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Friendship and Travel: So Many Friends, So Many Goodbyes

Friendship and Travel

In the past week alone, I have met six new people. I’m not saying that I bumped into six people or that I exchanged a few words with six people. What I’m saying is that I met, spent a good amount of time, and became friends on some level, with these individuals. That’s a part of traveling, meeting so many new people everywhere I go, creating new friendships all the time, and to me, it’s the greatest part of this lifestyle.

But how do I handle the fact that I might never see any of these six new people ever again, no matter how close we became during the time we spent together? After all, I might be here in Bucharest today, but who knows where I’ll be next week, next month or next year? And the same goes for anyone I meet as well.

Unfortunately, this is also a part of the traveling lifestyle, this coming and going, this saying hello and then soon after, saying goodbye. Friendship and travel don’t always seem to be very compatible because, unlike those who live in one place, those who have the benefit of a stable social circle, a stable group of friends to spend time with and to share their lives with, long-term travelers simply don’t have that luxury. We do have friends of course, close friends too, but we often are unable to spend significant time with most of them.

However, despite all of that, I wouldn’t give up this ever-changing nature of friendships for anything. After all, I would never have met many of my good friends had I never traveled in the first place and there are still so many interesting people out there in the world for me to meet. And I know perfectly well that even if I don’t see many of my friends often, the majority will still remain my friends. I can count on them, they can count on me, at any time. I’m also confident that my closest of friends, especially those from back home with whom I spent my high school or university years with, will always remain my closest friends, no matter how many days per year we actually spend together or how many miles apart we may be.

Is It Difficult to Always Say Goodbye?

I won’t deny it though. Even with my love of meeting new people, it is most certainly difficult, even after so many years of travel, to fully get used to saying goodbye so many times as I move on and leave new friends behind (or vice versa). Nobody likes parting ways with someone they have enjoyed spending time with. But what does make it slightly easier to handle, is the fact that I actually do see the people I meet and become friends with while traveling more often than most would imagine. Yes, there are plenty of people I meet and with whom I get along with very well, yet, I probably won’t ever see them again. At the same time, because I’ve met so many people, I often have friends wherever I travel. Maybe I’m passing through their home country or maybe, since we’re both traveling types, we end up in the same location once again at some point down the road. However it works out, the point is that it does work out, remarkably often, and I am always meeting up with people I had met earlier in my travels.

Friendship and Travel - Kotor

Let me look at Bucharest as an example. Since I began using this city as my base last year, I would estimate that I have met up with about one person every week I’ve spent here who I had previously met while traveling at some point over the past 13 years. And this is Bucharest, a city that is not a major tourist destination. I’ve hung out with people that I originally met during my days traveling around Southeast Asia, from my time in Mexico and Australia, people I know from back in the US and on and on. I’m always surrounded by friends from my travels, even here, it’s just that the friends I’m surrounded with are not always the same all the time.

And while that may not be as ideal as seeing my absolute closest friends every weekend or more often in general, my situation is not such a bad deal either. My life has been significantly enhanced by all of the friends I’ve made around the world and I have learned a great deal about life, about myself and about other countries and cultures by having friends from all over the map.

You Never Know Who You’ll Meet

With all of this said, I can understand how this constant saying hello and saying goodbye stuff isn’t for everyone. And I do know people who couldn’t get used to it at all, so much so that the life of travel they once dreamed of became something they were no longer interested in pursuing.

These travelers have a hard time figuring out how anyone could possibly allow themselves to become close to new people they meet when they know they’ll most likely have to say goodbye at some point in the not-too-distant future. To an extent, yes, like I said, trying to mix friendship and travel can suck at times.

However, my theory has always been that it’s much better to dive in and bond with new people because in the end, you really never know where it might lead. You might have travel plans in place that will take you both to opposite ends of the world, but perhaps after spending time together with a new friend (or even a new “friend”) you decide that your friendship is more important or your potential relationship is more important, and you re-arrange your trips as a result. Maybe you plan to meet up later in the year, maybe you decide to cancel those flights you had booked for next month and travel together for some more time or maybe you decide to return to one of your home countries together for a while. Or maybe you just say goodbye to your new friend or friends, content with the idea that there’s always a chance you’ll run into each other again somewhere.

Every person you meet, anywhere in the world, could potentially be your next friend, maybe an extremely close friend, or perhaps a long-term partner or even a spouse. You just don’t know, and at least in my opinion, I’d rather meet as many people as possible, to bond and become friends with all those I connect with, to share great moments and memories and to know that some of these friendships will last, somehow, some way, despite having to say goodbye. Not all last, many fizzle quickly but some most definitely make it through the challenges of the traveling lifestyle.

