“You never leave someone behind, you take a part of them with you and leave a part of yourself behind.”
I meet and befriend more people in a month than most of you do in years. That being said, I also say goodbye to that many people as well. That’s the cruel irony of travel, though you meet the most amazing and inspiring people, you never get very long with them.
People always ask if I am lonely, traveling by myself, and I laugh to myself thinking, “how could I be lonely when I meet so many people everyday?” I have adapted well to this lifestyle, and I hardly ever get lonely in the way many travelers do. I love meeting new people, in fact, I thrive off of it. I especially love meeting travelers, other people with the burning desire to see the world. Friendships are fast made when the connection is right, and since no one has other commitments while traveling, you are able to spend days or weeks together in a way you wouldn’t in a normal friendship. I find I am able to get to know someone better by traveling with them for a week than people I have known for months back home. I love these strong friendships, especially with people who make you question your beliefs and bring new ideas to the table. I learn what I can from them, and enjoy our time together, until, inevitably, we go out separate ways.
That being said, it hasn’t always been so easy. I was left absolutely heartbroken at seventeen when I had to leave Belgium, and the first boy I fell in love with, after my year on exchange. I have been crushed on two other occasions as well, leaving behind boyfriends I had no desire to part from. It’s not just boys either. I have left behind a best friend, the girl I spent every moment of my childhood and teen years with, as well as countless other friends over the years, which has left me with very few friends from my childhood and adolescents. I have adapted though, as us humans do so well, and I have learned to take a different attitude when the time comes to say goodbye.
Some of my fondest memories from traveling through South America (2011-2012) are the people I met. I traveled for four months with an amazing Swiss boy, with whom I am still in contact, and made countless other friends from around the globe. In Bolivia, among seven or eight others, I stayed a month in the same hostel, in which time our little group became a family. We cooked together for everyone every night, and making copious amounts of guacamole and burritos will forever remain engrained in my memory when I think of Bolivia. From meeting other travelers I have also realized that you really can choose to live life however you please. I have met retired couples permanently on the road, couples in their thirties who quit their corporate jobs and leave for the first time, as well as families, traveling and road schooling their children as they go.
Though it is hard sometimes to befriend so many people for such a short period of time, what you take away from those friendships lasts forever. By getting to know people of all ages, from different walks of life and countries, you figure out and solidify your own beliefs and lifestyle. Plus, now I can travel to countless countries and have a built in tour guide!