Nomadic Relationships

One of the things I’ve been thinking about in recent times is the issue of personal relationships when you have no fixed abode. In other words, when you’re a digital nomad, location independent person, so on and so forth. I really don’t like those labels, but let’s roll with them for the sake of the post.

I’ve been finding that my relationships with people ebb and flow between real-life relationships and those online as I move around the place and do different things. Sometimes I’m physically alone, like when I did research for travelfish.org and I lean on my twitter network for social interaction. Sometimes I’m hanging out with real people (for reals!) and twitter takes a back seat, as was the case on my recent roadtrip with Heather and Nicole. Online relationships are great and I have made some really cool friends through the likes of twitter, but it’s those real life relationships that I treasure most. Those are the ones that I feel a deeper connection with. It’s part of the reason I make an effort to meet up with friends when I’m in town or try and meet up with twitter people when opportunities arise. But the problem is that when you move around a fair bit, you rarely have the chance to follow up on those short meetings and therefore don’t get an opportunity to cement those relationships. (much like when you’re backpacking somewhere and meet a great bunch of people and say that you will email them soon and never do)

Man on a Bike - Nothing to do with Relationships
Man on a Bike - Nothing to do with Relationships

I have the feeling that perhaps many other people in my situation find themselves lonely. Not in the traditional hermit-in-a-cave sense, but in a going-out-and-getting-drunk bonding type of way. So what does everyone else do about this? Try and settle on an island in Thailand with other like-minded souls? Sounds great, but then you aren’t really location independent. You’re in Thailand. Drinking buckets. Attached to a bungalow on the beach.

Gratuitous Random Cupcake Photo
Gratuitous Random Cupcake Photo

I guess the ultimate for me would be this. To flit from one 3 month sojourn to another, with those sojourns often involving other individuals on a similar path. That’s what I want. But it seems that everyone is so focussed on doing exactly what they want that they forget that in order to establish meaningful relationships, it requires time and if you’re constantly moving to where you want to go, you are never going to be moving to where the next person wants to go. The solution probably requires compromise. That is, going somewhere that isn’t your first choice in order to share a bunch of experiences with other people who do want to go to a particular place.

I don’t even know where I’m going with these thoughts, but I reckon it’d be cool if more people from the twitterverse actually got together for longer term travel rather than just one-day meetups. So. There you go.

Anyone feel this way?

12 thoughts on “Nomadic Relationships

  1. YES! I feel the same way and I haven’t even started my RTW. I have thought about this a lot as I’ve tried to balance saving every last penny for my trip vs. going out, being social and meeting people. I’ve actually met people who don’t want to invest time in a friendship because I would be leaving in a few months! I do wonder what is going to happen in this regard when traveling. Connecting and sharing with the people around me adds so much depth to my daily life. I think on the road the balance is slow travel when you can afford to – staying in one location for an extended period. My perfect balance after RTW would be to travel extensively for 6 months of the year with a home base that you live in for the other half of the year.

    1. Yeah, it’s a tough one. Even just now I’ve been meeting a lot of people, but we’re all heading separate ways and it’s tough. I want to hang around a bit more.

  2. I haven’t experienced the exact same thing, but I can appreciate what you’re talking about. I know a few folks that want to travel together for upcoming adventures, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can put together with them. Hope you meet some wonderful people in Java and that your online and offline friends can be a good system of support in this chapter and those to come.

    1. Let’s hope! I think for me this next chapter will have some stable time in Bandung where I think I might meet some nice people. If not, I’ll go crazy.

  3. Even while traveling with my husband I feel lonely. Not to say that he isn’t great company, I yearn for relationships other than someone that I’ve had conversations with for 12 years lol. Backpacking can be rough and I’m still trying to get over getting overly attached to people when I meet them in hostels. We have a fleeting week of awesomeness and then we all leave, on our own selfish endeavors, and I feel a little used.

    I can’t wait to sit in Xela for a few weeks. I need a bit of normalcy for now.

  4. I know exactly what you mean. I can be a little socially awkward which means that I also often find it difficult to find people that I can relate to, which for me makes it hard to even make small talk. I do love travelling alone, but unfortunately that means being lonely often, even when you’re meeting people all the time because you’re not necessarily connecting on that deeper ‘real’ relationship level. I find it exhausting!

    1. I’ve just had a couple of experiences here in Yogyakarta where people have left to travel further when I have to head the other direction and I find it terrible. I want to hang around these people for ages…

  5. I agree. Longer than one-day meetups with like-minded people would be fun. Now it’s just time to decide if it’s really worth the compromise? Lauren and I had to do very little compromising overall in southeast Asia because we share similar (adventurous) travel ideas. Of course we compromised a lot overall but it worked out well. Plus, we see eye to eye on a travel budget which makes a huge difference. More group travel with fun people is a good idea though 🙂

    1. Yeah, I’m at a point where I’m willing to compromise. I realise that I’m happy to travel almost anywhere and that doing it with great people is a bonus. That’s not to say that solo travel is out of the question — just a balance.

  6. Amen to this!

    I feel like traveling, in a way, is my search for like minded people. It’s not the sole reason I travel, obviously, but some part of me is always thirsting for that human connection that I’ve not really been able to find in the office environment.

    I feel a greater degree of closeness with some of my regular Facebook/Twitter/blog buddies than I do with some of the people I see every day. I can certainly relate to that sense of loneliness even in a crowded place.

  7. Well said. I think a lot of people feel that way… and they’re generally on the road looking for others to connect with.

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