Yan & Cherry…for messaging me randomly on one of my Instagram stories 1 week ago which eventually led me to realize you’d be in Amsterdam around the same time I needed a layover from Pakistan before returning home. Your happenstance became opportunity as Anthony would open up his doors to host me that night, and Rik & Selma would be there to catch up as well. And so a simple layover became another night we’d never forget. 03/19/19.
Ali’s family…for being the best hosts we could ever have hoped for, with your incomparable hospitality during Ali’s epic wedding celebrations. You truly exemplified the notion of “Guest Is God” as that is how you made us all feel. 03/12/19.
Ali’s friends…for your patience as you taught a handful of strangers all the choreography we had to learn in a mere few hours up to 3am in the morning, aka the night before the mehndi! 03/12/19.
Imran…for taking us in as your family as you guided us all around Pakistan at our leisure, pushing your own limits and going above and beyond in making sure we were all safe, comfortable, and most of all, happy, during our entire stay. Thank you as well for introducing us to your cousin Tahir when we spent a day in your hometown of Murree in Kashmir and making it just so much harder to leave your wonderful home. 03/12/19.
Emily, Eugene, Christanto, Amy, and Jen…for exemplifying why you would be Ali’s closest friends and the true chosen ones to attend his wedding as we had the privilege of getting to know you all during the handful of days we had together in Pakistan. From learning last-minute choreography for the Mehndi to our epic 36 hour trip to Lahore, we definitely pushed ourselves to the limits together and made Pakistan a trip we’d never forget. 03/12/19.
Joubran…for offering up your table to us (and our hookahs!) while at Szimpla Kert in Budapest, after which you quickly befriended us over your expertise in conflict management. The spark was there, and we knew we would run into each other again. See you in Palestine! 01/20/19.
Aia…for befriending Ann while on your flights to Prague, after which you quickly joined the group for a whole day of sightseeing, walking, drinking, eating, shisha’ing, and deep conversations … essentially you became one of us! See you in Almaty! 01/17/2019.
Susanna and your family and friends…for your hospitality in showing us around your Karabakh and as a survivor who had every reason in the world to find refuge in safer lands, you instead carry on with defiance. I only hope we may channel a similar sense of strength and bravery of the people living here, and confront that possible future for us with the same kind of fortitude and grace that you have shown us the past 2 days. 11/16/18.
Brandon…for befriending us as the other fellow American on our tour to Dilijan. You heard Fanny yell “ASSHAT” and knew we were of your ilk. Thanks for joining us for hot pot afterwards and see you in South Dakota! 11/14/18.
Sandie…for following my blog since the early days and staying in touch. We had last conversed in 3 months ago where I left off with “it’ll happen when it happens” regarding to finally meeting each other. Then, on our bus ride back from Dilijan I was scrolling through my IG feed and saw that you too, were also in Armenia — who would’ve knew! And within 2 hours of that discovery, we would finally meet for the first time in person. Somethings are really meant to be! 11/14/18.
Anzhelika…for taking us out to dinner at a local Syrian restaurant in Yerevan, where you opened up to us about your childhood growing up in Artsakh and discussed with us your poignant views of the international conflict in this region. 11/13/18.
The random crew we kidnapped from both Hostel Mallika in Hiroshima: Billy, Luke, Camilla, Amy, and Natasha…for first joining me on one of the most discombobulated nights out I’ve had in a while to then changing your entire Japan itinerary to join us later on in Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo! Billy and Luke: you are my brothers from another mother. 9/7/18.
Camilla…for saying yes to Amy and Natasha when they asked if you wanted to join us in Hiroshima for a night out, no matter how tired you were after your flight from Australia. You just happened to be Brazilian, with Portuguese as your native tongue, just to be at the right place at the right time when you knew the meaning to “saudade”, one of my favorite words (which just conveniently happens to be Portuguese). You would join us later on in Kyoto for the tea ceremony and then again in Tokyo, the very city where one of my favorite movies was filmed, thus bringing my childhood full circle by in turn showing and teaching me what “saudade” really means in Tokyo. Magic. 9/7/18
Fuad…for being one of the best guides we could ask for as you were able to cram 2 big tours into one day, in true monsoon style, with a bundle of energy that can power the entire country of Azerbaijan. 08/26/18.
