The ones you left behind; friends, family and travel

I haven’t written anything personal for a while; I feel like most of my blog entries do skate on the surface somewhat and you’ll have to forgive that if you can; I’m still new to this and am probably still developing my style of writing. So it’s time for a more introspective, and maybe advisory article?

Missing the people back home has never really been that much of an issue for me whilst travelling. Whilst my travel experience is probably considerably less than many other people, my time at camp in Maine last year and the subsequent road-trip across the USA, and my month so far in Asia being the first long-term travel experiences I’ve taken alone, I’d say I’ve probably done quite a bit more than many other young people my age.

I’m often taken to be older, the usual guess is mid-twenties. On the one hand, YESSSSS. On the other hand, why? Apparently I look a bit older, but I’ve always felt a little bit more mature than many others my age and I’m sure it comes across in my interests and conversation. Eighteen going on nineteen is a normal age for gap-year tourists, but not so much for longer term backpackers or longer term volunteers. So, people are often a little surprised at my age. However, I never feel like being so young disadvantages me.

Since I was a kid, I’ve done residential courses, exchanges and camps away from home, so having become used to being away from my parents, I’ve never really experienced homesickness. The only times that has really happened was when I was trying to deal with university admissions from the USA last summer (very stressful), and the main problem there was the knowledge that I couldn’t do anything, being 3000 miles away from home, although my parents were on top of everything. Then a somewhat unsavoury breakdown of my relationship during the same trip spurred a wave of, not necessarily homesickness, but a longing for something familiar and not so… ahem, hurtful.

And most recently, arriving in a new continent, a bit jet-lagged and feeling utterly alone in the world. I soon settled in here, and I think much of it was down to tiredness and the unfamiliarity of the situation than actually missing anyone… (sorry, parents!) It’s always harder to deal with things when you’re not in your comfort zone at home, surrounded by people you love.

WIth the parents before leaving for my current trip!
WIth the parents before leaving for my current trip!

So it’s not that common for me to miss home, despite the fact that my trip to Germany a month ago, and my ongoing travels in Asia, have been my first solo travel experiences, not counting a few days transitioning in San Francisco and New York before and after the road trip last summer.

I have found, though, that travelling mid-to-longer term, and here I mean anything longer than three months, can really impact your relationships with other people. I’m sure many people who have made travelling their lives, and have been constantly on the move for years, could corroborate this! Although you meet fantastic people on the way, there’s a risk of leaving the people at home behind, more than just physically.

I’ve found that it’s been my parents, people I met through various interests, or whilst blogging, and a few old friends, that I’ve kept in touch with the most. I speak to my parents often, on Facebook or on the phone, and write letters. I haven’t been writing to people or sending postcards as much as I was last summer; postcards are nearly impossible to find, and I find that I often can’t be bothered to write a proper letter. I’m told my handwriting is nearly illegible anyway.

Even at university, I often speak to my parents, not because I need the support but because we’re very close, and it’s nice to know what everyone’s up to. My mum is my best friend, and if it weren’t for our regular phone conversations, I don’t know many other people who would listen to my rambling stories for so long, and with so much enthusiasm!

An old school friend, despite the fact that we attend different universities and keep different schedules, has kept consistently in touch (admittedly a little sporadically!) since we left school; I’d say we are closer now than we were when we were in all the same classes. And they make an effort to talk to me when it’s convenient, no matter where in the world I am. Not to be grouchy, but that’s the same one of only a few of my good friends to write to me at camp last year. *huffs irritably*

Another friend who I met through writing and blogging, who shares many of my interests, is always in touch, eager to know about what I’m doing and catch up. The same can be said of a couple of my college and university friends. Even those I don’t speak to all the time check in occasionally, and it’s then when you find out who your real friends are. It’s one thing to be all over someone when you can talk easily in person or on the phone every day, but if you won’t be seeing them for a few months, it gets tricky.

Sadly, those who I consider some of my closest friends seem to have dropped off the face of the planet. I understand that everyone has their own life to live, but unfortunately, there’s some truth in the saying out of sight, out of mind. If you’re off travelling, it’s quite likely that your friends, in the day-to-day business of their own lives, will simply forget to keep in touch, no matter how much you try to stay in contact and remind them!

It gets infinitely worse and much messier when there’s a romantic relationship involved. I personally would not recommend a separation-by-travel to any couple, and definitely not to one where there wasn’t an enormous amount of trust and openness between the people involved. I’m confident, from personal experience, that it’s a recipe for disaster. I’m quite content to be bitter and alone for the time being, to avoid that again. Enough said.

I hold my hand up to being guilty of not putting enough effort into relationships with friends when I’m travelling myself. Sometimes I’ll fob people off with a half-arsed message when they ask me what I’m up to on Facebook, and to my own embarrassment, I often can’t be bothered to keep in touch with some people I’d say are my good friends back at home. I’m aware that everything is transient. It’s sad that so many relationships in our lives fall by the wayside, whether we travel or not. We have to make the effort though!

So, how can you avoid losing the people you care about whilst you’re off exploring the world?

  • Set a medium for how you’re going to stay in contact!

I write letters and phone my parents. I speak to some friends on Facebook. As I so rarely have Wi-Fi here, Snapchat and Whatsapp aren’t really an option, and not clarifying this has led to some issues in my group of closer friends who are terrible at replying to emails!

  • Try to have a set time when you’ll be in contact!

Be this once a day, once a week, or once a month, it’s nice to know that someone has set aside time to talk to you, and if you’ve pre-organised this, it’s harder for them (or you!) to brush off or forget.

  • Be patient!

Sometimes your previously agreed ways of keeping in contact don’t work out; people are busy, so don’t get too mad straight away!

  • You have to actually want to keep in touch!

This seems obvious, but it’s a big one. Sometimes, however annoying it is, you have to accept that you’re not a priority for everyone who might be one for you. If they’re ignoring you or not bothering to keep in touch, try to shrug it off and fill your days with new experiences and people to avoid moping because of it! Similarly, don’t tell someone you’ll be in touch if you don’t care that much about hearing from them.

Well, that’s it for now!

X Bea

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