As I mentioned, I’m always meeting up with friends I’ve met throughout my travels, no matter where I happen to be in the world, and I’m easily able to stay connected with those I really bond with via email, Skype and other methods. And that’s why, if I have a chance to meet someone new or spend time with someone I think could become a good friend, I simply won’t turn away, even knowing that soon I might already have to say goodbye. Instead, I go in with the mindset that life is full of surprises and that every “hello” I say and every hand I shake, could change my life forever.

And those potential life changes, and the friendships that are created, no matter what the form, are not something I want to miss out on.

How do you deal with meeting new people while traveling? Is it easy for you to always say goodbye or is it difficult? How do you feel about it all?


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58 Responses to Friendship and Travel: So Many Friends, So Many Goodbyes

  1. Pingback: Friendship and Travel

  2. I’ve thought about this often Earl! I always find it hard to say goodbye to the friends I meet traveling, but that’s what comes with being pals. This is one thing that facebook is great for though. Even if I never see the people again it’s great to at least see what they’re up to occasionally online.

  3. Jaryd says:

    When you make that connection with someone you met on your travels and it comes time to part, its tough. You both hold a bond together as you more than likely have experienced and witnessed some cool things together. The worst part is not knowing when you will meet up again, for sure. but this is just another incentive for me to continually travel, not just to possibly meet up with friends I have made but to make more that I can meet up with again later down the next path I follow on my journey.

  4. “you never know who you’ll meet” makes me think of a saying I’ve been thinking about for quite awhile.

    “you never know who might care where you are”

    As you say, there are some amazing people all across the globe — who may end up being business partners, spouses, or best friends. It’s a matter of uncovering them as you go, and being open to any and all encounters.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Drew – Absolutely and just the thought of being able to meet more and more amazing people around the world is all I need to convince me to continue traveling!

  5. I think the people we meet on the road is the absolute best thing about travel. It seems to be easier (than at home in the US) to meet a stranger’s eye, smile and strike up a conversation about topics you already have in common. Saying goodbye is part of the experience but I always have the hope that we’ll cross paths in the future.

  6. Nahla omar says:

    I really like this blog. I agree with you. I’m from Saudi Arabia and I’m studying English in the USA. I had lesson about blogs and my homework was choosing one blog I think it interesting . so I found your blog and I wrote about it .

    good luck

  7. Agata says:

    Hi there,

    I like this post very much. This is so true!
    I had also similar experiences with meeting people but in my case the difficulty lied somewhere else: the necessity to start every time from scratch. It’s that people are asking similar questions, at least at the beginning of ‘friendship’, aren’t they? I mean, all asks you where do you come from, do you like their country, etc. And in my case after 21st person asking me where do I come from I just couldn’t listen to myself anymore! It’s not that I was tired with other people stories. It’s just I couldn’t listen to my own story over and over again.
    From that moment, I meet people in a considerable quantity to preserve well being;-)

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Agata – That is all very true but you can change it! Ask the other person some different questions, don’t ask the same questions as every other person. And I’m sure that this will lead to much more interesting interactions.

  8. Micheal and jimmie says:

    We have had several moments of togetherness and goodbyes. I’m always thankful for the time spent then move on .

  9. Kristie says:

    Oddly (or perhaps not) I’ve always been fine with goodbyes. Or at least after the first year or two I became that way. The way I see it if it wasn’t for the travel you wouldn’t get to meet these amazing people at all (for those that ask me if I don’t miss being in one place with a consistent group of friends and companions).
    And saying goodbye just opens you up for your next hello.

    xx

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Kristie – I repeat the same thing all the time about travel being the only reason I meet these great people in the first place. So, if I stopped traveling, I know that I would very quickly miss meeting new people all the time, even with the goodbyes that often come after.

  10. I hate goodbyes but one huge positive that I take from meeting people whilst travelling and then having to say goodbye to them is that I know I’ll always be able to stay in touch online and having friends around the world is a huge advantage (and knowing I’ll always be able to say “come stay with me”)

  11. Kim says:

    Making friends like this is one of the biggest blessings of traveling. It is hard to say goodbye (though you know going in to it you will be saying goodbye soon) but with Facebook, email, etc. it is easy to stay in touch. And I love knowing I have friends all around the world.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Kim – There is something special about having friends from different countries around the world. It’s hard to describe sometimes but I feel like friendships are often stronger when they stretch across borders.

  12. I always take it very hard when I say good bye to new friends. I attach myself to people too fast. But I still don’t regret meeting them and all those tears I shed when saying good bye. As you said, you never know when you’re going to end up and if you try hard, you might meet them again very soon. Great post!

  13. I loved your article Earl…brought back similar experiences. It’s true that the world is becoming a much smaller place. With the technology available now it’s always good to talk with “old” friends and share experiences via FB and other networks.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Mark – It really is quite easy to stay in touch and in the end, that helps us see which people we meet are really our true friends.

  14. Jeremy says:

    Don’t worry Sir Earl of Boston, we will unite again in half a fortnight….

