You pack your backpack and a bit later you empty it in a whole other country. You close the door to your trusty home and a few hours later find yourself in a new temporary home; sometimes a not very comfortable hostel, sometimes a quaint apartment with ocean view or a beautiful hotel with super comfy beds. You say goodbye to your friends and family and then roam an unknown country with strangers, with other travellers. And then after a few weeks or months you have to switch back and do everything in the reverse order. This sounds so easy, but often is the most difficult part about travelling!
Because travelling means change – change of surroundings, of your relationship to yourself and of your relationship to others as well. You often only notice how much you changed or are changing when you get back to your usual environment and catch up with friends and family.
Two worlds collide before and after a trip: farewell and new beginning. You have to say goodbye to the people around you, you go out and meet new people when travelling, you forge new meaningful connections. But eventually you have to say goodbye to them too, which can be particularly hard after having had a good time together. Meanwhile your ‘old’ friends at home are already waiting to have you back. There is much to catch up on and stories to tell.
Travelling is permanent delaying or better a constant coming and going of friendships. Some might be a little shallow, some are very deep. Of some friends you know that you can call them day and night, you know that they are always there for you. These friends will be there for you when you are travelling too, they stand by you wherever you are. But you have to take care of these friendships even when travelling. The important friendships have to be worth the effort, otherwise there will be a gap that is very hard to fill.
Travelling and friendships: The difference between friendships at home and on the road!
Long-standing friendships at home
Friendships that you have forged at home and built over many years are often intense and deep. Maybe you even have friends from your sandbox days or people you went to school with, people that have been with you for most of your life now, that have shared your highest and lowest moments, that have built you up and were there for you in hard times. New friendships cannot touch this kind of connection simply because of the time it takes to build it.
Your friends at home know you and your quirks very well and know how to deal with them. With them you can be how you are, you don’t need to pull yourself together or feign anything when you are not feeling well.
Maintaining these friendships when travelling definitely is a challenge for both sides and really puts your friendship to the test. That’s when you find out who really cares for you even if you are thousands of kilometers away, you see who notices when you are not feeling well, who asks about you and who is there for you. You see who takes the time to write or to talk on the phone no matter how much he or she has going on in his/her private or professional life. Who doesn’t just live in his or her own world but in whose thoughts you are even if you are thousands of kilometers away.
Keeping in touch despite the distance
Technological advances with smartphones, internet phone calls and simple chat apps have made communication across continents easier, but you still have to make the call yourself. Time differences and bad connections can also screw up your plans.
Still it is important to keep in touch and to make use of any means possible for that whenever you get the chance. Yes, often when you come home the connection is as good as ever but a part of your lives has for sure passed unshared. You might be able to talk for hours when you first see each other back, but conversations often stay shallow because you cannot go into too much detail and often you have already forgotten too much. Sadly, some things just get lost. And it is often those small moments and experiences that create a bond.
New travel friendships
Friendships are something very special on a trip. Compared to new encounters at home you have something in common from the start, you share a passion for travelling. You definitely won’t run out of things to talk about in the beginning and you feel a certain kind of kinship.
Friendships with other travellers are often very intense in the beginning, if the chemistry is right. Especially if you become travel buddies and live adventures together. Nothing binds two people together like shared experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Individual barriers are quickly crossed.
Often you will find yourself sharing a bed and you really get to know the other person’s quirks. This can have advantages and disadvantages and in the worst case you might notice that your styles of travelling don’t go together that well after all. In the best case you make a friend for life and might meet again somewhere else in the world or visit your new friend in his or her home.
Curiosity and a sense of belonging when travelling
You have probably already noticed that travelling fosters curiosity. Because if you have already made the long trip out into the uncertain and embraced the adventure that a foreign country offers then you might as well make the most of the trip! You want to experience something and follow your urge for adventure since that is what you stepped in a plane for. Besides the country and its people other travellers are incredibly interesting. You can swap stories of your experiences in the various countries or tell each other about your culture and traditions at home. It seldom is that easy to meet people from other countries and get to know them better.
You acquire a whole other sense of belonging to a country when you make friends with locals. They allow you to dive in deeper and deeper and take you to places that you would have never come across otherwise, places that are off of the beaten path. Locals often are especially devoted to introducing you to their country, their traditions and their culture and you should make use of that!