Etibar and your entire family…for showing us around your Baku and then taking us for a perfect first night out listening to jazz under the stars over tea and shisha. 08/25/18.
Nigar…my friend and colleague from residency, for not only introducing me to your cousin Etibar here but also staying a day later just to surprise me in the flesh and show us around your motherland! You certainly had me fooled. Thank you for staying out as long as you did and I’ll see you back in NYC! 08/25/18.
Anya…for what started out as standard polite hostel breakfast introductions turn into a day-long adventure around Baku talking about everything we could in the limited time frame we had before you had to catch your train to Georgia. We let the universe guide us, from waiting out the cultural center you’ve always wanted to see to quiet strolls in the old city, we talked about everything including languages, travel, trauma, love, relationships, self-actualization, and all the little jokes in between. See you again at Salar de Uyuni or perhaps NYC! 08/25/18.
Talal…for 2 days of adventure through the best parts of Oman: Wadi Bani Khalid, Qaboos Mosque, and Wahiba Sands. You went above and beyond in not being our guide and driver, but also our friend. From karaoke in the car, to keeping us awake, to teaching us Omani history and bedouin life, you made sure we were comfortable and entertained throughout our experience, especially while you were fasting the whole time for Ramadan. You’re our first choice when it comes to returning to Oman and we look forward to seeing you again. 06/02/18.
Dr. Giorddah Pontius…for just happening to begin your rotations with me at the Bernard Mevs Hospital ER the week while I was there, as we worked nearly everyday together. Thank you for helping translate, seeing all the other patients the moment they walked in, and letting me guide and teach you splints, ultrasound, and putting in bilateral chest tubes! Looking forward to working together again as attendings! 05/22/18.
Mariana…for following through on your promise when we first met 9 months ago back in Belgrade, Serbia, when you met up with me again the day after I got out of Mosul alive, and exchanging your own stories on your month in Afghanistan! 05/10/18.
Daniela…for meeting up with me in Vienna only mere hours after I got out of Mosul alive, for listening to my stories, and for letting me crash at your place afterwards for the night. 05/09/18.
Venla and João…for accompanying me without hesitation on a wild roller coaster adventure to Mosul, Iraq at the very last minute. 05/09/18.
Abdallah…for 2 days of your companionship as you drove and guided me around nearly the entirety of Kurdistan, before granting me the rare and unique opportunity to take me into Mosul. You have an art with getting me through checkpoints as you miraculously got me on my flight home with only a minute to spare. 05/07/18.
The YPT Crew to Kurdistan Iraq ’18, including the likes of Sean, Milan, Jenna, Venla, Jeff, Mike, Carol, Chris, Rik, etc…for accepting me as part of your group so quickly (including inviting me over for dinner, drinks, etc.) even though I showed up literally for the last 4-5 hours of your 2 week trip just to say hi to Rik…05/05/18.
Shane…for letting me crash with the YPT crew you were leading around Iraq on your last day there, and to have Iraq be of all places we would finally meet in person. 05/05/18.
Chris…for recognizing as already having met me when I introduced myself to everyone in the YPT crew Rik was co-leading around Iraq…”Calvin…Sun?” even thought we only had met for a few hours back in NYC 5 years ago (and you were inebriated…how could you have rememberd?!). Who would’ve guessed we would ever see each other again that night, let alone in Iraq 5 years later?! WTF? 05/05/18.
Carol…for surprising me out of the blue when you identified yourself as part of the YPT crew Rik was co-leading around Iraq. You had traveled with Taylan and Rupa on one of my repeat monsoons to the Baltic Crescent when I wasn’t around to lead but I didn’t expect to finally meet you so soon, in Iraq of all places! WTF! 05/05/2018.
Rik…for once again meeting up with me only a few weeks after we last saw each other, this time inviting me for a beer wth your YPT crew in Irbil, Iraq. You know what? I never flake. 05/05/2018.
Maureen…this will be the 3rd time you’ve appeared on here as we’ve met once in Suriname, again in Amsterdam, and one more time in your home in Den Haag as you hosted me for the night before my flight home back to NYC. It’s about time you start traveling with us! 03/29/18.
Rik…for meeting up with me again over beer when I found myself in Amsterdam for a layover. Let’s make that Afghanistan trip happen! 03/29/18.
