Something I have been thinking about lately has been the notion of relationships. Relationships with family, friends and lovers. I’ve been trying to deconstruct the science of making friends- how to find people you connect with and more importantly start being ‘friends’ with. I like to put the ideal scenario into a bit of a chain reaction- you muster the courage to go to a bar on your own-> you start talking to someone-> you find common ground-> you make time to see each other again= you make a friend. I have been incredibly blessed to have so many genuine close relationships in my life and haven’t had to give “making friends” much thought. However, spending ample time on my own and not spending a whole heap of time in one place has left me… lonely.
Solo travel has so many positives and I have experienced these every single day. I have been lucky to have friends and family come and visit on the road for short periods of time. I’ve also had the luxury of catching up with or staying with family and friends at different points along the journey. But new friendships have been limited and I’ve been asking the big question of why this might be so?
I thought I would be meeting heaps of people on the road. I thought there would be lots of people doing what I am doing. And I was right. I have met some really genuine, kind and helpful people from backpackers doing the stretch between Melbourne and Cairns to grey nomads that are travelling with their caravan visiting all their grandbabies. Each connection I have had I cherish, but lately I am craving deeper connections that come from ‘friends’ so I started to think on how is it we make friends and even more to the point- how do I make friends at 29?!
I have come to the conclusion that there are many reasons or perhaps obstacles that have prevented me from making deeper connections with the people I meet.
- Timing– I have come to realise how pertinent timing is for everything in your life- friendships included. I try to spend at least a few days in the places I explore and a few weeks in and around the city hubs. I haven’t met anyone organically at the pub or cafe because its only retirees and mother’s groups at the cafe at 11am on a Wednesday. Always up and leaving places leaves little space to meet up again with anyone that you do meet so you get really good at saying hello which is quickly followed with goodbye.
- People my age have different priorities– I look at my friends from home and many of them are in loving relationships and/or married with children and their priorities have shifted. They have their support group and perhaps don’t feel the need to make new friends. They spend time with their family and make friends through their children. Which is all well and good and I support everything they choose to do, but perhaps that’s why I don’t meet many people in their late 20s on the road. I’m at a weird transitional age where most stop mingling as much and start nesting.
- Common courtesy– I hate to say it but I feel like humans are becoming less friendly. I grew up in North Queensland and when you went for a walk and passed someone it was expected to make eye contact, do a very awkward ‘I don’t really know you’ smile and say ‘hello’, ‘g’day’ or ‘morning’. I still do this, but much of the time it isn’t reciprocated. Occasionally I get the odd nod or hello in return but sometimes I get a reaction of what I can only explain as concern or discomfort. Some people intentionally look down as if their shoes are the greatest things they have every seen, or they are distracted by something spectacular in the distance and turn away or my absolute nightmare… they’re staring at their god damn phones! My heart is breaking that the younger generations (or even my own) are losing the skills of genuinely connecting and having a conversation without the influence of technology. Some people I’ve spoken to this about have agreed and said they feel anxious when they talk to other people. Of course you are going to feel anxious or uneasy if you never do it! I’m not saying you have to have deep and meaningful conversations with everyone you meet, just be friendly and say hello in return.
- Online platforms– we are living in 2018 and as much as I would love every connection I have to be made by organically meeting in person it just isn’t realistic anymore. So many of us are on platforms that stimulate and connect us with lots of different audiences all over the world. Recently I have turned to social networks like Bumble and Tinder to just find someone to hang out with! Lordy help me! This was short lived because I’m a big chicken when it comes to chatrooms that objectify sex and how are you meant to know what a person is really like from five pictures and a few words.
- Gender– this is a hard nut for me to crack and if anyone can give me insight I would love to hear it! I have recently had my Dad travel with me from Melbourne to Adelaide and I was in awe with how many people came over to talk to him while he sat outside the van reading the newspaper. I get the odd greeting but no more than a ‘how are you going’ and they continue on their way. Why are people hesitant to talk to me? Do I look like a massive creep in my van when I’m on my own? I think I’m pretty friendly.. but I am very rarely approached in campsites or in pubs/cafes etc. I actually asked a young couple I camped near in the woods outside of Melbourne because I was curious about how I am perceived by others. I struck a conversation with them about the native bees (there were bees but I was just craving conversation) and it went from there. I got good vibes from them so I continued to tell them my travel story and that I am on my own. They were shocked at first and proceeded to tell me that they just assumed I had someone with me. I then asked if I look like a big creep in the woods in a white van with very dark tinted windows. They laughed and quickly responded with no we didn’t really notice you, we were just doing our own thing. Which also strikes a cord in me.. I understand that people go camping in the woods for solace but why are we not even acknowledging the existence of the humans camping beside us? It may not even be that I’m female (and I hope its not) I’m sure there are many contributing factors. I just noticed a big difference between my Dad and me. We were both doing exactly the same behaviours but he was spoken to more.
- Avenues to make friends– at home I would make friends at work, playing sport, through other friends or with my dog at the dog park, but I don’t have any of those avenues with my on the road and have had to think more creatively. I have even been to hostel bars to try meet people that are doing similar things to me, but they’re all going anti-clockwise around the country. Alas.. who in their right mind goes south for the winter?
So if anyone has any suggestions on how to make friends as a 29 year old and on the road, or there are meet up groups for 20 somethings that I don’t know about please let me know! Yes I spend a lot of time in my head traveling solo, but I thought it was worth the convesation.