Travelling the world is a glorious adventure, and one where you will meet some of the most amazing, decent, crazy and sometimes downright mental people on the planet. But playing the game of social roulette and constant hellos and goodbyes can sometimes be hard, and as a long term traveller you do have to be prepared for that.
I’ve travelled the world for over 15 years now, most of that travel has been solo, where I have set out into the world with nothing more than my trusty backpack and a good book (and for a good portion of that time I didn’t even have a mobile phone, never mind a smart one!)
And in all that time I have met countless people on the road. Some have been locals, many have been fellow travellers on their own journeys. A great many of these people I can barely remember, if at all. Their faces and the times I had with them have been lost to the mists of time or relegated to an old analogue photograph I have tucked away somewhere.
Others have become lifelong friends, their unique personalities and the shared experiences we have together helping to shape the person I am now.
Many more still have been short but intense friendships and relationships, where you are thrust together for a short period of time together, bond quickly over shared adventures and sometimes misadventures, and then are suddenly once again faced with the inevitable goodbyes as we each move on along our own separate paths.
And then of course there are the friends I used to have before travelling, the ones who are now barely more than acquaintances as the inevitable happens and we each grow in separate directions, become different people and lose touch.
That is just life sometimes. People come and go. They are in your life for a short period of time and then they are not.
And that is how travel is sometimes.
That may seem a little pessimistic in many ways. Even lonely. It isn’t, not at all. In fact it’s quite a wonderful thing, it all depends on your perspective.
One of the most popular questions I get asked on this site is from people who want to travel solo but are worried about being alone, or more accurately about being lonely when they travel. These potential solo travellers are worried they won’t meet anyone, or that they will be left sitting alone wishing they just had someone to talk to.
I can promise each and every one of you right now that never happens. Even the most awkward of wallflowers can have a conversation.
Sure, there are times where you will be alone, there will be times when you have to eat a meal or two on your own or even feel a little bit lonely or homesick. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s completely natural. Most of the time though you will meet so many new people you won’t have time to feel lonely. You will share adventures together, be stuck on the same night bus for 12 hours together, share a beer, have a meal, it doesn’t matter.
All it takes is a little hello. That’s it.
Sometimes you will only be with your new found friends for the duration of that drink or that bus journey, and then you will inevitably part ways. Other times you will be together for a day or two, a few weeks or even months as you forge an intense and genuine friendship. Eventually though the travellers curse will hit and you will both part ways with yet another goodbye. Sometimes you will see these new found friends again further down the road, sometimes you won’t. Modern travel has even provided these fleeting relationships with the ultimate get out clause as friendships are relegated to the occasional ‘like’ on a social media update.
It doesn’t really matter.
The truth is each and every one of these meetings has an affect on you. The chance meetings with random strangers, the unique adventures you have with people you have just met, the connections you have with those you bond with and call friends, each and every single one changes you in minute ways. Each person you form a connection with gives you a new experience, a new way of thinking, a new outlook or even sometimes just a bit of comfort or brief companionship, or that helping hand or bit of assistance that you may need at any given time.
And for those that last beyond that, those rare, real friendships that stand the test of time and have an even deeper impact on your life? These are genuine things to be treasured, but that doesn’t mean those fleeting ships that pass in the night have any less of an impact on you.
You may say a lot of goodbyes on your travels, but you also share some of the best, most intense and most wonderful experiences of your life with people you would not meet otherwise, and that is one of the single most rewarding things about travel itself.
So to every single person I have met on the road, past, present and future. To those who I have met for a brief period at transit stops and those who I have shared intense and awesome adventures with. To those who I will never meet again and those who will be friends with for a long time to come. Thank you.
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