There’s something odd about socializing on the road. It’s somehow both easier and so much harder than at home. While you meet a lot more people, you also have to say goodbye so much more often. It’s this fleeting time frame that gives travel friendships their peculiar character. All phases of friendship seem equally more intense and more hastened.
Introverts are generally home-bodies. We tend to be happy with our existing small circle of friends, not necessarily feeling any urge to expand it. For us, quality is always going to beat quantity.
When you travel, especially when you travel solo, you are nevertheless bound to meet lots of new people. Some special ones among those will turn into friends. For better or worse, this can hardly be avoided when you’re out there in the world, not even by the most society-averse introvert.
The point is, though, that in many ways it’s much easier to start a conversation with people you meet travelling. There are several reasons for this:
Most of the people you meet will be other travellers, so you automatically have something in common. That’s why most first conversations of travellers who have just met revolve around the ever-same topics: where are you from, how long are you travelling, why have you chosen this place/destination, etc.
While some people may consider these never-changing same questions as dull, I always felt it gave me a safe way of starting a conversation, despite being a rather socially anxious introvert. Which I realize doesn’t apply to every introvert, but I still think many of us often struggle to find the right words. Therefore, it can be helpful to have certain standard questions to fall back to when socializing on the road. Also, I consider talking about people’s travels as a lot more interesting than other kinds of small talk.
Which brings me to my next point.
The small talk ends much faster
Most introverts despise small talk. We would much rather discuss deep topics of personal interest to us than exchange meaningless pleasantries. In that sense, you may still consider the typical travellers’ questions of where are you from and where are you going as small talk, but they usually lead to deep conversations a lot faster.
For one, while everyone considers different topics as interesting, it’s probably safe to assume that travel will be a fascinating topic for almost everyone you meet on the road. Therefore, it’s mostly only a small step from the standard opening to a deeper discussion of countries, cultures or anything else you may hit upon in that context.
Second, the relationships you form while travelling, by their very nature, need to develop a lot faster than friendships you make at home. You simply don’t have the time to dance around each other and slowly figure out common interests. After all, you may only spend a few days with this person, maybe even just a few hours. Maybe just this one conversation. You don’t have the time to keep the deep stuff for later, so you jump right in.
Sometimes, it’s easier to open up to strangers
There have been times that I revealed things to someone I just met that I hardly told any of my closest friends. There’s something about being far away from home and talking to someone you may very well never meet again, that makes it easy to open up.
You don’t need to worry about that person repeating it to someone else, or even about how they will react and whether they will look at you differently the next time you meet. Very likely there won’t be a next time. Of course, this also harks back to the point I made before about relationships developing so much faster during travels.
So, what’s the drawback of socializing on the road?
Friendships, even in the form of random encounters made while travelling, can be intense. There are people I literally only talked to once that I still remember vividly because of the profound conversations we had. Some people I only spent a very short time with and still feel I know them better than others I’ve known for years.
For example, there’s a girl I met just recently in Lima. We spent the day together, and she left the next morning. During that one day, we talked about everything under the sun, from our travels past and future to our plans and dreams or our (currently non-existing) romantic relationships. We even covered topics such as spirituality, religion, history or culture. It may only have been this one day, but we both said goodbye feeling like it brought us incredibly close. We are still in contact and will hopefully remain so.
Encounters like this happen frequently while travelling. In a way, they are what makes it such a beautiful, enriching experience. On the other hand, of course, they also symbolize the difficult side of travel friendships: the constant need to say goodbye to people you have gotten close to.
Whether it’s after a day, after a week or even after a month of travelling together, there comes a time when both or one of you will move on and you have to part. While there are some people I stayed in contact with, there are many more whom I will most likely never meet again. For someone like me who is not very good with parting, this can be tough.
The constant flow of travel friendships
Another traveller I made friends with last year in Chile put it really beautifully. She said she’s sad that our time together is over because it was so much fun. But she also knows that at the next place she goes to, there will be other beautiful experiences waiting and new people to share the memories with.
That’s exactly what it means to travel. You find the most special places and people, to then leave them again and find others. Some stick with you, some don’t, but they all help to make your world just a little bit bigger. And that, really, is why we venture out in the first place.
How do you deal with making friends and then saying goodbye to the while you travel? Do you find it hard or is it just part of the deal? Any other tips for socializing on the road? Share in the comments!