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Relationships on the Road

I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.

– Mark Twain

One of the hardest things you lose when you go on the road long-term by yourself is deep relationships. The ability to call up a good friend on a whim and just hang out for hours, laughing and commiserating over drinks, is suddenly a distant memory, and it makes life a completely different experience.

I’m currently on an island that only has electricity for a few hours each day, which includes internet, hot water, and everything else that is a modern convenience. This means all of these things get crammed into a tiny timeframe that randomly pops up throughout the day. This results in crazy choices like “Do I want to shower today or book my next flight?” and communication with people I care about in other countries often has to take a back seat to other necessities.

The Lonely Island

I tend to make new friends easily, finding the people that fascinate me and diving into deep conversations about things we are passionate about. The fact that I am going to leave in a few weeks is always looming, however, and this unbalances the relationship to stay shallow in the ways that develop slowly over time with face to face interactions.

This means my daily life is filled with crazy adventures about things I am passionate about, and I am developing stories that will last me a lifetime, but I rarely have someone I can commiserate with when everything goes wrong, and I don’t get the perspective only a close friend that is going through life with you can provide. It’s a very strange imbalance that is amazing most of the time and devastatingly lonely others. It also doesn’t tend to garner much empathy from people, as few others share this experience and fantasize that it is some rockstar lifestyle.

Which brings me to the place where things hit hardest; romantic relationships. I’ve had a wide range of experiences, from dating fun, wonderful girls to long-term relationships where we went on heaps of adventures and helped each other grow as people. Some of these were long-distance and required a lot of creative communication as it became available.

I think I am relaxed and perhaps strangely accepting of changing levels of distance, getting that intimate fix of conversation when possible by being fully present when I am with someone. However, it can feel like a lot of pressure, and I’ve had relationships disintegrate when one or the other of us was traveling or heavily involved in a project we were passionate about. I have also built some amazing memories by traveling with people I really care about, and I wouldn’t trade those for anything.

Darkness Descends Melodramatically on Paradise

Sometimes I fantasize about finding the perfect woman. Laughing as we come home from a party in a random country with old friends where we were telling stories about our travels, recounting when she covered for me accidentally making a rude gesture when we were being threatened for bribes by the staff on a rickety train while riding between small towns in Vietnam. As we settle into bed for the night, we make plans to stay in the next night to relax, recover, and try out a new board game a friend recommended.

And I mentioned she was stunningly gorgeous, right? But you already knew that. Is it strange that I fantasize about stability and daily life?

In the meantime, each time I see a new chat window pop up from someone five countries ago or I get a long email from a friend, know that it makes my entire day. I always try to respond quickly and let people know how much I appreciate this contact while I’m away from those relationships that ground me. My friends are my home now, and I suspect they always will be.

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  1. liz says:

    The invisible nets that keep our soul from plunging.


    Keep seeing beauty.

  2. Ali says:

    Just discovered your writing and find it so true and inspiring! Love your philosophy on life. Some of the best people I know I’ve met through travelling and, everytime I leave for a new place, I look forward to the possibilities of forming new relationships and hearing new stories. Good luck on all of your adventures!

  3. Chris Dame says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Ali! I’m glad to hear you are enjoying your travels as well, and I hope to hear some stories from you, too.

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