  15. Kevin says:

    After discovering your blog and reading your book, I am determined to pursue this type of lifestyle. The idea of roaming around, meeting people and experiencing the world has always been appealing to me- so it’s really cool to see someone proving that it’s a tangible possibility. I really appreciate the information you’ve made available with this website and the work you’ve put into it.

  16. Lars says:

    It’s nice to see how often you write something that can be a ”support” for other nomads! And yess it is exacly as you written down right here. I believe in faith, and with the persons you really made a relationship with, I BELIEVE you will see them again!! Cheers to that, till the next one Earl :)

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Lars – And in my experience, that’s exactly what happens…I do end up seeing those people, somehow, somewhere, once again!

  17. Phoenix says:

    Hey Earl,
    You mentioned the possibility of meeting a potential spouse… is that a hint that you’ve found a companion to wander with? :)
    If it’s not too personal to answer, do you try to develop romantic relationships at all? Or does it seem too hard with the constant moving around and the fact that you’d have to factor in another person’s interests in terms of where to go? Sorry if that’s too personal of a question, I’m just curious!
    Phoenix

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Phoenix – I don’t put in an actual effort to look for relationships as I believe they happen when they happen. And so far, they have happened as I’ve traveled. When I do meet someone I want to spend more time with, I simply make a decision as to whether I should keep on moving or stop for a while and stay together to see where it might lead. Sometimes it doesn’t last very long, other times it lasts for a year or more. It’s definitely not difficult to find like-minded people that you want to get to know better and have a relationship with…it really just comes down to making decisions and being willing to change your travel plans if you find the right person.

  18. Even though I feel like I’m a pro at saying goodbye now, it never ever gets easier. Thank goodness for Facebook!!!!!

  19. Robbie Mckenna says:

    What a coincidence that you posted this today! In the past two days I have experienced my first encounter with having to say goodbye to newly made friends while traveling. It´s certainly a lot tougher than I had thought it would be. I really do hope I meet my newly made friends somewhere down the road just as you have.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Robbie – It is tough but really, if you made some true friends, you will indeed see them again.

  20. One of the things I value most about being an expat now is having a steady group of friends that I get to hang out with regularly that I’ve known for over a year. I haven’t experienced anything like that in years! And I love it. Though I still enjoy meeting new people – even if they won’t be in my city forever – I don’t miss the constant hi’s and goodbyes.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Jasmine – There’s definitely benefits in staying put! For me, while I know that I would enjoy those benefits as well, I still have this urge to meet new people around the world so I can’t quite do it yet…one day :)

  21. They say friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, and I have ceratainly made some amazing friends traveling whom I may never see again. Whether you meet other travelers or locals, the most rewarding friendships are often fleeting, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful :)

  22. Linda says:

    I occasionally muse about this too, but my conclusion is always the same….basically, the same as you, the pros outweight the cons. I said goodbye a month or so ago to a very dear friend, who is off to the four corners, more or less. I don’t know when our paths will cross again, but I just have this certainty that they will. Perhaps because I was an only child I don’t have this need to spill everything out when something good or bad happens, at least no more than I can do online usually! I think real friends are folk we are, somehow, destined to meet up with, even when we don’t expect it. My very best friend remains my best friend from high school. In fact, I’m not sure we would have stayed such good friends had either or both of us remained “at home” – our different experiences of different places are a big part of our conversations, what we’ve learned about different cultures, customs and attitudes to life. Best friends are the family we choose, as someone once said, and being parted for any length of time doesn’t diminish our relationships.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Linda – I have to agree of course and I think that’s the very nature of true friendship. Such things as time apart shouldn’t have an effect on a genuine friendship, especially these days when it is so easy to stay connected with people online. And I’m the same in terms of knowing that I will cross paths again with those special people I meet while traveling and so far, I have indeed met many of them later on down the road.

  23. Lee says:

    So many times when your travelling you meet amazing people – you may even fall in love for a day maybe – there are connections and synchronicities and sometimes its hard to part ways. What a lovely write up :)

  24. this topic is particularly dear to me (and many other travelers over there of course).
    I travel mainly because of the interesting people i may meet during my trip. There is also the sight-seeing part but my trip so far had been amazing because of the new friends on the road (and a boyfriend too :) )
    Is it hard for me? oh yes it is. A lot harder than i imagined. But it all depends on the bond we create over time. Sometimes is harder than others. And when it is,it hurts me quite a lot. But this is the downside of living your life at the fullest. Plus, traveling you are more likely to meet people that are closer to your way of life. People who share your philosophy of life. And it happened quite often to me.
    As someone once said: better to live one day as a lion than 100 as a sheep. So i’ll take the sadness of goodbye in exchange of amazing moments and unforgettable people. Now with skype and chats is also easier to stay in contact if one wants to.
    But it’s hard, nonetheless. I will have to say goodbye to my bf in 2 months, after 6 spent together and i don’t even want to start thinking about it. IT SUCKS.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey kle – Well said. And I think once a person experiences the benefits of travel and the feeling of meeting so many new friends, most would opt for the amazing moments and unforgettable people over a life of boredom.

