The Realities of Travel Friendships…

Travel friendships. Those bonds you make with people in that place, and in that time, that make your travels something to remember.

By far the thing I love most about travel is the people I meet along the way. To this day, after months and years of travel, it still amazes me how easy it is to forge strong friendships with other backpackers on the road so instantaneously. Many times I have felt that after one day or one week, I already know these people, and have a stronger connection with them, than many of my friends back home whom I have known for many years. Or that I slip into “friendship mode” with people I have only just met. Treating them exactly like I would my friends back home, whom I’ve known for many years. Reading that last paragraph over, it doesn’t make my friendships back home appear very strong, but I don’t think it’s in anyway showing a negative light in their direction. This is just what happens when you travel. You connect with people. Immediately.

Maybe it’s the open atmosphere and vibe that travellers have. Maybe if we weren’t all caught up in the rat race back home, and caught up in all the stresses and strains of life, we’d be able to meet people and connect in a way that travellers do. I guess there is that holiday type mentality. You’re looking to have fun. There is a positive atmosphere around. There are no major worries. You’re completely relaxed. Mix that in with the fact you all usually have a lot in common if you’re travelling already, and it makes for a good place to find like minded spirits. Usually there are spirits of the alcoholic kind around too.

The reality that I have come to realise however, after such a long time travelling, is that despite these connections that you make, and the good intentions/promises from both parties, you will most probably never meet these people again. Or on the occasion when you do, it’s usually a “once in year” type occasion, if it is indeed even that frequent. The truth is that when you all eventually return home, finding the time, money, and energy sometimes to make long distance journeys can be hard. Especially if you live in different continents entirely. Finding a thousand dollars for that plane ticket to Australia does seem far fetched just to go visit someone for short period of time. Sure, if they live in Europe, then maybe a cheap weekend break is possible, but even then, a lot of the time people can’t get time off work, have debt to pay off, are students (i.e. have time but not the money), or are spending the spare time they have with the friends who are on their door step. The real truth is that most people will become yet another facebook friend that you never see anymore.

It may seem like I paint a bleak picture here, that I’m a cynic, or too much of a realist, but the return from your first trip away teaches you may things, and I have had many trips away now. Sometimes it is best to leave things as a wonderful memory. To enjoy the moment, and not place too many expectations on people for the future. When I say goodbye to travel friends, I say it knowing full well I will most likely never see their face again unless we unexpectedly cross paths sometime on our future independent travels. I never feel a tinge of sadness. Not these days. I had a great time with that person, or those people, and I’ll always think back on that time and smile.

When I see newbie travellers saying goodbye, with promises to meet up again in their home countries, I do sometimes have to resist the urge to point out the realities to them. It’s as if I feel the urge to point out to them the things I have learned through my own travels, but if I did that I’d be an asshole… and I don’t want to be an asshole. Also, I haveย  a blog for things like that! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Before I digress too much further, the reason I chose to write about this topic today, is that lately, I have been faced with a scary prospect. In all my travels, in all the days, months, and years on the road. In every trip I have undertaken. Always, the people I connected most with were other backpackers, other travellers, people exactly like me. Sure, I have fantastic experiences meeting locals, but the people I actually made friends with were always travellers. My time in Sevilla recently has been marked by a strong friendship with a local this time. Someone who doesn’t move around. Someone who I can’t just say goodbye to and forget about because he will always be here. If I move onto to the next destination, it’s no longer just the realities of travel which have pushed us apart. It’s me. I have chosen to leave. With no real fixed abode, the onus is on me to come back and visit or it just becomes another one of those facebook friendships. Suddenly this feels very real.

Having been based in Sevilla now for most of the summer, it’s like I now have some sort of mish mash of the two – my stay at home friends & family back in Scotland, and my travel friends. It feels very strange. I thought I had the realities of travel friendships down, but it seems I have found a new breed, and I don’t know how this one goes… It seems like suddenly I’m not such an expert afterall, andย  things seem all new and scary again. Travel has once again thrown a spanner in my works..

5 Responses to “The Realities of Travel Friendships…”

  1. Claire says:

    Travel friendships are certainly unique. You experience so much together and poof, they are gone, or you are. I made some good friends this summer while traveling in Nicaragua and when I said goodbye, I knew it was probably forever. Depressing, a little, but I am glad to have met them!

  2. Mica says:

    I think sometimes making travel friends is easier for me. I live on the road full time and some of the people I meet are too-if not I think people that travel long term share many of your same interests- sometimes I can go months without talking to girlfriends back home, but my travel friends always seem to be in a new spot, inspiring me to keep going, whereas my friends from home view my new spot (Chiang Mai) as “so far away over there”. Is this new friendship a possible love interest? Long distance friendship-or love- is one of the hardest things to deal with. Its nice to have an even balance of both kinds of friends. The ones for motivation and inspiration, and the ones you can call for that hometown gossip.

  3. Raf Kiss says:

    Great read…
    I think that travel friendships indeed are what they are and there’s a good possibility that a person you made friends with on a trip, turns out to be very different when you meet them again in “normal life” circumstances… On another note, I have seen long time friendships being shattered once the people decided to take a vacation together… Works both ways ๐Ÿ™‚
    So yeah, enjoy the moment with the people you’re with and when you move on, say goodbye without too many expectations, which can be difficult when there’s a romantic side to the friendship ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Good luck

  4. Xights says:

    I believe a traveler is considered to be one of the friendliest person in the world. They travel in places where they are not really familiar with the people and the language being spoken, yet they do communicate and tend to build friends. And one thing is for sure, they are always nice. I guess you have these qualities that’s why the natives trust you easily and you trust them back too.

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