Friendships on the Traveling Road: Celebrating and Letting go

Hiking through a National Park at 2am under a full moon tends to get your mind thinking about life. This is where I found myself on Saturday night.

As I scrambled across rocks and laughed with strangers about how ridiculous we must have looked dancing around with our glow sticks on Wedding Cake Rock, I thought how travel is a unifying bond that does not discriminate or judge.

Travel sticks me to you based purely on the feelings of joy and celebration.

Travel friends
United by joy and celebration

The more I travel and interact with strangers the more I realize I have nothing to fear and everything to gain by opening up and sharing a moment of my life freely.

On the traveling road, I have shared many experiences with strangers, and even though I may never see them again, the bond of what we experienced will forever tie us together as friends.

Why is it so?

Sharing travel adventures with others is all about celebration.

On our moonwalk journey, we were celebrating, not just the adventure in nature under the moon, but each others lives. We rejoiced with Mel, the professional wood chopper, and his beautiful wife, Linda, over their son’s upcoming graduation from Stanford.

Giovanni delighted us with tales of traveling the world as an Italian fashion photographer.

Peter’s story of his 2 year motorbike adventure photographing the Australian landscape inspired us.

We celebrated the Frenchy student interns as the creators of the best summer salad I had ever eaten under moonlight and tea candles.

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Anthony, with glow stick Alien ears, surrounded himself with a posse of neon bejeweled girlfriends on an elevated rock as the rest of us danced below lighting up the air with flouro green and blue lights, in the hopes of creating an artistic photographic memory of our evening together.

Where else but on the traveling road could you do that with strangers?

And then there was Andy, our guide, who fed us with unbridled enthusiasm and energy to help us finish the midnight hike, and was filled with pride when we did.

Each of us walked away the next day with a memory of a special experience shared.

Who we are will live on in the stories told by each person present, to their friends and families, around the globe. And when we speak of each other, it will be with joy and laughter in our hearts, sending out only positive energy into our world.

Traveling removes your inhibitions.

Is it the knowledge that you’ll perhaps never see your traveling companions again, that allows you to let your guard down and show strangers the best of who you are? And do you celebrate them in return because you know you have nothing to fear or feel intimidated by?

I want to rejoice in you because I don’t have to worry about you taking anything from me. I don’t have to worry about your opinion of me, because you don’t know anything about me. We’ll depart each others company in a few short hours, knowing only the best of one another.

When we meet with other travelers on the road, we leave the shit of our lives behind and focus only on the wonderful things about our stories to talk about.

There’s no bitchiness or gossiping, judgement or misplaced expectations. There are no problems to weigh each other down or baggage to hide.

There’s just you and me and a cup of tea.

Why can’t our travel friends stay with us forever then?

I often don’t want to see a lot of people I  have met on my travels again. The memory I have of a certain person in a certain place, could possibly be tarnished or changed as I got to know them in a different setting or learned more about them.

I want to remember my new friends for who they were in the moment that I most celebrated them.

Travel taught me how to bond with strangers and it also taught me the importance of letting go.

Kim taught me many years ago that the letting go comes with the ability to appreciate and be grateful for why they were present in your life in the first place.

Friendships on the traveling road
Strangers turned friends Photo: Peter SolnessKim was a free-spirited rock climbing Swede traveling around the world. My best friend and I met him in the bar of the Last Bar- a run down dive of a backpackers on East Railey Beach, Thailand.

Kim and his small group of friends took us on rock climbing adventures during the day, and phosphorescent cave and magic shake explorations at night. He walked with a swagger  of a person who knew his place in the world, and he did not care what others thought about that.

A tamed version of Jim Morrison, dancing to the beat of his own drum, and one of the coolest guys I had ever met. And while my feelings for him never ventured beyond friendship, I always wanted to be around him, hoping that some of the confidence and passionate ease he oozed would rub off on me.Friendships on the Traveling Road Last Bar Hammocks

One afternoon, we were in the bar chatting after a long day of rock climbing. Mark, our Aussie “Marlboro” Man, who was every bit as gentle as he was macho, was with us. Mark was also trying to find his place in this world,and I think after a week at Raileys he also came closer to finding it.

We were swinging in hammocks, Mark and Kim opposite me, one swinging above the other. I was in the middle of a random sentence when Kim interrupted me with something obviously more important to say,

“You know Caroline, you are really beautiful.

The world  paused for a deep breath, and as I looked at him, a space opened up inside of me. He did not even have to speak the next words for me to know what he meant.

“I don’t mean in a ‘I want to take you to bed way either’. Although we could do that too if you wanted.Kim always had a way of bringing sex into every conversation. “I mean, beautiful on the inside; it radiates out from you.