  25. Chris says:

    What a wonderful read to begin the week. A macro/micro world view anyone can benefit from adopting – whether they travel or not – just leaving the house is an opportunity to meet a new friend. One of your best all-around posts yet!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Chris – Thanks for that and yes, like many things that we talk about in relation to travel, the very same ideas can be applied to life at home. It’s all the same stuff and the same attitudes/actions will lead to the same results, no matter where we are.

  26. Jana says:

    What a great article! I love your attitude about this, and I can identify with a lot of your experiences.

    Another thing I’ve found to be true about meeting people on the road is that travel seems to have a way of causing surprisingly deep friendships to develop really quickly sometimes. I’ve met a couple people while traveling who I only spent a couple of days with and wasn’t even able to communicate with very well due to linguistic barriers, but who I almost immediately felt like I had known for years. With these people, you can be away from them for years, then when you get the chance to see them again it’s as if you just saw them yesterday. Such encounters don’t happen that often, but when they do happen they make everything else worthwhile.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Jana – That’s true and I think that it sometimes has to do with the fact that we share some amazing experiences together in such a short time. When you meet another traveler and two hours later you’re hiking through some incredible rainforest together or you’re sitting in front of the Taj Mahal, it’s only natural that a deeper bond will be created more quickly. We share so much with those we just meet that many of the steps of friendship seem to be skipped over!

  27. planktonfisher says:

    As Winnie the Pooh would say: How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good bye so hard!

    Off-topic: Can you recommend snorkeling spots in Goa (directly from the beach, if possible)? I so far only found organized boat trips. How is the visibility in the water? After all your Goa posts, I seriously consider travelling there! Thanks for any kind of advice!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      @planktonfisher – Nice quote there! As for snorkeling in Goa, I’m not too sure unfortunately. I know there were boat trips off of Palolem that didn’t go too far from shore but I don’t think you can see much by just walking in from the beach. As for visibility, I never went snorkeling but in Palolem, I would classify visibility as quite good.

  28. Seb says:

    I really like your post. I’ve read a lot of the stuff you publish and I really like how you write. This one is a little special for me and my girlfriend as we have been on the road for 4 months already and we have met so many great people. Some of them did make us change our plans to see them again month later in a different location. And some of them we will probably never see again. But life goes on and it is still as interesting to meet new people every week.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Seb – That’s great to hear that you’re enjoying meeting all of those people out there. You just have to take it all as it comes and enjoy the time you spend with your new friends.

  29. montesaurus@earthlink.net says:

    I agree with Earl. One of the most pleasurable things about traveling are the friends you can meet. Recently my wife and I got to know this elderly lady heading to Rome to be a temporary nanny for a couple and their kids. She had to be at least 70 and here she was heading out on this new adventure! Anyway we exchanged emails and she invited my wife and I to visit and have supper in her small flat in Munich the next time we get to Germany! I am looking forward to this!

  30. jennifer says:

    The beauty of making friendships with many people you may not see often, over having few close friends you see always, is that you have more people to talk to about your travels!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Jennifer – Having more friends with similar interests in common certainly is a benefit of travel!

  31. Carolyn says:

    Parting ways with new travel buddies can sometimes be awkward!

    Say you’re in a place where no one understands your language, and you’re slightly lost. Suddenly, you spot a similarly lost couple… and they’re speaking English! You introduce yourselves, help each other get un-lost, and celebrate over drinks. Before long, you’ve made two new friends!

    But then… you start to realize that these people are actually a little annoying. Maybe he’s kind of arrogant, and she has terrible oral hygiene, and they don’t tip. You conclude that you definitely never need to see these people again.

    In these situations, instead of exchanging contact info or offering to host them if they ever make it to Montreal, I just smile warmly and say “vaya con dios”. (Sometimes I tell them to check out my blog, too.)

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Carolyn – It’s only natural that we’re not going to get along, or not want to become friends with, everyone we meet and yes, that does lead to some odd exchanges at times. But I’m the same as you, I just leave without exchanging any details.

  32. I think the most important part is as you say, “you never know who you’ll meet”.

    The best friends I’ve made in life have all been due to travel. On top of that, the most intellectual people I’ve met have all been due to a life of travel. For example, my current mentor here in Cancun, is someone I never would have met had I not came here in 2010. Or my fiance LOL.

    That being said…travel buddies are another great thing to come out of a life on the road. You meet people with similar goals, mindsets and places to see in mind…and you might as well rock out with your co…er, well, you know what I mean =P

    Great post!

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