Jenny Wang (aka The Vibrant Med)…for following through on the serendipity that we were both traveling to the same places at the same time (especially when we found out after I left a random comment on your instagram story right before boarding our flights), to have our first meeting less than 48 hours later at the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest, then AGAIN 2 days later in Vienna, and then AGAIN (this time unplanned) on the platform leaving Vienna the next morning. You also would introduce us to your husband Tommy and your friend Brittany, so the shout out goes to them as well for linking up with us. See you back in NYC! 03/25/18.
Aaron Lam’s friends Jessica, Jazmin, Raubern, and Anthony…for letting us crash your eurotrip at the last minute and then for embracing monsooning so soon after meeting. This became one of the best accidental group trips I could ever ask for in conquering my last country in Europe. Thank you also for letting me help out with showing you around my favorite places in Stockholm and Budapest! 03/23/18.
Daniela and Keseena…2 couchsurfers in my life who had no business of ever knowing each other in this large world of 7 billion people, but both who were connected by a unforeseen need to crash at my place within hours of our meeting (Daniela 3 years ago, Keseena 1 week ago). Daniela, you crashed on my couch unexpectedly when our mutual friend/monsooner William Lau got up and left without warning, while remarking you would have to stay at my place during your impromptu weekend visit to NYC. 3 years afterwards when Keseena missed her overnight bus to DC and also unexpectedly ended up crashing at my place, I had mentioned the similarity to Daniela’s story, not knowing at the time Keseena would meet Daniela a week later (in Daniela’s hometown of all places!). Thank you for confirming me this magic in my life. 03/26/18.
Shirley Qin…whom I haven’t seen in 6 years, for meeting up with me for a quick coffee break at your work during my 10 hour layover in Tokyo! 01/17/18.
Todd Spitz…my buddy from college, for meeting up with me for an hour before you had to go to work when I had an unexpected 10 hour layover in Tokyo. See you at reunion! 01/17/18.
Jolie…for cheekily serving us up a free veggie patty in style at Loco’s, and then running into us again the next day at Cookie Time where you once more fed us on the house. Good karma goes a long way so we’ll be serving you up the best damn veggie patty we can find when you come through to us in NYC! 01/14/18.
Elif…for delaying your bedtime by nearly 7 hours as you joined us for dinner at Ortega, which then led to more conversations over shisha and a dance party that lasted until 3am. Thank you for teaching us even more than we thought we knew about wine and see you back in NYC! 01/12/17.
Amber…for all your energy and enthusiasm at meeting fellow Americans through Ellena, as well as cancelling a date so you could hang out with us on our last night in Auckland, New Zealand! 01/08/18.
Ellena…for tripping into the right fan (aka “VENTILATOR”) at the right time in our dorm room, so you could make a poor effort to laugh at my poor attempt at a quip (“don’t die”). This inevitably led you to be kidnapped by our group for the next 2 days; the beginning of your 7 month journey away from your home in Ausgang and around the world led you to watch an Auckland sunset with us from Mount Eden, introduce us to Amber, smoke shisha with us until the wee hours of the night, belt out our American songs without shame at public karaoke, and dance at Cassette until our legs began to give. I’m honored to be your first welterbummler as I’m looking forward to run into you again, this time even farther along your adventure somewhere around the world. 01/10/18.
Tessa…even though we only spent 10 minutes together when we first met at our hostel in Bulgaria 1 year ago, you would agreed to join us at the last minute for dinner at Quay Restaurant on our group’s last night together in Sydney. Couldn’t have asked for a better last minute dinner partner! 01/07/18.
Nishant…for befriending Taylan a month earlier at the YPT Myanmar Xmas trip and then meeting up with them again when we arrived into Sydney and sought Darling Harbour for shisha. Who knew your former boss at work is my college buddy! Although our time was brief, it was memorable. See you in Papua New Guinea! 01/07/18.
Mona…as this would be the 3rd time you’ve made this list, you continue to enrich my soul for every brief moment that we have shared on my travels. Thank you again for helping me confirm the validation of my existence. 01/07/18.
Kurt…for being the most charming guide we could ever ask for in Uluru. Your wealth of knowledge and respect for the aboriginal culture is an inspiration and I can always count on you to be my getaway driver and co-conspirator in finding lost bags on the side of the road or kidnapping young…never mind. 01/05/18.
