Travel is a rather selfish activity. By that, I don’t mean that travel is turning me into a people hating world destroying recluse. No, what I mean is that travel is something that really focuses on being of benefit to the individual doing the travel, in this case me, and no-one else.
Allow me to explain myself. I am just coasting over the hill of thirty, having spent a couple of years now in my third decade. I have a pretty tight knit group of friends who I have grown to know and love over the years. And because they are all running about as late with the whole growing up and settling down thing as me, many of them hadn’t, by the time I left, gotten around to doing the grown up stuff yet. You know – the getting married, having kids… buying a house… sort of thing that responsible adults are encouraged to get on with doing at some point.
Unfortunately, now that I’ve been away from home for nearly two years, things have started to change. Girlfriends are starting to put their feet down, and are pointing out that biological clocks don’t have a wind back mechanism. Marriage proposals are flying around like autumnal swallows seeking warmer weather. Tense negotiations are being held with banks about mortgages. And I’m on the other side of the world, far away from all of these things, watching all my friends grow up as I continue to wander in a vaguely irresponsible fashion, questing for something else.
This year of travelling, I am focusing on wandering the islands of New Zealand. The price for this wandering is missing out on not one, but three weddings of incredibly close friends. Luckily one of them had already decided on a small family only wedding. The other two had invited me to be an usher.
The main reason for missing these events is financial – the cost of a return flight from New Zealand to the UK is fairly mind boggling – and spending four months in the UK for two days worth of wedding fun at great expense just doesn’t seem sensible.
And this is kind of a problem with travel, at least the way I do it. I have no shame in admitting that I put myself first. It’s all about amazing experiences and scenic vistas that I get to witness first hand, and about pleasing and amusing myself.
I love my friends and family, but I have resigned myself to the fact that I’m not likely to see many of them for a while to come. Some of them realised this as I was leaving, when I was unable to answer the question of when I’d be back. Some thought I was just going through a phase, and six months after leaving I’d be back where I left off.
As it is, two years on, I have a lot more world to see, and nothing but finances to hold me back. Finances which I’m doing my best to top up by working as I go, which I’m clinging onto, and not squandering on dashing back to the UK so I don’t miss out on friends key events.
Long term travel, whilst a wonderful experience for me, does seem to carry with it the risk of growing apart from friends. It could be argued of course that these friends were always going to be lost – after all, many of my best friends are the ones whom I don’t see for months or even years at a time, and then get back on track with almost straight away. But the risk of being away for one too many key life events does gnaw at me somewhat.
Technology, the internet, Facebook – these are all things that help us stay in touch, to a point. This blog has even got me back in touch with friends who had drifted away from me. But it is hardly a substitute for real time together.
There is a balance I guess. A line to walk between ostracising myself and experiencing all that I want to. It can be a tricky line to walk, and I am yet to see what the end result will be. With luck I am not walking the line too close to the wind, and gaining experiences at great expense. At least, I really hope not.
I’d love to know what your thoughts on this matter are. Do you travel long term? How do you keep up to date with happenings back home? Are you missing key events in your friends lives that you worry will result in you growing apart? Or do you think friendships overcome these hurdles? Let me know in the comments below.