Friendships and long-term travel

June 15, 2010 - Filed under General

One of the hardest parts of long term travel is being so far away from friends and family. Gone are the long lunches with girl-friends, and Sunday barbecues at the beach. No more long weekend ball tournaments, and no more late night dinners with good wine and good friends.

When you’re constantly moving around, making new friends can be hard. Sure, it’s easy to meet people… traveling has a way of breaking down normal social barriers, making it easy to approach new people and start up a conversation. The problem is, that conversation is often exactly the same:

THEM: “Where are you from?”
US: “Vancouver, Canada”
THEM: “How long are you traveling for?”
US: “We’ve been on the road for almost two years.”
THEM: “Wow, must be nice… how do you afford it?”
US: “We work online…..blah, blah, blah…”

From there, the conversation will progress to where we’ve been, where they’ve been, we’ll compare favorite places and add new ones to the list. We’ll swap travel stories, the good and the bad… and at the end of the day, or evening, or dive trip, we’ll say goodbye. Encounters like this are great, we’ve met so many interesting people. All of whom have helped to make the ferry ride, or the boarder crossing or the night out, all the more memorable. But, at the end of the day you know that most of these people you’ll never see again.

When traveling long term this can get tiring. You crave the comfort of close friends and try to get through the standard “Where are you from?/What do you do?” questions as quickly as possible. You miss conversations where you don’t spill your whole life story in the first five minutes and often wish you could talk about something other than traveling. When you’re on the road for a long time you realize the importance of familiar faces and effortless friendships… and cherish inventions like email, Skype, and yes… even Facebook.

Over the last couple of years we’ve missed out on important events back home, both good and bad. From babies being born, and people getting married… to unfortunate losses and sick family members. No matter the event, it’s always hard being away.

This time however, we got lucky. This time the wedding came to us… or close enough anyway. Our friends Randal & Rachelle, planned their wedding in Mexico, and being in Central America, we organized the last 10 months of our travels with this in mind.

We had an amazing week catching up with old friends and even making a few new ones. It was nice to fall back into old circles and conversations and feel like nothing had changed. It was a great reminder that even though we may not see each other for months or even years at a time and despite the different paths we choose to take, some friendships seem to last no matter what decisions we make.

It also made me appreciate the ease of meeting people on the road. The openness of other travelers and all the fascinating people we’ve met along the way. It got me excited about continuing our adventure and reminded me why we do this. It’s great to know those friends will always be there, but in the mean time I’m looking forward to making some new ones.

Thanks to everyone who made it such a memorable week… and we’ll see you all in six months!

Posted by: Kelly

8 Comments so far

  1. Ant Stone June 19, 2010 12:32 am

    Some great points, not least the mock-conversation. It does get tedious after a while. Must have been great to catch up with everyone, hope you didn’t upstage the bride and groom with tales from far and away.

  2. lainie July 6, 2010 9:50 pm

    Friendships become more intense when you are on the road, and goodbyes don’t get easier. The ones you’ve left behind are our constants, and we too, are grateful for them. Thank you for the great post, and super happy I stumbled upon your site.
    lainie´s last blog post ..Living Goodbyes

  3. Katherine July 23, 2010 10:59 am

    Right there with you! Luckily we’ve had a few friends come over to Europe and we’ve made special trips to meet them – we even drove from Ireland to Italy and skipped hiking season in the Alps to meet up with some mates! Having said that I also cherish the genuine friendships we’ve made on the road. It’s such a tough issue and one that I don’t have an answer to – if you think of a solution please let me know :)
    Katherine´s last blog post ..Bath- Third Time’s the Charm

  4. Lilliane September 10, 2010 6:07 am

    I got you until the last part where it made you appreciate the ease of meeting people on the road. How is that?

    While I haven’t done long term travel, I’ve travel a bit and met a number of travelers, so I understand how it can be tiring to start the same conversation over and over…
    Lilliane´s last blog post ..Dive Malapascua

  5. Kelly September 10, 2010 10:50 am

    I’m not sure if this makes any more sense, but i guess that sometimes while traveling I get a little homesick and miss the ease and comfort of familiar friends… this can get in the way and makes it easy to overlook some of the great things about traveling, namely meeting new people. Spending a week with a bunch of old friends gave me the little boost I needed… the little reminder that they’re not going anywhere and our friendships are solid, this in turn made it easier to look at the great things our life style affords us, and appreciate the joys of traveling again.

  6. Lilliane September 21, 2010 10:20 am

    Hi Kelly. Yes it make sense. You’re homesick and seeing your friends take that away so you now enjoy the travel again. :) Where are you people? No update for a long time.
    Lilliane´s last blog post ..Dive Malapascua

  7. Kelly September 21, 2010 10:37 am

    Yes I know, we’ve kind of been slacking off on the blog lately. We’ve both been quite busy with work, and so writing updates here has been put off in favor of diving!

    We have some posts planned it’s just a matter of sitting down to write them. Right now we’re back in Roatan.

  8. Paulo Pinto January 9, 2011 1:04 am

    Great point guys. As fellow long-term travelers we have also made great friends on the road while sharing a bus/train/boat rides. Other times we have taken for granted those casual encounters and regretted not exchanging contact info with travelers we might never meet again.

    “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

    Happy travels,

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