Shortly after you leave your family and friends behind for the first time, soon you realize which relationships are valuable and which are not as much. For some, it is the equivalent of a small trauma. Loosening up some of the connections is a difficult time to go through, especially because it is often unintentional. Some feel hopeless and desperately try to hold onto old friendships while others just accept it as a necessary consequence of physically being elsewhere. So I would like to share with you my thoughts on how to adapt to the change in bonds and how ties transform in the traveling community.
Classic friendships and coping with ‘loss’
Most of us grow up in a location-dependent community which allows us to develop lasting, very traditional friendships while being physically present in each others’ lives. This form of interaction becomes the norm.
A shift between traditional and nomad friendships happened when the number of my Hungarian childhood/adolescence friendships saw a slow, but steady decline as my time abroad increased. I missed out on many of their big life events while they formed new connections and developed new habits, making it substantially more difficult to reconnect with them when I visited home. Of course, I changed just as much. After 6 years living in other parts of Europe, about 80% of my old ties went extinct and even the ones that survived got considerably looser. (I have to mention this was not true for my immediate family, distance brought me closer to them)
During the first few years, I could not accept this consequence, or cost of traveling and I desperately tried to hang onto what was left; few messages, rare calls, and even fewer video calls. Eventually, I began to understand the nature of the nomadic lifestyle. When you change your circumstance, it will affect other areas of your life and it is an impossible expectation to keep everything else as they used to be.
Later, on a few occasions, I even decided to fire some people who I considered to be a core part of my network for long years. So how did I get from holding tight to loosening connection to deliberately breaking some up?
As your mind opens up and your mentality and self-changes, you develop into a new person who will seek a different kind of synergy. You might find it harder to reconnect with friends from the past as your experiences differ from theirs, but you also might find it easier to connect with like-minded people even if they are just ‘pass-bys’ in your life. Hopefully, you discover the huge friendship-potential in travelers.
Become a nomadic friend
- Accept that many relationships have an expiration date when you take the physical interaction out of the equation
- Start evaluating bonds around you and only keep in touch with the worthy. Choose carefully the people who are worth your time and effort.
- Accept that new friendships might have a non-physical-presence aspect and still recognize the endless possibilities in them.
The power of limited time
From my personal experience, it is not only possible to form strong and valuable friendships in just a few weeks, but also deeper than the ones were present in my life for 20 years. Moreover, I developed into an international nomad who instead of laughing at people whose beliefs I don’t understand and therefore disagree with, now listens to them and tries to learn from them. Opening my mind to the unknown and consequently uncomfortable, I managed to connect with people from all different racial and religious backgrounds.
Due to this power, only limited time together was enough to create relationships that survived over years with little effort to maintain and still gave more value than those needing a lot of maintenance. Maybe due to their intensity, the ties hold strong.
As a modern age nomad, I learned to make an honest and deep first impression. No stories about being drunk on a party, no asking about what their parents are doing, no quizzing about their jobs and how they like the country…instead I ask about how traveling changed their mentality, when do they feel lonely, what are the milestones in their adult life and how did they react when someone was racist against them. Do you see a clear difference? By asking profound questions, you get profound answers. Your conversation partner instantly opens up – as it is easier, to be honest with a stranger – and the discussion becomes memorable. You become memorable.
This handy trick landed me at least 6-7 friends who I only talk to a few times a year, but those conversations are educational, refreshing, helpful in self-development and emotionally intense. They contain all the stimuli my mind craves.
Who should I fire?
That is a hard question to answer, because only you know who is the energy vampire in your network, but I tell you this; I had a friend who always ‘forgot’ to reply to my messages for years and when I moved back in Hungary, giving her all the opportunities in the world to meet me, it was extremely difficult to pray her out from the apartment. So what did I do? I confronted her about the lack of attention she had for me and how disappointed I was with her. But I wasn’t done, I told her every reason why I no longer feel like a friend and asked her for cooperation to find a solution. Finally, I asked her to share her point of view on the issue.
She – of course – got very defensive and attacked with no regards to problem-solving. Giving it a last chance I apologised for everything she listed against me, and told her, if this was still important, please try to overlook the pain I caused pointing out some flaws in her personality and behavior – which, let’s face it, it is never easy to accept – focus on working with me on saving the friendship. She just threw more stuff in my face so I fired her.
Who has the time and need to keep people around when they are not worthy. A 20 years old friendship sank. She was not the only person I fired, but let me put it this way, your house needs cleaning, your files on your computer need reorganizing, why wouldn’t you do the same with people? Becoming a hoarder of anything is not healthy.
As harsh as this may sound, as liberating it feels to let go of anything that is useless. A feeling similar to weight lifting off your shoulders. I’m not saying that my way is the correct way, but each individual has their own ways. What works for you, is the best for you. I can’t blame my friend for getting defensive after what she heard, my reaction was the same the first couple of times when I was fired. It is excruciatingly painful to stop ignoring my shortcomings and agree with the reasons when I’m being fired as a friend. Great life lesson by the way. After getting fired as a friend you start asking yourself the hard questions and helps you evolve into someone who is worth the time of intelligent, interesting and adventurous people. In a nutshell, those people’s time, who I envy and wish to become.
Give and receive
Behind all our healthy relationships lies a golden rule, give as much as you receive. If the rule is not followed the balance will break. When I was told this for the first time, that I have to give enough value to people in order to stay in touch with them, I thought it was very black and white and too much business-like. Nevertheless, I tried to become more and more memorable, share my knowledge and help without expecting anything in return. To my greatest surprise, the return not only came, but it exceeded my wildest dreams.
It literally blew my mind. Human interaction will never be the same. In some cases, I developed more business based relationships by exchanging expertise and in other cases, I found soulmate-like friends.
- Through making a very impressive and memorable first impression, I made sure I will make it to the second round.
- Being open about topics helped my conversation partner to get comfortable and share more of her mind.
- By sharing useful information I gained credibility.
- With low maintenance, I get to proudly say I have friends all over the planet who will be there when I need them and the other way around.
- I had the greatest conversations with people who I would have prematurely judged a few years ago.
- My network has expanded largely, the quality increased and my relationships are more colorful and fulfilling.
“Learn to love people for who they are.”
One more thought for the road
The most challenging part of transitioning into a nomad was to learn to stay friends with people from my past. Excuse me for being brutally honest, but I take very little interest in their lives as stories about a new sofa and the dinner they cooked does not interest me a tiny bit. They evolved into the kind of people who cannot stimulate my mind, but who I grew up with, who I laughed and cried with, who I played and were bored with. I taught myself to never forget where I came from, who I used to be and who my friends were through all those years. They are part of my history and my early evolution, so as much as it takes a significant effort to stay interested, I do and will keep doing so, because, without them, I would not be the person I am today.