Roadside Friendships

The need to write a post about the creation of relationships while traveling weighed on me for some time. When I embarked upon this solo adventure, I honestly did not know what to expect–socially. When you have a companion, things seem a little easier, a little less pressured, a little more fun. Having the ability to bounce ideas off the other person in terms of whether or not you want to do that horseback riding tour or just sit at a cafe in town and people watch is… comfortable. Knowing that you will be in transport via bus and train and plane for the next seventeen hours seems more tolerable when you are in a team. Solo for a week, let alone eight months can be frightening to most people. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t seriously worried about that singular aspect.

But, then, my entire mindset changed.

I arrived at Vivo Escondido in early November 2014 without knowing a soul, aside from about five emailed exchanges between me and the owner. I assumed a month in one place would be tough because I wouldn’t be able to make many friends–since backpackers are usually a transient group, not staying long enough to create a friendship or anything beyond that. I was wrong wrong wrong! I was one of three volunteers and the only female (initially), so it was a bit isolating at first. I got into countless conversations with guests and found out that their little travel groups hadn’t all known each other for years, in fact, they met on the road. Possibly a week ago. They embarked on their journeys individually, knowing they would meet quality, like-minded people along the way. I found that to be fascinating! As I was realizing this, I met Ella and Paloma.

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Ella, Me, Palo, Alex & Sarah |MX|

Ella is an Aussie, traveling dolo, that happened upon Puerto when she slept through her bus stop. When she did wake up, she decided to disembark and check out where she was, (unbeknownst to her that she was in one of the top surfing destinations in the world, but really, who’s paying attention to that right)? Typical. Not only that, she had no real plan, didn’t know when she was heading back home and she’s not even 20! I found it entirely crazy and entirely righteous and I wanted to be just like her. Thus, we became such fast friends that she ended up asking the owner if she too could volunteer there. So — we spent the next several weeks attached at the hip.

Paloma is an Argentinian beauty that Ella and I both meshed with immediately and we became a little trifecta of excitement. Even guests knew that if they saw one of us, the others were close by. Paloma only graced our lives for about two weeks, but time doesn’t seem to matter. I’m starting to understand that time is simply a category that the mind conjures up in order to make sense of things. I’m accepting that some things just don’t make sense.

Through those weeks, I kept thinking to myself that it was so weird to be able to connect so quickly with another person in such a short amount of time. But I decided to let it go as some sort of Kismet/destiny situation and that was that. Until I moved on to my next volunteer position in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas and the same thing happened; with three people who stick out most in my mind. Sidenote: I’ve only been here for six days!

I arrived at Puerta Vieja only a day or two after Anne, a German lass who also would be volunteering for a month. A day after that came Liana from Massachusetts and then a young guy from Scandinavia. I don’t know how to put it accurately into words which can truly express what happens when you have a visceral conncetion with people, typically when traveling, but it’s a wondrous and meaningful thing. I know my fellow nomads feel the same. Coming from a place where the depth of your relationship is judged by how long you have known each other or been together, it has been difficult for me to grasp that such a meaningful travelship can form in only a few days. When traveling, you rely more upon your intuition than when you’re at home involved in the monotony of routine. You become more open and aware of gut feelings that dictate to you whether a person is good, bad, indifferent, long-lasting, etc. It’s amazing what can happen when you simply allow life to unravel.

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Anne & Moi

Anne and I already have inside jokes, are known to be constantly together and were planning the next several months of travel together within the first week of meeting. Liana and I had four days of intense conversation, understanding, and companionship that you often only find in friends that have known each other since middle school. It got to be so much that I even asked her flat-out if we were just spilling our guts a little too much, and as I thought, she felt we were doing what felt natural. Like we’d known each other for a lifetime and a half. I met up with her again the following year in her hometown in Massachusetts when I randomly coached volleyball at a camp. I literally live for this sh*t!

And then there’s the Scandanavian…let us just say I wish there was a word that describes the feeling of completely knowing another’s’ soul. Love doesn’t accurately describe it and neither does “feeling like I’ve known them forever.” It was something I have really only ever felt with one other person, and I ended up dating that person –> falling in love –> sour ending. You no doubt get my drift here.

If not, read the book Aleph, by Paulo Coelho.

In sum, I just wanted to put into words how righteous it is to create travelships when you’re on the road. They may or may not last, but regardless, they leave an imprint on your soul. You learn about your own social capacities, you learn to communicate better and may even learn to appreciate who you are even more.

A few words from my homies on creating relationships when on the road:

“For me, it’s about knowing you’ll leave soon. When you meet someone you do connect with, you know that in a day or two, that connection may be over and you may never see them again. So there’s a tendency to bond and connect on a deeper, more human level. However, the caveat is that there are many crazies out there that will spill their entire life stories, filled with the debasement and traumas that come with real life, within the first fifteen minutes of knowing them. That’s questionable and yet, is a common occurrence when traveling.” Flaco, UK, Chef, Musician, Social Worker, The Man

“When you’re traveling, you’re more willing to create relationships. You have these strange and rare experiences with relative strangers that would otherwise never occur. If you met those same people in your routine life, you might not even give them a second glance let alone consider creating a whole new friendship.” Whereas when you’re traveling, it’s almost a given. Keith, Cali, Biking from LA to Panama!

I think it’s knowing that there’s an end date on the “ship.” You feel a need to live every minute to the fullest, skip the games and cut right to the chase because you’ll be somewhere else the next day/week/month.” Naomi L., USA, English teacher in Chile

“When you’re traveling by yourself, you have the capacity to be whatever version of you that you want to be, expose what you want to expose. Everybody you encounter is

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Naomi K.

experiencing the same thing…that’s the best part of traveling by yourself in a way, you find that you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Things you try abroad are things you may have never done at home, not just for lack of opportunity, but for lack of confidence that the role you fill at home isn’t the kind of person who would do that.” Naomi K., Research Analyst & Nomad

“A lot of travelers have this special thing in their characters which make it impossible to forget them. And no matter who you meet on your travels, you know that at least you have one thing in common: wanderlust.” Anne, Germany, Lover of History

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