Simply put, I have moved around a lot in the past several years. In the five years since 2008, I have moved ten different times, and this doesn’t include five months of backpacking in South America and a three month bicycle trip across the US. I’ve been to 31 countries on 5 continents, including Antarctica, and I’ve stayed in a countless number of hostels. All in all, I imagine I’ve met at least a few thousand people.
There are huge advantages to this type of nomadic lifestyle. Meeting so many people from all parts of the world opens you up to new perspectives, different ideas, and gives you the chance to learn and grow as a person. Over the past 5 years, I have completely embraced this opportunity and have thrown myself out there to meet people in hostels, through Couchsurfing, in buses, and anywhere else that I could possibly strike up a conversation.
However, I feel a change in my views and my actions. Since the beginning of this trip, I have felt less social and with less desire to meet random people. This has all started to feel very superficial to me. I have grown tired of having the same conversation but with different people. “Where are you from?” “How long are you traveling for?” “Where have you been?” “Where are you going next?” I’ve had this conversation hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I have begun to resent this conversation and find myself bored and not as social as I used to be. These conversations sometimes eventually lead to a strong friendship. I still have many friends that I keep in contact with through my travels. However, I now have no contact with 99% of the people I have met.
This has made my time here in Central America feel a bit shallow with many moments of loneliness. Whereas I used to much prefer traveling alone, I no longer find it rewarding. I long for a deeper relationship, not one where I know I will probably never see the person again after tomorrow.
This has made me truly realize how special those close relationships are. Whether it’s parents, siblings, friends from home, or friends from other stages of life, any close relationships you have are rare and should not be taken for granted. To have someone with whom you have shared experiences, someone you really know on a deeper level. Those relationships do not develop every day. They take months, even years, to become something more than a superficial relationship. Because we only have 24 hours in the day, we only have so much time to create these connections; we inevitably will not have many relationships on this level. These deep relationships may change over the years, as important people may eventually come and go in life. But since they take months and years to develop, it takes months and years to change. Meeting someone at a hostel can be fun, but they’ll be gone from your life as quickly as it took you to work up the courage to strike up a conversation.
One aspect of my life here has helped shape my views. Granada has many, many volunteers. People from Europe and North America come for anywhere from a few weeks to a year to help in schools, in youth shelters, and in various other projects. However, the average stay is somewhere in the one to two month range. Since I am here for quite a bit longer than the average volunteer stint, I have already met people foreigners only to see them leave a short while later. There was a large group of volunteers here in July; one local organization had about 80 during the month. I met many and developed some relationships with a few. However, by the end of August, every single one of them had left. I had built my social life around these volunteers; then in the blink of an eye, I knew not one volunteer still here in Granada. Having to completely start over with my social life proved to be even more difficult, as I lacked the energy and the desire to get close to anyone when I know they’ll all be leaving soon.
I have realized that for the past 5 years, I have always been on the other side of this. I have been the one coming and going. A few days here, maybe a week there, but definitely a maximum of six months. I have been the one always with the new change ahead of me while leaving others in the same location and same life, possibly worse off after our short time together. Of course this is a two-way street, as they did not have to try to get to know me better. However, I now know how many must’ve felt when I packed up my bag and left, especially those who are not used to this type of life.
After all of this, I have learned several important things about myself. There are several people in my life that I would say that I have close relationships with. These are relationships that I want to put in more time and effort, as they are incredibly special. I have also learned that I do not want to travel alone any more. As much as I craved that feeling of independence and freedom to do exactly what I wanted, I now want to share experiences with someone special. I do not want to stop meeting new people; I don’t think that will ever change. But having closer friends or family alongside has become a priority.
These changes have shaped my desires for what I want to do in the future. I am still trying to figure out the correct path, but I have no doubt that it will all work out.