Where did you meet your friends? Your closest friends? College? Childhood? One of the hardest things to do, post school, is make new friends.
Travelling is an incredible tool for meeting new people, ranging from casual acquaintances to close friends, and sometimes more. It has had a profound effect on my life.
I’ve met dozens, maybe hundreds of people in the past year. They have different backgrounds and are from different places, but they all have one thing in common: they’re not, currently, there. Something drove them from the comfortable normalcy of their lives, out to the far reaches of the world.
There’s a bond there, in that frontier. More than a shared interest, it’s a shared understanding, that people are generally good, that a smile crosses all barriers, and when it all comes down to it, we all just want to be happy for as much time as we have on this marble.
So yeah, it’s easier to meet people while traveling. Is this because people who travel are just more approachable, or because we share the mild-but-tantalizing discomfort of being away from what we know? I’m not sure.
What I am sure of is I have better perspective on myself when I travel, something far greater writers than I have written tomes about. I’ve also seen some trends I think are fairly common, when it comes to making friends while travelling. (This next part was inspired by Wait But Why’s awesome 10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of).
I’m sure it was more, but let’s say I’ve met 100 people since January, 2014:
Of all those, the biggest group are those that we’ve shaken hands, exchanged names, but pass on our ways. Lovely people, I’m sure, but for whatever reason, there was no “click”.
The next group is a bit more. Facebook friends that you like their posts, you’re happy for them when good things happen.
A smaller fraction are a lot more, people you’d go out of your way to see again. I love that I’m in a place in my life where I can do that (and often). Generally these are people you travel with for multiple days, but sometimes you just really hit it off when you first meet. I know I put people in this group way more easily than most people, and I’m OK with that.
The smallest group, only a tiny handful, are even more. People you want in your life, as much as possible, time and visas permitting.
You can find love on the road, in whatever that word means to you.
I consider myself lucky that in the past year I met and have people in my life in those smallest two groups. Especially the last one. Friends I hope to have for life I’d never have met had I not been travelling.
Maybe that’s the case meeting people at “home” too. I don’t know. How would you meet 100 new people where you live? A serious question. I’ve never done it. Working from home (and basically alone in a remote office before that) plus the distances and sprawl of LA, conspired against me on that front for most of my adult life. Ok, that’s not entirely fair, I’m sure I could have done more, but what?
The friends you make while travelling, are these real friendships? A few days together in some far-off place, and then months (years?) of Facebook chats and Skype? Sure, why not? How often do you see your childhood friends? Or even your current friends. Life has a nasty way of keeping friends apart, and that blows. Is this any different? If you get to see your closest friends all the time, I’m jealous of you and your life. No joke. No exaggeration. I really am. My life isn’t like that, and hasn’t been since college.
So does distance change the reality of friendships? I don’t know. I tell one friend I met while travelling I love her. She says it back. Will we see each other again? I hope so, but if we don’t that doesn’t change that we’re important people in each other’s lives, even half a world apart. Besides, it’s just a nice thing to say when you mean it. I think we should all do that more.
It’s become clear to me in my travelling that above all else, everyone needs people in their lives. I’m envious of those who have found their person and perhaps don’t need a chorus of friends to fill their lives.
But in lieu off that, and here I can speak from experience, having many close friends (and ideally, a brilliant BFF), is vital. The biggest change in my life now, compared to before I started travelling, is when I’m feeling down, or alone, I have people I can turn to. A quick hello, a joke or two, maybe a long talk about life, the universe, and everything. I can reach out and connect, and I’m more comfortable doing exactly that. The greatest aspect of my life, by far, is not that I can travel all the time. It’s that no matter what time it is where I am, I have a friend somewhere who’s awake. The sun never sets on my friends. That’s what makes me lucky. That’s what makes me rich.
Does all this mean that if I meet 100 more people, I’ll have even more incredible people in my life? I sure hope so. I have a big heart. There’s lots of room.
I love you all. See you soon.