I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, about how this long term travelling lifestyle can affect all the old friendships you’ve left behind at home. Friends who still mean the absolute world to you and who probably know you better than anyone else – they are the ones you grew up with, through primary school, secondary school and university.
When you were a little kid they played in tree-houses with you, helped you wash your mum’s car for fun, skated around the park with you. Then you grew up a bit (or at least thought you were grown up) and they were there at the ‘disco’ when you slow danced with a boy for the first time, they danced at house parties with you, they got drunk with you, they revised with you, they listened to you stress about your homework, they let you copy their homework. Then adulthood actually happened and you lived with these people, ate with these people, argued with them about ridiculous things you now can’t even remember; they became your family away from home. They worked hard alongside you, they partied just as hard right next to you, and then before you all knew it, 3 years were over, you graduated and all went your (sort of) separate ways. People moved home, people got jobs, couples moved in together, people got engaged and people got married.
And then there’s you.
You disappeared around the world to some random country (or 10) in an attempt to ‘find yourself’ or something. You had the best 2 years of your life, roaming around Thailand on tuk tuks, getting almost arrested on trains in Vietnam, watching dolphins at sunset, getting scammed trying to cross various country borders, making awesome new friends in the most random of places, lapping up the sunshine on Australia’s East Coast, boasting about your tan to anyone that would listen, driving a bajillion miles around New Zealand in an awesome campervan you named Roxy, floating on a rubber ring in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, sitting on more buses than you can remember as you trekked from Los Angeles to New York, working the best job in the world at a summer camp in Connecticut, deciding at the last minute to hop over to France to spend the winter season snowboarding and playing in the snow, working at camp again and then saying a final farewell to England, the place you’ve called home for the last 25 years, as you board a plane to Australia where you’ll be attempting to stay for quite some time. And you’ve done all this seemingly without much more than a secondary thought to all those people who got you there, those people who stuck by you through all those years. Those people who without, you wouldn’t be you.
But of course, you have thought about them, you’ve thought about them a lot. You’ve thought about them when you’re in America and it’s their graduation so they’re all together and you’re not there; you’ve thought about them when you’re in Thailand or Vietnam or Fiji and you’re missing someone’s birthday; you’ve thought about them when you’re ill and miserable in a random hostel and you remember how they used to bring you chicken noodle soup in bed; you think about them when you realise you don’t really know a lot about their lives anymore; they’re on your mind when you see a photo of their new house that you’re probably not going to get a chance to visit for a while; and you miss them massively when one of them gets married and the best you can do is send them a video to let them know how much you love them. You think about them all the time, about what they’re all up to now. Are you missing out? Do you want a house, a steady job, a solid group of people around you? It’s something that plays on your mind now and again.
You try to see these people every time you’re home. Someone will arrange a big get together and for 3 days you’ll sit around, drinking, laughing and reminiscing about the people you used to be. And it’ll be amazing to catch up with your old friends, to feel a bit more connected to their lives and who they are. You all admit that it’s strange, how grown up you feel and how much has happened in the last few years, but how amazing it is that even after so much time has passed, you can all just slot right back into the way you were before. It’s the same, but it’s oh so different. And that’s a good thing. Those people who know you, they’ll always be there, you’ll always talk to them and have them in your life, but they know that you have to go off again and ‘find yourself’ or something, and they love you all the more for it.
So no, I don’t think this travelling malarkey means that your old friendships are over. There’s so many ways to keep in touch now – email, skype, facebook, facetime – travelling doesn’t have to put a stop to knowing everything about each other, it just means you have to work harder at keeping those friendships alive.