Long-Term Travel and the Challenge of Friendship Maintenance

Being a nomad is pretty awesome, and I truly enjoy my lifestyle.  One of my favorite parts of my journey has been meeting people, getting to know them, hanging out with them, and hearing about the day-to-day things that go on in their lives.

But one of the unforeseen hazards of long-term travel, at least for me anyway, is maintaining those friendships.

international friends
a few of the friends I've made over the years

At some point, I will leave whatever place that my new friend lives in, and I will likely not come back. This is a tragic ending to a friendship that, in other circumstances, could have deepened, flourished, and become truly special for both of us.

There are traditional elements that make up most friendships. Shared experiences, spending time together, and seeing each other regularly are all involved, none of which is possible with a nomadic lifestyle.

And this is one of my serious flaws. I am great at connecting with people quickly and deeply, but maintenance? I’m horrible at sending updates via emails, nor do I call, and I don’t initiate any scheduled Skype sessions.

When I look around at the quality of the friendships in my life today, things look pretty bleak. Contact with the people I’ve met throughout the years barely goes further than the occasional comment on someone’s Facebook status.

All relationships need to be nurtured in order to develop. They need attention, time, energy, and effort. And I have been pretty incapable of fulfilling these needs once separated by distance.

It’s a phenomenon that I failed to take into account when I first started this lifestyle in 2007. If I had been aware of it or come to the realization sooner, I think I would have been doing things a lot differently and put in a lot more effort to retain the relationships with all the amazing people I’ve met.

Then again, maybe I’m being too stringent with my definition of friendship. What do you consider a friend? How has the face of friendship changed over the years, especially with the proliferation of technology?

Are the people you accept on Facebook as “friends” really people you consider true friends?

This is one of the principal reasons why I want to slow down my traveling. I want to allow myself more room to make lifelong friends, to share time with the same group of people regularly, to be relied on for emotional support, and to benefit from these close relationships on a level that I haven’t been able to enjoy much of in the past four years.

To all the friends I’ve made over the years, both at home and abroad, short-term and long-term ones, I appreciate all of you and the special part you have played in my life.

A couple of fellow bloggers have come to similar realizations and have shared their thoughts on this dilemma. Check out Wade’s Perpetual Travel and Friendship and Gareth’s Long-Term Travel vs. Life-Time Relationships.

How do you stay in touch with people you’ve met while traveling? Share your experience here.


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