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What Travel Teaches You About Your Friendships

While I wouldn’t trade my life of traveling the world and living abroad for anything, there are definite downsides to this kind of lifestyle I’m lucky enough to call mine. One of them is the fear of missing out, and worst of all, the fear of not being missed at all. A huge reason why many people don’t venture off into the unknown is because of the wonderful relationships we’ve already built at home. And why would you want to leave that? Your friends, your family, your colleagues, your dog – they all make up the beautiful life you’ve built over the years.

Trust me, it’s a constant battle in my brain between wanting to stay or wanting to explore. I’ve been in Australia for almost a year now, and the thought of leaving after making great friends and professional connections is daunting (and a little sad!) At the end of the day, exploration always wins.

Although stepping out of your comfort zone and inevitably leaving a few people behind may seem unfathomable, I promise you that it is the best thing you can do for your friendships. As we grow up, we build relationships through years of schooling. Some of us, if we’re really lucky, we have friendships formed over our entire lives, and still call them friends to this day.

Unfortunately, for the most part, a lot of our friendships are conditional. You know those friends that are always around because they know you’ll go out with them, or they know you’ll help them out when they need it, or you just both happen to be in the same vicinity. Sure, they may be great people and even great friends, but there’s nothing like moving 10,000 miles away that tests the strength of your friendships.

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Exploring the Loch Ard Gorge in Australia

When you venture off for the first time, you think all will be the same when you’re away. You’ll be in the know of all that’s happening back home. Friends will consult you on their love lives. You’ll hear all of the goss from the party last Friday. You think things will stay the same, and you’ll talk with your best friends every day. You believe your friends will actually reach out to you and ask you how everything is.

In my case, I found this to be quite the opposite. I noticed I was always the one to reach out and try to keep in touch. I felt desperate trying to hold on to the connections I had at home. I wasn’t being present while I was in some of the most gorgeous destinations around the world. I felt as soon as I left everyone forgot who I was and who we’d been as friends.

Now after two years of travel and a year of living abroad in Australia, I now know what to expect. And that is your true friends will reach out – every now and then. Your “friends” will answer your Facebook messages intermittently. Everyone else probably just doesn’t care. And that’s okay, that’s plenty alright – because travel gives me something that the people that don’t care never will. Travel gives me the confidence in who I am as a person and who I want to be as a friend. Having to start all over in a new country making new friends reinforces the type of people I want to surround myself with, and the type of friend I want to be to these people.

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On top of the world in Budapest, Hungary

Travel has made me a better person with amazing friends around the world. It’s brought me stress-free friendships and overwhelming encouragement to go after my dreams of traveling and blogging. Sure, I may be able to count on two hands the amount of friends I can message to go have a drink with or go to the beach with, but I’d prefer their company any day over the people who couldn’t give me the time of day to see how I was doing while away.

Travel teaches you which of your friends will be there for you when you come back home and who will be there for the rest of your life. I’m extremely lucky with the close friendships I still have back at home. It’s been a painful process of realising who wouldn’t one of those friends. It hurt in ways that they will honestly never know about, but I’m so happy and confident now because of it.

Travel showed me who I can count on whatever time of the day. With time differences being another downside of travel, I’ve found who would take my calls or messages no matter what time it was in their time zone and no matter how much they didn’t understand the situation unfolding 10,000 miles away. They were there for me no matter what, and I’m grateful for them.

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Skydiving in Florida

Travel has taught me that it’s okay to be picky with your friendships and who you trust. It’s also taught me that even the most unlikely of characters can turn into the closest friend. But the main thing travel has taught me is that life is too short to spend a single second worrying about the state of a friendship. If it’s strong enough, you shouldn’t have to worry. If you and your friends mutually care enough, it shouldn’t be a difficult task. And if you keep your heart open to new friendships, better ones will come along – even if that means in a foreign country!

Travel is the best thing that can happen to your friendships. It will weed out the ones that at the end of the day were nothing more than convenience of being near each other, and it will strengthen the ones that you will undoubtedly keep for the rest of your life. I owe the strength and happiness of my closest friendships to travel because they were the ones who showed me they cared.

To all of my friends that are making a massive effort to see me when I come home for three weeks in March: I’m so grateful and humbled to call you my friend. To the friendships I’ve held onto since birth: I’m truly the luckiest girl in the world to have friends like you. To the friends who I’ve met in Australia and through my blog: You’ve made such an impact on my stay here in Oz, and you’ve reignited my confidence in my ability to make new friends.

If leaving your friends at home is preventing you from traveling the world, studying abroad or living overseas, just remember that your true friends will be there for you when you get back home, and you’ve got a world full of people to build new friendships with 🙂

Let Your Friends Know!
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24 Comments

  • Reply Kelly March 9, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Love love love this post KP! I connect with everything you said.

    Although I’ve never left home for more than 4 months at a time, I’ve made some of the same realisations that you have. I definitely think travelling is a great way to find out who your best friends are – whether it be who finds time to talk to you when you’re away or whether you can easily slide back into the friendship you had before you went away. It’s these people that I know I will always be friends with – no matter where in the world we are!