Diana…Although Ann may have seemed like a random friendly stranger striking up a conversation with you during your shared layover in Beijing, you would happen to somehow and vaguely recall hanging out in my apartment 10 months ago at 4am in the morning after the APAMSA Regional Conference afterparty because you were tagging along with Tim, another monsooner from the Palawan/East Timor-Leste trip who had also crashed that afterparty. 24 hours later after this serendipitous discovery, you’d join me in line for the fireworks at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair with your 2 awesome friends Stephanie and Mitch as we played countless rounds of Mafia and judged people from afar. See you in Florence! 12/31/17.
Mary & Dion…4 months ago, I had quickly befriended you for knowing David Zhou, one of my monsooner guides — at a fellow monsooner Koichi’s birthday party in NYC. You had asked about honeymoon ideas at the time, and now here you are waiting in line with me in Sydney for New Year’s! 12/31/17.
Alex Hardy …It’s been nearly 4 years since I ran into anyone outside the USA from my 2013 trip to Antarctica, but it would be fitting to have first night drinks with you in your native Sydney. Thanks for meeting up with us for dinner at Spice Alley with your roommate Amy, pointing out Joel Edgerton passing by, and taking us afterwards out for welcome drinks at Strawberry Hills Hotel in the Surry Hills area! 12/31/17.
Genoviva…for finding us a dinner spot on our first night in Sydney and inviting us to party with you for New Year’s Eve at Marquee! 12/31/17.
Akash…the ironic part is that even though your girlfriend Sahaj has been following The Monsoon Diaries and wanting to go on a trip since 2011, it would be you who would inadvertently get to me first! 12/31/17.
Cathy Du…for meeting up with me for dinner on our first night in Sydney. The crazy part is how one your “random” friends that you had tag along, Akash, is also the boyfriend of my med school’s classmate’s cousin Sahaj, who in turn has been following my blog since 2011 and occasionally sends him updates on trip ideas! And as you coordinated dinner plans, Akash reportedly told you my blog sounded vaguely familiar… 12/31/17.
Reece and Ben…for inviting yourselves (just kidding, I really mean ACCEPTING OUR INVITATION) for dinner and shisha with us within minutes of checking into the hostel and meeting. We would go on to have a fabulous night at Draft exchanging travel stories and we’d then go on to kidnap you for our daytrip to Transnistra the next morning! 11/10/17.
Aryk and George…Aryk for first approaching us during our connecting flight from Munich to Chisinau and finding out that you and I were born both at the same place at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC! Later on you’d remark that you’ve heard of The Monsoon Diaries before and let’s just say we became fast friends after that. Later on you’d introduce us to George, who graciously offerred to drive us from the airport for free into Chisinau while telling us hilarious stories of your time trying to make it into Transnistra. And this is before the trip even started! Thanks for a great first impression of Moldova. 11/10/17.
Jazba…for coming out in the middle of a thunderstorm at 2am just to reconnect, this time in Belgrade, 7 years after we brought the whole (China) House down back in Mumbai. See you in Moldolva! 10/23/17.
Maja…for bringing the welcome rakia on my 9 hour layover in Belgrade, compelling me to bring along the black & white marble composition notebook/journal we both wrote in to each other, and not giving me too hard of a time when we reconnected 15 years after I last saw you and let you down since that life-changing night at a rock concert in Roseland Ballroom. 10/23/17.
Ashley Jia (right)…for agreeing to be kidnapped so easily after we teased you for hogging the front seat of the boat in Lake Bled. You would then come out later that night to drink with us at Metelkova, shisha with us Hadouta, and then going on a road trip with us the next morning to Trieste, Italy and the Skocjan Caves. I hope it wasn’t Stockholm Syndrome — give yourself more credit than you deserve as you’re already one of our favorite people who decided on a whim to join us on your own weekend adventure in Slovenia. Have fun with the rest of your semester studying abroad in Prague and looking forward when you’re back in NYC (or see you in Moldolva)! 10/21/17.
Eric Stonehill…for your jokes and all your crazy childhood stories, but most importantly, being a great friend to drink with after we met at the England Pub Hostel. See you in Utah! 10/20/17.
