I have to admit it. It has been a little bit lonely since my husband and I decided to pack it up, sell everything, and live as a traveling family. By no means are we alone, that’s for sure. We are currently living in Guanajuato, Mexico, right in the historical centre where there is a constant buzz day and night. I am hardly by myself.
And even if I was living in the middle of nowhere, I still wouldn’t be alone. I mean, any work-from-home parent who has 2 toddlers milling about all day would hardly feel lonely. Maybe more like maxed out.
But even though I am almost always in the presence of some else I still feel like something is missing. And what I am starting to realize is this something is my people. My friends. My family. My tribe.
Building Friendships as a Traveling Family
With any choice in life, there is a shadow side. There just always is. And the shadow side of traveling and living somewhat nomadically is that you lose the steady, in-person connection with your people. I know, I know, FaceTime is amazing. Social Media helps us feel connected. We can chat for free online. That is all good stuff. But ugh I just want to wrap my arms around my bffs, drink wine and eat delish treats together and laugh the night away. I just really want that.
And the truth is, there is no replacing those connections. So it has to just be that way. Gulp.
But if I ended the discussion there it would simply be incomplete. One thing that traveling has offered is a really interesting and somewhat refreshing take on building friendships. No, they aren’t the same as your buds back at home, but my god, something really awesome can happen when you connect with people abroad. And when significant language and cultural barriers are added to the scene, connecting with other travelers who are in the same boat is crucial.
Here are 7 amazing things about making friends on the go:
7Great Things About Traveling Friendships
- You’re Like-Minded. When you meet other travelers on the road, you automatically have a lot in common, especially if you are both long-term traveling families. Think about it: you likely both challenge the status-quo of 9-5 work, you are open to adventures, you appreciate cultural diversity, and you are willing to take a few risks. That a pretty solid start to a new friendship!
- You’re More Direct. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to initiate contact when you meet a fellow traveler? My husband has literally gone up to a person and asked, “Hey, how long are you here? Want to hang out?” It sounds hilarious. And it actually is kind of hilarious, because this would literally never happen at home. But here? What do you have to lose? And really, we need friends dammit!
- You Connect Quickly. Hi nice to meet you? Want to come over for dinner? True story. And by the way, we are not the only creepers asking in this way. It happens all the time. There is just no time to waste with short coffee dates or text exchanges. Nope. Wanna be friends? Ok cool, let’s do this.
- You Need Each Other. So in all seriousness, this is the biggy. I think travelers connect quickly because they actually need one another. Especially in areas that are less over-taken by backpackers – you just don’t encounter people in a similar situation as you very often. And when you meet someone who looks like they might relate to what you are going through, it’s almost relieving! Ahhh, you get me! There’s the pragmatic support that’s a bonus too: What hospital did you go to when your daughter needed stitches in her head? (true story).
- You Don’t Create Unecessary Expectations. One of the most refreshing things about traveling friends is that we don’t pretend we are going to stay in touch for the rest of time. We might have a beautiful connection, loads of fun, but then that’s it. No guilt. No expectations. Although probably a few tears.
- You Build A Global Network. And while there are no expectations to stay in touch, it is inevitable that you will build a global community. You will start to realize the incredible connectedness of your traveling tribe, scattered all over the world. And these people…they will catch you whenever you happen to fall in their territory down the road.
- You Learn. We just had dinner with an Aussie couple who work on an 800 million acre cattle farm in central Australia. Pardon me? What does that even mean? Everyone you meet has a different story, and usually a pretty interesting story to boot. I have realized that we don’t just learn from the unique location of where we travel to, but also by those we encounter along the way.
Sigh. I miss my people. That is the truth. But I am finding a lot of love and joy on the road and looking forward to all the connections coming my way!
Author: Kate Butler
Kate Butler is a writer, a wanderer, a digital nomad. A mother of two, lover to one, and dedicated to living an inspired, colourful life. She co-authors Flipping Moons and has an online therapy practice, LiveLight Counselling.