Over the years of round-the-world travel, I have built quite a diverse list of travel friends from different countries and different parts of the world. Some of them I got very close to some while others I met just for a few moments. Some of them I keep in regular touch with, but the majority is hard to keep in touch with.
This was hard for me to deal with, at first. I had just returned from a year abroad in Europe; studying in Malta and meeting some of the most fascinating, most well-versed people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was beginning to settle into those kinds of friendships. I was inspired by them every day.
And then our time studying abroad ended and we were forced to return home to our own countries on the other side of the world. It was sad to come to that realization, but you must expect it.
We told ourselves that we’d remain in contact and Skype every week or month. We were too close in such a short amount of time to lose contact. It felt like destiny that we all met.
Friends travel and then it’s back to reality
Sure, it is easy to be convinced that when you meet someone you really enjoy, it may be a lifelong friendship with someone from a different country. But what happens when you both move on to your home countries and life returns to how it used to be before you met?
Things will change. In some cases, you will not hear from each other near as often. In other cases, you will hear from each other more than enough for the limited amount of memories you have shared. Only on rare occasions will the conversations remain as comfortable as when you were with each other.
In the digital age that we live in, it’s easy to be kept up-to-date with each others’ lives. That’s a blessing for friends who live the world apart. However, you lose touch. Your jokes, stories, and habits with each other will soon lose its fun. That’s just reality.
Fine-line traveling friends
That is why I believe in a thing I call fine-line friendships. A fine-line friendship remains strongest when both sides accept that your friendship has to be different when you leave each other. There’s a fine-line when keeping “in touch” between forcing it and keeping it comfortable. I, myself, struggle to find this line with some people. The quicker you can find this line with an across-the-world friend, the more natural a friendship will remain.
There is going to be difficult times when you do not hear from friends for months at a time; friends who you shared the closest bonds with. But finding that fine-line means understanding that even with little communication, there is trust that you can reunite and it will be like you never left each other.
Fine-line friendships mean being able to contact each other and say, “Hey, I am coming to your country; we should try to meet up”. And the other friend instantly clears their schedule to show them around for a week with no hesitations. If you find a really good connection, maybe one day you will live in the same country again. Fate has a way of working itself out.
The truth of the matter is that these friends will always just be one call away. It’s hard not to try to force communication because constant communication is what you became used to while you met. But a lasting friendship can be kept other ways, as well.
Travel with friends and push your comfort zone
The true beauty of meeting friends on the road is the process in which you become friends. Your comfort levels are thrown out of the window and the entire friendship process is sped up ten speed.
When you know you only have months, days, or even hours with a new friend, it forces you to speed up your trust in them. You open up quicker than you would to almost all of your friends you’ve known from back home for years. This can be both scary and beautiful in a world that lacks trust. My general rule: trust someone until they prove they can’t be trusted.
Find a trip buddy and see for yourself
International friendships are a beautiful thing. They can teach you so much about other cultures, your own culture, and ultimately inspire you to learn more about the world.
However, they take work to maintain. Luckily, most international friendships start from two like-minded, open-minded people and generally, the friends that you make will remain your friends forever; even if the friendship has to be different than when you first met.