People have always fascinated me, in particular the people you meet while travelling.
I am mesmerised by the process of meeting travellers abroad, forming intense relationships and having it all end as quickly as it began.
And although social media maintains links, real connections fade and paths rarely cross again.
You go through a wave of emotions when you’re on the road. And without your regular support network; you tend to bring people in close and quickly, as a way of filling voids. Within a couple of hours you find yourself volunteering personal information that you barely share with anyone outside of your core. It’s as though the filter just falls away and you become an open book, vulnerable and ready for the taking.
In my experience, classic overland journeys are among the best places to meet people. I think that’s because of the time it takes to complete them; you’re often on the road for longer periods.
Mexico to Panama City, Nairobi to Cape Town or Moscow to Beijing are just three incredible examples of journeys that require an open mind and spirit for adventure. Each is vastly different, attracting such a diverse scope of travellers alike.
And with the emergence of online resources such as Trip Advisor, travellers now tend to take similar routes, stay in the same hostels and work on similar time lines.
So you find yourself running into newly familiar faces along the way.
Like most, I have fallen in and out of lust (easily mistaken for that other 4 letter word) countless times on the road. A bond that would normally take months to form, you manage to pull together within a 24-hour period and from there, well, the intensity just builds.
I remember sitting on a plane from Panama to Brazil completely devastated after spending a month with this gorgeous Irish lass. At the time I was completely hooked and the idea of continuing my trip without her, seemed positively horrible.
And I had known the girl for a month?
In fact some would argue that I didn’t really know her at all. A statement that likely holds great truth.
Ironically I would never allow myself to fall into such a vulnerable state back home, well certainly not before adequately assessing the situation first. So why should it be any different abroad?
And why is it, that on the few occasions you do see people again (back in reality) it is never quite the same? That spark you had, it’s no longer there? You don’t seem to have anything in common and the conversation isn’t flowing like it used to?
I was talking with a close friend recently who was preparing to move overseas. I remember them saying they were most excited about going to a place where not a single person knew who they were. An opportunity to start fresh, abolish general perceptions that tend to follow and just be someone different.
Now this desire should not be mistaken as an attempt to deny who you’re as a person or viewed as a façade from which you choose to operate.
We all have aspects of our personality we don’t like, areas that we feel we need to work on or perhaps we have reached a point in our life where we want to spend time with different types of people, doing different types of things – without society gazing over our shoulder.
So being in a location – where no one knows a single thing about where you have come from – is incredibly liberating.
You’re removed from the daily grind. No bills, no engagements, no personal dramas, no work and depending on where you’re – no phone! You’re 100% present: mentally, emotionally and physically.
So because of this – you’re an open book – with the time and ability to give every little part of yourself away to anyone who is interested in knowing more. A unique opportunity free of the weights generally rested upon us back in reality. Life distractions if you will.
And the money you have spent to be there is often significant. So you want to have the greatest time possible, to embrace every experience thrown in your direction. And with that you tend to gravitate toward people who are seeking the same.
So at that precise moment in time – you suddenly have one thing in common with every single traveller in that hostel you’re staying. You have made the decision to put your life on hold, throw on a backpack and explore.
Your journeys to get there may differ, but the path ahead shares many commonalities. Each person arrives with a blank tapestry, and leaves with a canvas smothered in colour.
Travellers tend to be more relaxed on the road, adventurous and just more willing to give things a go. Whether it’s jumping on the back of a strangers bike and going for a spin or sharing a tent with someone in Patagonia whom you met two days earlier at a bar – you don’t know where you will end up next or with who and THAT’S what I love so much about travel!
You can just be the person you want to be, take risks, experience the highest of highs and just allow yourself to feel again. It’s bloody brilliant.
So to anyone I ever met on the road. Thank you for opening your world up to me. You have embraced life and in-turn, enriched mine. You’re the reason I travel.
“ Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” – Anita Desai