Many people have asked me how I could just leave my job and seemingly travel perpetually. How can I afford it? How do you find places to stay for free all the time? How do you find places to volunteer? All questions I’ve received by email, and now I’m sharing the secrets in a series of posts about how The Happy Nomad Tour Rolls and what things are like behind the scenes.
Friendship On The Road
I don’t think people would be surprised to find out that I make friends on the road. But I think making friends on the road is a very different experience than making friends in normal life.
I’ll separate this into two categories: making local friends in the places I go and making other travelers on the road.
Making Local Friends
By staying with local people as I travel, they miraculously invite me into their lives and allow me to experience life from their perspective. It’s beautiful.
Everyone knows that friendships take on new dimensions when you live together. Many friendships come to an end as a result of living together.
In my case, I meet people for the first time and then stay with them. As they are comfortable living in their home environment, they seem to open up more and it’s easier to get to know them. You can communicate on a deeper level and really get to know each other.
Sometimes you don’t like what you find, other times, despite maybe only spending a couple days together, you know you’ve found a lifelong friend.
Meeting other travelers
I’d say this category is much the same, though for me it feels different. We often put up a wall or put up defenses and only let a few people in to know the core of who we are. I think we feel like it’s self-preservation, but in reality I think it’s more a fear of really being yourself. It’s often counterproductive and makes for a cold society.
On the road, it seems like these barriers disappear. People get outside their natural environment and lower their guard. In some cases, it’s for artificial reasons like the comfort of meeting a fellow Westerner in a non-Western environment. But quite often it seems like people are just naturally more open.
Maybe people on the road have a better sense of who they are and thus aren’t afraid of letting people in. One of the reasons to keep your guard up and not let people in might be fear of judgment. What happens when you let people in and they don’t like what they find? I guess it’s a scary thought for many, so it is to be avoided at all costs.
On the road, people don’t seem to care as much. They are freer to be who they are and not be ashamed of anything. No need to hold back. Maybe it’s because we’re all moving in different directions all the time, so at best you meet someone and form a deep connection before parting ways, at worst you meet someone, despise them, and similarly move on soon thereafter. In normal life, parting ways and moving on isn’t as easy.
When I was back at home last year, I think my frankness and honesty was a bit shocking to many people I met for the first time as well as for people who already know me. It wasn’t rude; it was just beyond the boundaries of what is considered normal for them.
I forgot that I was supposed to hide behind some invisible barrier and keep almost everyone away for my own protection. I guess I’ve changed and I don’t need to protect myself from anything anymore. I’m comfortable with who I am, toilet paper tail and all. I’m not afraid to let others in anymore.
As a result, my difficulty in making friends, long a struggle as a shy child, teenager, and 20-something adult has disappeared. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have the friends I have. Yes, I’m traveling so meeting new people happens all the time. But I think with my new mindset and approach to life, I’d be just as lucky to meet amazing people if I was settled in one place. It’s all about your attitude.