It seemed such a natural and simple thing for him to say and the conversation quickly turned back to something light and fun.

But to me, it wasn’t a natural or simple thing to hear. I had never before heard someone say to me that they thought I mattered. And I was just coming out of a really rough period where I truly believed I didn’t.

How did Kim know to say those words to me? Did he even realize the impact they were to have on my life?

Kim didn’t know any of the shit of my life, he only saw me for who I was in that moment, and in that moment I was free to be me.

And when he brought that awareness to me, I began to look at the world through new eyes- the eyes of a person who deserved to be in.

My confidence and subsequent zest for life grew each day after that afternoon spent swinging in the hammock. That one simple statement of celebration triggered an avalanche of positive momentum forward. In that instant my life took a different turn and even today, in those moments of doubt and when the shit hits the fan, I hear him say it as he lifts me up one more time.

A few months later, Kim arrived in Australia to seek out more mountains to climb. He emailed and asked if I could come down to Melbourne to meet him. I wanted to. But I was so scared that away from our Last Bar travel bubble, the reality of our lives would have changed who we were or how we really saw one another.

I could not ever live with the idea of Kim being anything other than the person I adored for giving me back my life. And so I made an excuse and let him go.

In my heart, he stays forever frozen in that Last Bar hammock. There were three other people during that week who were a part of the celebration of each other.

My last contact with them was when I sat in the long tail boat taking me back to the mainland. I looked back to shore. Cindy, Mark, Chris, and Kim stood waving to Bec and I, until we turned into specks on the horizon. I knew it was the last time I would see them in my three dimensional world.

Travel friends
Chris, Cindy, Kim and Mark

I have had many friends on the traveling road come and go since.

I’ve learned that life is not about holding onto things just because you feel you need them in your life. It is about celebrating and then letting go.

People enter your life sometimes just for the purpose of saying a simple statement to get you back on track. I call them our angels- our important messengers. Understand that you may be an angel to someone too, and you shouldn’t ever hold back from celebrating what is beautiful about someone else.

When you travel, you release all ties to who you were yesterday, and you succumb to the person you are now. With that comes freedom and the ability to relate on a deeper level with most people you meet. This freedom brings celebration.

The traveling road is full of angels and are we able to hear their messages better because we are rejoicing in them.

What angels have you met on the road and how have you let go of them?

30 thoughts on “Friendships on the Traveling Road: Celebrating and Letting go”

  1. I agree with you that the people you meet on your travels preserve the memory of the place where your paths have crossed. When you take it further, things do change. Although I often travel with friends, I now realize that I have never extended the friendship I form with total strangers I’ve befriended on the road. But I’m content with it. There are real friends and then there are friends on the journey.

    1. Yes. Definitely friends on the journey. There have been some friends I have met along the way who I have continued the friendship with and who we see around the world which is always wonderful.

  2. So funny I also wrote about this today. I think in our every day life we have expectations of who our friends would be. For example I met a great person in Nicaragua who is 19. At 33 I would never be friends with her at home, the differences would be too great, but traveling we have so much in common.

    1. This is so true. One of my best friends when we moved to America was old enough to be my mother. But we got along so well. I think when you are traveling you are more open to these sorts of relationships.

  3. Every word in this article is beautifully and I fully relate. It’s a bitter sweet thing, the friendships and connections you make while traveling, whether you were living somewhere for a year and you were friends throughout or it was just a couple of awesome people you met in a hostel for one night.

    It’s a special kind of friendship that forms with the people you meet abroad – not like the ones you have with your best friends form HS or college or colleagues from work or people you meet at a typical party. It’s not that they’re better or worse, it’s just that their difference.

    I miss my friends from abroad too. And I do my best to keep in touch. But we always have the memories πŸ™‚ And I love just sitting around and having a drink and thinkin about em πŸ™‚

    This post gave me some nostalgia πŸ™‚ And a little comfort in the bitter-sweetness of meeting and then saying goodbye to those people you meet πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Laura. I love how you say it’s not better or worse, just different. This is such an important phrase to learn. It’s nice to be able to .experience these different types of friendships- each as special as the others

  4. Travel has brought me into contact with some many interesting people. When my husband first started taking contracts in different cities and countries I would cry at loosing friends and then settle in with new friends. After a while I didn’t want to meet anyone or make friends because I knew I would just say good bye again. Like you I have learnt meeting people while travelling, vacationing or being on a contract is ‘educational’ and enriching. Now I can enjoy and be touched as much by the lady I am haggling a price with as with someone that invites me for coffee.

