I woke up to the text message that no one wants to wake up to.
Short messages always indicate bad news. The words are pared down to the absolute minimum to pierce even more deeply.
My good friend’s mother had passed away.
I was shocked. I did not even know she was ill or the circumstances surrounding her death.
This is made worse by the fact that I am 15,579 kilometres away. There is little I can do. Even if I was not so far away, there is little that can be done.
The saddest detail is that I was oblivious to what my friend has been going through. This is not because I am so far away, but because I have not been a very attentive friend.
My meandering ways creates distance both physically and emotionally in my relationships. I had already missed the friend in question’s wedding day. Sadly, I have missed many key moments of my friend’s life because of overseas travel.
Incidents like this made me contemplate the true-cost of my travel.
Life on the road has given me so much
I have gained rich experiences through travel, experiences which have enabled me to grow as a person. I have also formed many beautiful connections with people who I know will remain lifelong friends.
However, all of this comes at a cost.
It is clear that some of my long-standing relationships have fallen to the wayside. I can say this is because of the time difference, laziness or the general busyness of life. This is not the real reason.
If I really want someone in my life, I will make an effort and create room for them in my busy existence.
Some of my friends understand my desire to travel, others do not. Here lies the kernel of the problem.
I dislike judgement and have no stomach for being judged. Questions from friends and family have the power to irk me. These questions awkwardly delivered rile me up for two reasons.
i) They show a clear lack of understanding of what my life is actually like.
ii) They make me feel judged like I have not yet reached the conventional milestones I should have, at this point in my life.
The conversations are the worst. They can be stilted or consist of the same questions on repeat. The severe lack of connection contrasts starkly with how I connect when travelling. I can easily slide into a comfortable conversation that makes me feel like I have known this person for years. The conversation can quickly sway from deep and meaningful to light and humorous. The lack of judgement, similar experiences and shared mindset allow for a genuinely easy connection.
However, perhaps this way of thinking is a little unfair.
Perhaps more patience is required
I will admit that I am not a patient person.
How can someone who is not travelling know what my life is like?
Especially when I do not willingly share a lot about my experiences. While my lack of sharing stems from feeling misunderstood, it does little to mend any rift that appears.
I am also at times guilty of implying my life is perhaps more idyllic than it really is. This is a common issue within modern travel. There is an intense pressure to present a glamorous or stylish travel expedition. My experiences have been far from glamorous. In fact, sometimes they can be shit, really shit.
It is unfair to expect my friends and family to understand if I am not open to sharing my experiences with them.
Instead of being annoyed by their questions I should be grateful that they care enough to ask. I often mistake questions as nosiness or a way to cast judgement on my life. When really they ask because they care.
I am a huge obstacle in my own relationships. When I close myself off from those around me, I also sever my own access to their lives and the ability to nurture these delicate relationships.
I am guilty of being a bad friend.
I am guilty of being a bad daughter.
I am guilty of being a bad sister.
Today this has hit me strongly.
If I do not want to travel to come at the cost of valuable relationships, then I must work a little harder to preserve them.
Travel experiences are wonderful but fleeting. It is my friends and family who will be waiting to embrace me when I finally drag my bedraggled self home.
It takes me a long time to learn these life lessons. But I get therein the end.
Please be patient with me.