Travel Relationships: Brief, Bright Sparks
There are no relationships quite like travel relationships--those friendships and romances that spark on the road: in hostels over late night conversations, around a bonfire on an archaeological excavation, on strenuous hikes when you're not sure you can keep moving.
There's something about being away from everyone and everything you know and love that opens people to these intense, incredible connections.
It's partly that when people travel, the bonds of social convention are stretched, or even snapped completely.
This can often lead to tourists acting in ugly ways they would never dream of behaving at home, but in many cases it also helps people to be bolder about approaching others and making friends.
I would never go ask a group of girls at a bar back home whether I could join them, but sparking up a conversation with a neighboring group when I travel is no big deal.
But it's also that everyone gets a little lonely on the road sometimes. When you can be brave enough to acknowledge that to yourself and also help someone else to admit they were feeling it too, it can be a powerful thing.
Shared vulnerabilities help us to connect.
There's also a little bit of what I call 'travel magic' involved, though. Travel is intoxicating. We're different people when we travel. There's something about the context of travel that transforms these connections into heady, life-changing, intense phenomena.
Many people are lucky if they have one or two relationships like this in their entire lives--but travelers have the privilege and heartbreak of experiencing them every time they leave their homes.
Why heartbreak? Well, as it turns out...those friendships, love affairs, and other intense connections you make while traveling tend to fizzle rapidly when everyone is back home or has moved on to their next destination.
You won't believe me until it happens--it seems impossible when you're in the midst of it that you won't be best friends/soulmates/platonic soulmates until the end of time.
You'll be shocked when you realize that your last heart-to-heart was back at the hostel rather than through all those Skype conversations you planned.
It can wound you a little if you aren't expecting it, which is part of why I'm writing this.
I've gotten to the point now where I can appreciate those incredible friendships (I'm not single so the love affair part doesn't apply anymore) while they're happening and also let them go with grace when the trip is over.
That's my advice to you: enjoy the whirlwind while you're in it, and let it pass when the time comes.
It can be tempting to cling to it, to try to force it to be what it was on the road, but it won't be--even if you visit. People are different when they're home, you see.
I have a collection of Facebook friends that were once platonic soulmates, and I treasure the connection we still have--but I don't mistake it for what it was before. If they need me, I'm always there.
But the heart-to-hearts are much fewer and farther between, and that's okay.