    1. It takes some time getting used to the goodbyes but you soon get pretty good at it, even though it can still make you sad. I love how simple meetings with strangers can become so meaningful. I think traveling helps you to become so aware of this.

  5. This is certainly an interesting post and something that every traveller has to deal with. I think it really just depends on the people involved. I met my husband travelling, and it completely changed my life. What if I hadn’t given that relationship a chance because of the (in our case) very long and challenging distances that would have to be overcome to be together? I do know what you mean, though, some people are just wonderful to spend a few days with and celebrate each other and some good times and keep only the memories. For me, however, I’ve met some really great friends during my nomadic hops around the earth, and I still keep in touch with many of them. Facebook has made this a lot easier. I think if we were in the same towns again, we’d want to catch up, at least for a drink. So while I totally get your point about letting go in many instances and loved this post (so thoughtful and made me smile), I think sometimes it is worth it to keep in touch if you really had a connection with the person.

    1. Yes, I agree. There are definitely some people you stay in contact with. We have a lot of friends from around the world who we visit and keep in contact with. We often say if it wasn’t for email and facebook we wouldn’t have kept in contact with most of them. I think sometimes there are people in your life who just enter for a specific purpose and you have to learn how to let go of them. Very cool that you met your husband traveling- what a strong bond that gives you

  6. Wow, what an amazing blog entry. It was so touching and incredibly truthful, and I think put into words many people (including me) often feel after having met some amazing friends while travelling.
    Thanks for this post.

  7. Hey guys, found your blog through a post on Todd’s Wanderings. Loving it so far!! This post resonated especially – I’ve experienced a lot of the same feelings myself. Subscribed and look forward to future updates! B well, Phil

  8. For me, that’s the saddest thing in returning from a trip…not the getting back home and to real life, but the saying good-bye to fellow road warriors I’ve met. Luckily, I travel so often (even though I’m not a RTWer) that a lot of times, we meet again. For example, five years ago, I met two of my favorite people ever in a hostel and Prague: Hanna and Carla from Sydney. They came and visited me in Holland a few months later, but I hadn’t seen them since then. I found myself in Sydney for 48 hours this summer for work and called up Carla. She came over to my hotel and we had dessert and wine and reminisced about our good times and travels…even though we’ve really only hung out for a few days in two different countries, it feels like she’s someone I grew up with and that we were just making up for time lost.

    I will say that social media and e-mail and the like make it SO much easier to keep in touch with the people you meet while traveling. Can you imagine trying to do so even 20 years ago??

  9. Great post! I think that“s the great think about traveling, you become temporary friends with people you would never normally connect with. I“m experiencing a lot of this in my German class where I spend 25 hours a week with people of all ages from 17 different countries. it“s making me realize how homogenized my friends are in Canada, but after the German course is finished, it will be time to let most of them go.

  10. It’s so true, and I wrote an entry not so long ago about it being one of the highlights of the traveling game. You’ve summed it up brilliantly here though πŸ˜€

  11. Lovely post. I agree that it can be so much easier to be yourself when you meet new friends while traveling. There are a few key people that I have met, who I think I will always make an effort to stay in touch with, but a good majority of them are better left as memories.

  12. Love this post, great write up about friendship when travel. Meeting new people are also part of the experience. I’m a shy person but I tried to open up as much as I can too.

  13. Brilliant post and such an important part of long term travel that so few people consider. It’s a hard thing to accept, but sometimes friendships are not meant to be forever and that doesn’t make them any less significant.

  14. It’s funny how we are more open to friendship while we are traveling. I have made friends out of people that are twice or half my age, and I have appreciated them dearly. Would I have done that same bonding while at home? Probably not. While on the road, judgmental notions are left behind and inhibitions are adieu.

    In some cases parting on our own ways is hard and sentimental, while in others is just the next step; but in all cases they became a meaningful part of my experience.

    Love this piece Caz!

    1. Thanks Norbert.
      I agree judgemental notions and inhibitions are left behind. You are more open to chatting with people, otherwise you just end up lonely, because there is no one else.

  15. This is a great post, and it resonates deeply with me. I guess its all the reflection I’ve been doing lately with the latest blog challenge. I’m not as good at “letting go” as you are though; especially with Facebook, it’s too easy to stay in touch and keep a candle burning. But, we have to move on eventually, and as you say, be grateful for the memories.

    1. It does get easier to let go the more you have to go through the process. There have been many people I should have let go of earlier, but didn’t and the memories went pear shaped. I often think back and wondering if I would still have them as good friends and it makes me feel kinda sad. So letting go can also be good in that way.

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