The one question I keep getting while I've been travelling is how I meet people on the road. Don't you get lonely? they want to know. Don't you miss your family and friends?
The answer is, yes and no. Solo travel isn't quite as taboo anymore and with hostels and walking tours, it's always easy to find some people to share a drink with at the very least.
But more than that, making travel friends has answered the age-old question of "how do you make friends as an adult?"
We make friends from convenience, from the institutions we’re a part of. Our friends were people we knew from school or work or you were introduced by mutual friends or at a party. You wonder if you'll ever meet someone who wouldn't go through their list of anyone they know from your hometown or uni; or who may have frequented the same pub as you.
Travel changes all of that.
You do all the things you wouldn’t do normally to meet new people. You talk to your neighbors - or rather your bunkmates. You start a conversation with someone in a bar or cafe. You’re open, free, starting from a clean slate so people can meet who you are in that moment with no assumptions or pre-conceived ideas. Sometimes, they see you in clearer lights than you'd ever expect.
You connect not by the usual small talk about jobs or schools but about the stories that have brought you here. How long have you been travelling? Where have you gone? Or maybe it's a chance to tell stories about your hometown. Is everything in Australia out to kill you? What's the deal with drop bears?
I'm lucky to still call the people I've met while travelling some of my closest friends.
it's more than just the nostalgia of our travels together. They helped to turn a visit to a country to an adventure, a great memory. They help to encapsulate a moment in time that meant so much to me. They remind me that we all connect on things that aren't just as superficial about what school we went to or where we went to work.
But more than that, it's an amazing thing to know that no time apart or distance between us can change our friendships. To see a familiar face or have a bed to crash on when I'm so far from home means more to me than they'll ever know. But even a quick text of Skype call can make the world and this nomad life feel a little less big and scary.
This is not to say that long-distance friendships are easy.
Friendship in itself isn't easy. They take time, investment, the mutual commitment to mutual benefit from the relationship.
Knowing that these friends are there for me when I need them doesn't mean they are there. As easy as it is to just text a friend when you need someone to talk to, it doesn't mask the difficulty of time difference or the fact that they can't just turn up at the local pub for a cheeky drinking session on a rough day.
And then, the process of constantly trying to meet new people can be tiresome and less meaningful.
Do I wish that I had at least one person to be sharing this whole adventure with me, to take my photos and just take the stress out of doing it all alone? Hell yes.
I've grown weary of retelling my story. I miss people understanding my in-jokes or references to people or places that decorate my stories.
Sometimes it's hard to know in a quick conversation whether you'll ever see this person around the world again; or if you'd even want to.
And sometimes, we forget that sometimes, we just don't get along with people. And trying to force a connection so we don't feel so alone in the world can be depleting.
But this is just a reminder that real friends - the one's that will stick around no matter what - they're awesome because they're rare.
And with the added aspect of travel, these friendships become so much more epic because of the perfect storm that somehow brought these people into your life at that time.
It's hard enough to keep friendships with people when you're in the city. And many of these friendships have been untested by the strain travel can often have.
To know that these travel friends have withheld these struggles and that of distance and time is one of the greatest joys of my life.
It might suck that I never get to see them. It might suck that I constantly miss them. But I would never trade my travel friends in for lackluster relationships just so it feels easier.