It’s no secret that long-distance relationships can be tough, but what about long-distance friendships? They may not be as conventionally heart-wrenching as romantic relationships, but they can be every bit as agonizing. Take it from Lemar Scott and Tia Streaty: these two pals met while working together in Florida, but when they both took new jobs in 2017, they suddenly found themselves separated by 2,500 miles. And thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s the last time they saw each other in person.
With a little help from Travel + Leisure and our new video series, Meet Me in the Middle, Lemar and Tia were reunited in Kansas City, Missouri — the halfway point between Lemar’s home in Orlando and Tia’s home in Los Angeles. Between touring the city on foot, dining on authentic Kansas City barbecue, and checking out the local art scene, the besties made up for lost time and then some. Read more about their adventure below.
Did your first in-person hangout in five years play out the way you imagined it would?
Lemar: Yes…and no. Previous attempts to meet up always pointed to Los Angeles where we’d have a clear idea of what we would be doing. Meeting in the middle and having T+L plan the entire trip meant all my existing ideas were replaced with mystery. From the moment I arrived at the airport, I genuinely had no idea what we’d be doing.
The part that I did imagine was lots of laughs, great conversation, years’ worth of catching up, and ample food.
Tia: My first in-person hangout with Lemar after five years was as exciting as I imagined it would be and yet at the same time, it was instantly familiar. We settled into each other’s presence as if no time had passed at all. Lemar was still as hilarious and personable as he was five years ago when we first met in Florida.
How did meeting in Kansas City add something special to your reunion that meeting up in one of your hometowns may not have?
Lemar: Meeting in KC allowed us each to play the part of “traveler” instead of “host.” Everything we did was novel to both of us and we got to experience it firsthand together.
Tia: We could truly explore and take in the city together and let each moment unfold in a magical and surprising way, which is something we would not have experienced if we met up in one of our hometowns. I can say that the lack of familiarity of Kansas City actually brought us closer together.
Can you talk a little about your experience staying at 21c Museum Hotel?
Lemar: The staff at the 21c Museum Hotel are awesome! During a quick, self-led tour of some of the artwork in the lobby, a friendly staff member joined me and started sharing some of her favorite pieces. It was like having a personal docent. After checking out, I discovered some of the haunting history of the hotel which made staying there all the more interesting.
Tia: I adored staying at the 21c hotel. There was a 21c hotel built in Durham, NC, where my mom lives, and I have always wanted to book a stay there, but I never got the chance to, so this was a dream come true for me. I love 21st-century art, so to be able to go to sleep and wake up with art was incredible.
What would you say was the most unforgettable part of your trip?
Lemar: Nothing on our trip was as unforgettable as seeing Tia for the first time. There had been so much anticipation built over the five years we were apart, that first moment was epic. When her face appeared from behind a curtain and we both began laughing uncontrollably, that was the most memorable.
Tia: I am a huge foodie, so the visit to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que ranks pretty high! But, I would have to say our visit to Knuckleheads Saloon takes the cake. We didn’t know what to expect when we first saw the venue and we both felt a little out of place initially, but within minutes we were befriending locals, dancing in the rain to Dale Watson, and having a blast together.
Has this experience inspired you to plan future reunions in various cities, or even your current cities?
Lemar: KC has definitely inspired me to plan more reunions, especially in unexpected cities. Neither Tia nor I would have picked KC for a reunion, but our visit awakened us to how much it offers. A city that had never been considered for travel before is now on the table for a return trip.
Tia: This experience has definitely inspired me to be more bold and intentional about visiting new cities and trying new things for any future reunions. Last year showed us things can turn on a dime and I don’t want to put off living my life to the very fullest and sharing it with the people I love. Life is too short to just live comfortably and the world is too big not to explore. I am looking forward to where our next adventure will take us!