It is up to you where you make contact with locals. Sometimes simply asking for the way can lead to you exchanging numbers and then you find yourself meeting again at a bar that same evening. How much you learn about a country is also in your own hands. Ask as many questions as possible, show interest. The information you get can hardly be found in a guide book and it will really enrich you!
Friendships with locals like friendships with other travellers mean a connection for a certain time, physically anyway. You often spend only a very short but intense time with this person and then might never see him or her again for the rest of your life if the distances are too great. But this does not mean that your friendship has to stop. As mentioned previously, there are plenty of options for staying in touch nowadays or at least to give sign that you are alive and to ask about the other person’s well-being.
But how do you manage to maintain friendships from home while you are travelling and the newly-forged travel friendships once you are back home?
Take the time
Making time for friends despite a spacial distance is the main precondition for maintaining the friendship. If you are not ready to invest the time then you should think about how important these friends at home really are to you. Of course you have little time when travelling because there is so much going on and you already have more than enough to do dealing with yourself but with a bit of creativity you can make a little time for your friends at home almost every day. The same is true for friendships that you made on the road and now have to maintain from home. Even a little time is better than none at all.
Continuously staying in touch
Depending on how much you travel and how much time you spend in one place it may be easier or harder to keep in touch with friends at home. Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, etc. those who stayed behind can always see where you are at the moment and know about the great things you get to do but in the long run this is not enough. Because let’s be honest, how many really good friends are among your Facebook friends? The posts tend to be rather superficial and address the broader crowd.
A short chat message with an individual picture for your best friend does a lot more to maintain the friendship. The disadvantage of chatting back and forth however is that you cannot really write much or go into great detail. And typing a longer message often costs a lot of time that many of us don’t bother to take. Voice messages that you can for instance send via WhatsApp are a good alternative. They are a simple way to quickly share a lot and your friend can answer with a voice message too.
Of course talking on the phone is even better. If you have good wifi then take you phone and call home with Facetime. Make a date with the loved ones at home and you’re good to go! On the phone you can get a bit more in depth and enrich your account with your feelings and little anecdotes on the side. And you will also learn a lot more about what’s going on with the other person than in a simple chat.
The same thing applies for friendships forged when travelling. Be persistent and stay in touch – not on birthdays only!
Do you really need Facebook to remind you of a good friend’s birthday? Come on! What happened to the times when you either had a birthday calendar or you had the most important dates in your head? Those are long gone. To make sure that you don’t forget anyone you should save the most important dates and birthdays in your phone.
Also add other dates and days that are important to the lives of your friends. Be it a job interview, an important business appointment, the wedding day or birthday of a child. If you learned of something important in a conversation or chat then remember it or set a reminder on your phone and ask about how things went or wish good luck in advance. This way you show your interest and that you are not living in your travel world alone.
Loose the egoism
If you have not been in touch for a long time, don’t wait for your friends at home to do so, get over yourself and reach out! Let them know that they are still important to you and that you simply have been too busy. Such longer stretches of silence are not a problem and don’t automatically mean you have lost interest, as long as you communicate to your friends why you have not been in touch they will forgive you.
And still: you were the one that set out and left your friends behind. You are the one experiencing lots of new wonderful things and making new friends. So your friends at home should also be interested in following your adventures and wanting to know how you are. As with all relationships it is a constant giving and taking and both sides should not forget that no matter how great the distance is.
This of course only applies to friends that you have made while travelling. Friends that come from many different countries. When your time together comes to an end you say goodbye to each other, maybe stay in touch for a few more weeks or months and then loose sight of one another. it doesn’t have to be this way!
If these friends really are important to you, then organize another trip together or invite them to your place and straight away suggest a date for that. Depending on where you come from a long weekend might be enough. You can indulge in old memories and experience new things together. As is the case so often everybody usually is in, once one of you has taken the initiative.
Don’t neglect your friends at home when you are travelling but also enjoy the newly forged friendships!
Friendships have always been subject to change but travelling a lot sadly often means that friendships are of shorter duration or cannot be built with the same intensity as before. It is often when travelling that you find out whether a friendship has the potential for a long and deep connection.
Friendship is something very valuable and one of the most important anchors in life after family and your partner. Which is why it is worth taking care of old friendships and not loosing sight of people you are close to. At the same time you should also not loose your curiosity and interest in new travel friendships! Both kinds of friendships greatly enrich your life and are worth building and maintaining.
How do you deal with friendships when travelling? What are your experiences?