Friendship and Travel

Written by Hank Martin in S. America, The Backpack

"When people pass eachother on the high seas of life...the contact is but slight, and the relation more like what we may imagine to be the friendship of flies than of men; it is so quickly joined, so easily dissolved, so open in its communcations and so devoid of deeper human qualities."

-Robert Louis Stevenson

With the bike tour through Bogota finished we made our way to the nearby Irish pub with several other travelers we had just met. Travel sharpens your sense of people like nothing else. When you spend a significant amount of time on the road you learn to read people out of necessity.

After a few beers we all slowly parted ways, tired from the long day of adventures. But before we left we made plans to meet one of the guys we had hit it off with the following day. In a time of over information we were armed with only a name and a Facebook profile. We kept it simple, agreeing to meet at the base of Monserrate at 10AM. We weren't worried. We had trust, a level comparable to that of a much longer, much deeper relationship.

This is the way of things when you travel. Friendships are made over a beer, a common connection on the bus, or a passing comment on the street. When we wander we look for those connections as a way to relate to something solid. When the ground is constantly sliding out from underneath us in new sights, sounds and smells grasping something that makes sense makes the world stop spinning so fast.

The following day we arrived early, not knowing how long it would take to get across town by taxi. Our friend arrived shortly after, and we began the hike. When we made it to the top we took our time enjoying the view, buying gifts for family and friends, and pondering what to do next. It seemed a shame to part ways so soon. Food, as it commonly does, became a connection and several minutes later we found ourselves seated at a mountain top restaurant enjoying a nice meal.

After the cable car back down the mountain we parted ways. Although we spent only a day or two together we had made a friendship capable of lasting much longer. Travel creates bonds of friendship that may only last a day or two, but often with more authenticity than friendships which have endured years.

We cut out the fluff, the get-to-know-you-can-I-trust-you stage. There simply is not time. This sense of urgency pulls you out from your smartphone screen, rips you away from your television and puts you in the present moment. Plus, trust has always been an essential part of travel, and a breeding ground for friendships.

Components of a Good Friendship

The first travel buddy I had found me reading in a library in Rome. He told me to get out and travel. He was right. But I love to read. A month later we would travel throughout Italy together, visiting Cinque Terra and then again out of the country to Munich, Germany. We became friends because we both loved to travel. This is the easiest bridge to cross with any traveler. You wouldn't be in Asia if you didn't love to see and experience the world. The same goes for all other travelers.

This connection immediately means that you can relate regardless of where you are. With a connection formed you only need to make an effort. This is the second piece of any good friendship. A friendship cannot be one sided. Both people need to invest.

With a common love for travel investing in a friendship is easy. For a period of time you and others can walk the same path, seeing new sights, experiencing new foods and more. Maybe you and I are both in the same city for three days. Well, for three days we may be the best of friends, exploring the city and going on adventures together.

When we are together we build a friendship through the moments of bonding. Maybe we hike a mountain together. Enjoy a meal together. Hit it off at a cafe. Whatever it is, experiences bind us together, intertwining our memories. 

The moment cannot exist in our minds without the people that give it substance. For this reason it's often very easy to pick up a friendship right where it left off even after years apart. The dynamic has not changed because the dynamic lives in our memories.

But, alas, we are wanders. We need to move. Our friendships already have an end date. This end date makes friendships easier because pettiness isn't worth rearing its head when time together is finite. What is the point of bringing petty problems and drama into a finite relationship?

Neither is obligated to the other, and no where is the importance of putting in effort more evident then when traveling. When your interests change. When I want to go see the Pyramids in Egypt and you want to swim with sharks in South Africa, we go different ways. We have ceased to put in effort. While we enjoyed the moment together we no longer travel the same direction on our journy's of life. Circumstances bring us together, and circumstances drive us apart.

The Ebb and Flow of Friendships

Someday we may meet again. I've met many fellow travelers on different roads in different parts of the world. The ambiguity of never knowing when your paths will cross again adds to the joy of life. There is never, truly an ending between friendships, only an ebb and flow.

We may be on the beach one day when a great wave overtakes us. We may swim with the wave, bobbing along through life for a while until we are ready for a change. As the wave recedes we don't look upon it fore-longingly, wishing it would stay longer. It has more stories to make. As do we. But, we know that there was never a goodbye with the wave, only an "I'll see you later."

About the Author

Hank Martin

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Traveling for a world education and writing about the life lessons learned.


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