Swathi…for being fast friends with us the moment I set my bags down at England Pub Hostel in Ljubljana. You quickly offered to show us the way to the weekly food market and around old town, and then agreed to smoke shisha with us where we found out that we had 3 mutual friends, 1 of whom is my colleague in residency! SMALL WORLD. Have fun in Bosnia and hopefully you get to link up with Mihaela’s cousin Berina! 10/20/17.
Mihaela’s cousins Belja and his partner Andrea…for hosting us at such short notice when we had an unexpected 4 hour layover in Belgrade including showering us with Raki and showing us where to truly get “the best bureks” in Belgrade. 10/20/17.
Laura Ovadia…for hollering at me on Facebook at the very last minute for a quick 5 minute meetup right before I had to catch my flight home from Paris. Even though I hung out with you only once before, it’s the quality of our interactions that count for more than anything. Thank you for the coffee and see you the next time fate has us collide! 10/15/17.
Gvido…for not only checking us in our hostel but also joining our group of friends as we took a side trip to Gracanica. You even almost continued onwards with us to Skopje had you had your passport on you! We appreciate your determination. Next time! 08/22/17.
Selma…for so quickly agreeing to be kidnapped by our group as we went out to dinner and dancing together in lesser-traveled Pristina. You took a liking to our energy and we took a liking to you. Thanks for buying us a round of drinks as well and we look forward to hosting you when you’re in NYC this October! 08/22/17.
Terri…for being so friendly with our group as we braved hiking up the Kotor fortifications, and for the honor of making this your next facebook profile picture literally a minute after I took it. Normally things would end there, but we continued to run into each other twice in Kotor over next 3 hours (not that it’s hard to do so in a place like Kotor), and then continuing our conversations throughout the rest of the day into possible travel plans in the future. See you in Bratislava! 08/19/17.
Lily & her Rhode Island family…for liking my music that I was playing in the background, before discovering a mutual connection with Maria over your shared Rhode Island roots. You would then go on to recommend visiting Our Lady Of The Rocks church in Kotor the next day (which we did thanks to you!), and then following up with another email a week later attached with more photos from our chance encounter! 08/17/17.
Carol…for laughing at one of my jokes (who does that anyway?) while ontop of the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque minaret overlooking Stari Most at sunset. You ended up joining our group afterwards for shisha and connecting with the many conversations we had about modern romance and travel. See you on future travels! 08/16/17.
Berina…for being as badass as our rockstar monsooner, your cousin Mihaela, as you showed us around your Sarajevo 2 days in a row despite this thing called having to go to work. You took us up and down your favorite sights in your childhood home, allowing yourself to live vicariously through our curiosity. Thanks for your saucy attitude and there’s not many people I would bring a bag of M&Ms for halfway across the world. See you Australia! 08/14/17.
Vladana & Igor…for your hospitality and going out of your way on a Sunday night to take us out for a last-minute dinner at Two Deer Restaurant along Skardaska. You provided us with a much-needed lens to which we could understand what it’s like to live in Serbia, and I’ll forgive you for being a fan of Cersei. 08/13/17.
Mariana…for being at the right place at the right time, scrambling to find tickets for the overnight bus to Sofia, Bulgaria. We would run into each other 36 hours later in the hostel, right before you were about to board that very same bus, but you would decide on the spot to join us for dinner on Skardaska Street instead (while still making it to your bus on time!); I have a feeling our energies will bring us together again somewhere around the world soon. Safe travels and see you in NYC/Brazil! 08/13/17.
Rohini and Auntie…for being the spectacular (and inspiring!) mother and grandmother respectively of my friend Resham, whom I met and befriended 4 years ago while we were BOTH taking the USMLE Step 2 at the same testing center! I chose to come to Saint Martin literally 3 days ago on a whim, and randomly, to study for USMLE Step 3 actually (how ironic is that?!), and here you were — who had raised Resham here in St. Martin/Maarten no less — to take me in on my last night here. Thank you for showing me your home and for the wonderful conversations we had in only a short amount of time that we had together. We’ll meet again soon! 07/19/17.
