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Thoughts on Giving Away 10,000 Friendship Bracelets Over 10 Years

Luke Armstrong | Oct 19, 2018

man-sitting-with-colorful-friendship-bracelets

The number 10,000 is of course an estimate — it might be slightly more or less. But I think this is the year I will have given out my 10,000th friendship bracelet! 

The Story of 10,000 Friendship Bracelets 

For the past decade, I have based my international wanderings in Guatemala. There I purchase Guatemalan-made friendship bracelets from local artisans and give them to people all over the world. Waiters and waitresses get them, taxi drivers, the people sitting next to me on the plane, in my bar-rat days bartenders got them, people in parks, receptionists, cashiers, beggars, people at cafés, etc. Anytime I see a little opportunity, I find myself tying a friendship bracelet on a smiling someone. 

I estimate I give away about 1,000 friendship bracelets every year. For my current trip in India, I came equipped with 600. I’m three weeks into the trip, and I’ve already given away over 100!  

At a teaching given by the Dalai Lama, I gave three to a Tibetan mother and her two kids, and it was so enthralling to see their faces light up with smiling appreciation.

Tibetan-monk-sitting-with-his-arm-up-with-a-bracelet-on

Guatemalan Friendship Bracelets Floating Around Over 30 Countries 

Costing me anywhere between 13 – 26 cents USD each, I’ve spent about $1,000 over the years on this endeavor. It has been well worth every penny! 

A little kind gesture goes a long way. It immediately disarms the guard some people sometimes have up between other people. It’s a small act of kindness that allows me to tangibly uplift someone’s day in an instant. These Guatemalan friendship bracelets have been distributed in over 30 countries. It makes me so happy to know so many are still out there, adorning wrists. 

Friendship Bracelets for The Homeless 

I remember three years ago, I was in New York and having a really tough time because pain from a cervical neck injury wouldn’t go away. So I took to the streets in Brooklyn and gave away friendship bracelets to the homeless. I returned feeling a lot better. Everyone was so grateful to receive them. It put my own struggle into some needed perspective. 

Friendship Bracelets for Taxi Drivers 

Usually one of the first people I interact with in a new country is a taxi driver. They are often the first victims of my friendship bracelets. It instantly shifts the energy. Suddenly, the taxi driver is my buddy. He opens and advocates for whatever I need to know to get off to a great start in the country I’ve just arrived in. 

taxi-driver-holding-bracelet

Friendship Bracelets for my Friends 

It’s become a thing. My friends and family all know that I’m packing friendship bracelets like a clown carrying balloons. When I come for a visit, some are eager to show me if they still have theirs on from the previous trip. My friend Blaine Kuiper is especially into it. When I talk to him on the phone, he always brings up the bracelets.“I still have it on,” he usually says. Or, “I need a new bracelet so you better visit soon!” 

Friendship Bracelets for Connection

Given the expat life I have chosen, when I am often on the road, it makes me feel an increased connection between the geographical gulfs to the important people in my life. It’s a subtle way I get to stay in their lives on a day-to-day basis. My widely dispersed friends can’t all come to dinner, but most are wearing my friendship bracelets! It’s a reminder that says, “I love you guys — don’t you forget it!” 

man-holding-up-his-arm-to-show-his-friendship-bracelet

A Way to Support Locals in Guatemala 

I smile at the symmetry of my Guatemalan friendship bracelet endeavor. It’s a way to support Guatemalan locals without much income. Street sellers hawking bracelets for 25 cents USD love it when I roll up and offer to buy them out of their full stock! 

two-women-wearing-friendship-bracelets

And it’s Catching On! 

Now when I pass through New York City, my friend and fellow travel writer Joe Gannon asks me to bring bracelets because he’s decided to join the friendship bracelet band wagon. “Bring 100,” he told when I recently passed through on the way to India. He just sent me a message today, “I handed out all the friendship bracelets I brought tonight. People loved them!”

Yes, people do love a little token of kindness. So, I encourage you on your travels to find something similar to do. I don’t have a monopoly on giving out bracelets, so feel free to start this project on your own. 

Or maybe there’s something unique you can do. Maybe you’re a photographer who can take and develop nice family portraits for people? Perhaps you’re an artist who can paint pictures for people or a poet who’d like to write impromptu poems for people? Maybe you have a sports team and want to spread your love of them by spreading memorabilia keychains or lanyards? 

Just as there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to take on a little joy spreading project on your travels! 

About the Author

luke armstrong

Luke Maguire Armstrong is the author of "The Nomad's Nomad." He has spent the last decade traveling, writing and designing, and funding philanthropic programs around the world.

Visit Luke's website travelwritesing.com

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