom hostel room and known all 9 people (when you are travelling alone) you have no idea how odd that really is.
3. I met a guy in the Anchorage International Hostel...who had been backpacking through the Talketna Mountains....and had seen me on the beach one day (I was in the middle of a 167 solo sea kayak adventure at the time)...he remembered me from that momentary meeting...two months later...and we had dinner together that one night we both stayed in the Anchorage international hostel. I bumped into him in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam nearly 14 months later.
I could keep going on...but it gets weirder. I guess its impossible to really travel without keep bumping into the same people...its been happening to me for years. ahhh!
To play devil's advocate, I don't know that it's such a coincidence to run into the same people while traveling or to have stayed in the same place. you are traveling which means you are going to the same cities, and you found out about the place to stay from some place be it a book, the internet, or a sign at the train station -- other traveler's look in those same spots.
A few years ago, I posted a request on the rec.travel.europe newsgroup looking for information about travel to Rothenburg, Germany and got a response from a young American lady,named Susan, who answered all my questions. She owned a small efficieny apartment inside the walled city (very difficult to get)and had been there for a couple of years and was getting homesick and thought she would probably come home in a year or so. About 15 months later, a new lady came to one of our local travel club meetings. The topic that night was to tell about your dream trip. When the turn for the new lady came up, she wanted to tell us that her dream had always been to buy a place in her favorite town in Europe - Rothenburg and that she had recently done just that! I said to her - oh, you bought Susan's apartment? She looked like she had seen a ghost! She had in fact bought Susan's place!
It is a small world. My favorite is when I was at Balmers in Interlaken where I met a guy and his girlfriend who grew up with a friend of mine from college. They take off, and I meet a girl from Atlanta who decides she wants to travel into Italy with me. Standing in front of David in Florence, we run into this guy and his girlfriend again. So we invite them to have dinner with us. We are supposed to meet at 19:00 at the train station. We say our goodbyes and we head back to our hotel. On the way, we are stopped by 2 backpakers looking for a laundry. While I am digging out the book to get them the info, the girl I am with discovers that she and these two have people in common in Atlanta. They seem like a decent pair, so we invite them to dinner, meeting at 19:00 at the station. About 19:15, we are running late and fear that we wont be able to find both groups, come running around the corner and there are all four, standing and chatting as they all know each other from school in Colorado! Needless to say, it was a pretty zany and drunken night...
I had a small world expereince before I even left home. When I got on the plane to begin my big overseas adventure (thats OE if you're antipodean) I bumped into to a girl who my sister went to school with - also heading to the UK to start her travels. I hadn't seen this girl in about 7 years - we had moved to other ends of NZ so it was weird to bump into her at that airport - even weirder to see her in the queue for the same plane and even weirder to discover we were sat next to each other for the flight.
I have also bumped into guys I went to school with in the most unusal spots (and some not so unusal). This usually gets me because in a highschool of only 800 kids you don't expect to see any of them 12000 miles from home!