Manish & Gil…for striking up a conversation with me as we we landed in SXM from Saba, as I was genuinely curious what it’s like to be a medical student in Saba. Keep in touch and good luck the next 4 years! 07/19/17
Yannick…for being Samin’s friend who despite seeing him just last week at your graduation, decided to come join us in Malta anyway at the last minute, proving yourself immediately to be a natural monsooner at heart as you inspired us to see both Mdina and Gozo in a single day! 05/31/17.
Alistair Riddell…for running into us in the streets of your native Edinburgh (on BOTH our weekends off there), even though we’ve been in touch daily for the past month about running tours to Cuba. Thank you for offering to drive us around Scotland and hiking with us up all the hills we could find. We certainly do make the world a smaller place! 03/25/17.
Eve…for being Ambrose’s friend all this time, meeting up with us after work, and showing us around your native Edinburgh from Old Town to New Town to your current residence in Leith. And thank you for reintroducing us to proper Scottish whiskey and teaching us how to drink it! Have fun in Thailand! 03/24/17.
Kelsang…for your tireless patience for 4 straight days as you showed us around your home of Tibet, never once getting exasperated by our altitude sickness and always accurately reading the group’s mood as you answered our questions, fed us, and became our friend. 01/13/17.
Estela…for showing us around your hometown of Xi’an, fixing my camera, and feeding us so so much and so well. 01/12/17.
John McGovern…for being another rockstar in the YPT family, taking us out on Xi’an and organizing our Tibet itinerary. 01/12/17.
Our friend we met on our train to Beijing…for too many coincidences as you were heading back to Taylan’s home state of South Carolina as well as sharing Melissa’s love for Papa John’s. 01/10/17.
Shirako…the childhood friend of my friend in NYC, Gana, for meeting up with us in our one day exploring Ulaanbaatar, helping us get groceries for our long train ride, and accompanying us to our North Korean dinner at the local Pyongyang restaurant before sending us off at the train station. See you when you get to the USA! 01/08/17.
Kevin Starzinger…for our mutual YPT connection, coming on our horseback riding trek at Terelj National Park and quickly befriending us while staying in our ger. You came did the -20ºF streaking challenge with us as well as being the centerpiece of our massage train later that night. Sorry we missed you at Pyongyang Restaurant! 01/07/17.
Lucas…for befriending us and being so helpful in orienting us on our first day on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar. 01/06/17.
Hampus, Victor, and Daniel…for being at the right place at the right time when you ran into us on the city streets of Moscow at night, similarly lost and looking for a place to drink just as we were. We ended up going out to lounges back to back until the wee hours of the morning as you became part of a little makeshift travel family on our last night in Moscow together. 01/03/17.
Anna…for “being the right person to meet on New Year’s” exactly at the moment when our group wondered if we would ever get an honest perspective of Russia from a local on our trip. You collided with our group when few others would’ve and got to know us 2 nights in a row, leaving us with an impression far different than what we would’ve imagined. 01/01/17.
Tessa…for our conversation at Hostel Mostel in Sofía, where you revealed your aspirations to becoming a doctor and helpfully informed me about getting a job with I-SOS. You then found my blog and let me know that “Before Sunset” is one of your favorite movies. You’re definitely one of us now. See you in Melbourne! 11/13/16.
Tiffany, Annie, and Tova…for the 10 minute conversation at our hostel just as we arrived in Sofía that led to us hanging out later that night at Shisha Bar Speshial! Good luck at Northeastern! 11/12/16.
Anita & Iulia…for the quick chat getting to know one another at Antique Hostel, right before I had to leave to catch my flight home from Bucharest. Thanks for the last minute advice on Bulgaria! 10/24/16.
Ty and Dmitry…for asking about splitting a cab to Bran’s Castle, right at the moment I was about to, leading to a wonderful day at Dracula’s Castle, in Brasov, celebrating Dmtiry’s birthday, and finding out we were all staying at the Intercontinental together. Great minds think alike! 10/22/16.
Hyunjung and your new friend that you just met at the hostel…for running into me three times at the hostel, then twice the next day at Barcelona Sants station, and twice again at the hostel the day after, that we couldn’t afford to pass up on another travel story and getting together for our last night in Barcelona. So thank you for coming through at the last minute at 11pm and staying up late with us even if you had originally planned to sleep in for your early morning flight tomorrow….but these are what travel stories are made of, and we all now have one more in Barcelona. 09/11/16.