    In fact, one of my best friends recently moved interstate to study. Although we can’t make our weekly coffee dates, we make it work through our constant Facebook and Skype chats! I can’t wait to go and visit her though – YAY holiday! 😛

    I know that if I were to move abroad sometime in the future, that these are the friendships I will always keep with me 🙂

    • Reply KP Schwan March 9, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      So glad this connected with you! I agree with the fact that it’s not always the people you talk to, but it’s also the friendships where you can seamlessly slip into when you get back. I’ve found that is the same with uni as well. So happy to hear you liked my post! Good luck with everything, love! 🙂

  • Reply Larina March 9, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I know exactly what you mean! When I first moved to Canada I was usually the one to reach out to people back home and see how everyone was doing. For the first few months they responded regularly but after a while the messages died down until they came to a complete stop. It use to bug me but I’ve learnt over the years that the friends who truly care will always be there no matter the circumstances and will always make an effort. These days I find that the people who are more up-to-date with my life and who I talk to more regularly are the friends I’ve made while traveling. They’re the people who I want to share any news with and vice versa, and they’re the people who I find myself making an effort to go see even if we live in a different state/country.

    • Reply KP Schwan March 9, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      So happy you liked it! I feel the same way – some of my closest friends now are the ones I made while traveling. Or I’ve also found that I’ve made friends from back home while on the road, as well! I guess the biggest thing to take away is that there is infinite opportunities to meet like-minded friends 🙂

  • Reply christina @ currently exploring March 10, 2015 at 4:42 am

    PREACH girlfriend. love every single solitary word on this page, especially “Travel is the best thing that can happen to your friendships.” the people who matter will stick around. <3 thanks for sharing such an open post!

    ~christina
    http://www.currentlyexploring.com

    • Reply KP Schwan March 11, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Thanks love! So kind of you to say. and so glad you agree 🙂 I know it’s hard to leave the good old Tally sometimes! Glad we’ve made our way!

  • Reply Natalie @ In Natalie's Shoes March 10, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for articulating what I’ve felt for so long! Studying abroad in college was (initially) so difficult for me. My friends rarely reached out, would take forever to respond to me (when I would see them being otherwise active on social media) and cut conversations short. It hurt! Luckily, the friends I’d made while abroad never allowed me to dwell on it, as they kept me busy exploring! I feel like traveling allows you to learn first hand that some friendships are meant to be while others will die out. It’s all in the name of growth!

    • Reply KP Schwan March 11, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      So true! I first felt it when I studied abroad. It’s pretty shocking at first actually. But I’m glad we’ve both learned these lessons while we’re young 🙂

  • Reply Katie @ The World on my Necklace March 10, 2015 at 9:59 am

    After 11 years of living away from my home country I definitely identify with this! Some friendships will just drift away and I used to feel very hurt but I understand now and let them go, appreciate the time we had together as friends and don’t dwell on the fact that we aren’t anymore. Pretty drift apart in stationary lifestyles too. I now have friends all over the world and I think that is pretty damn special 🙂

    • Reply KP Schwan March 11, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      It’s all apart of the growing process that is traveling!

  • Reply Dylan Basile March 11, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Agree with everyone, this post is so on point and I felt like I was listening to my inner monologue. Really great writing KP.

    • Reply KP Schwan March 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks Dylan! That’s so kind of you to say! 😀

  • Reply Dannielle Lily March 20, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    Loved this!

  • Reply Steph of Big World Small Pockets March 27, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Couldn’t agree more! Such an honest and open article that it was a pleasure to read. The best thing about travel is that you also build a global network of friends. Thanks to the joys of social media and Skype, I still keep in touch with people I’ve met during my travels, no matter what timezone they’re in – sometimes they are the only ones who can really understand a situation

    • Reply KP Schwan March 31, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      I totally agree. I couldn’t imagine how isolating it would be to not have these amazing technologies at our fingertips! The global network of friends is such a main reason why I travel. So glad you liked it 🙂

  • Reply Brittany March 30, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Perfectly written! I have friends that I thought would be lifelong and we haven’t had a single meaningful conversation since I left home, or hardly a conversation at all. And then there are those that I can still call or text at any hour and we pick up like I never left. Your words put it into a new perspective though and its so refreshing. Thank you for that!

    • Reply KP Schwan March 31, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Thank you so much 🙂 I’m so glad you liked it and can understand as well.

  • Reply Victoria April 18, 2015 at 6:27 am

    Absolutely agree! Last year I set off on my year abroad and one of my biggest worry was the thought of leaving people behind at home. In the first few weeks everything was ‘normal’ with Facebook messages and skype chats but throughout the course of the year, people began dropping off the radar. At first realizing that some of my ‘friendships’ were formed on the basis of convenience was hard to come to terms with, but the situation also highlighted those people who really cared and who made an effort to keep in touch. It showed me who the people that matter are and what type of friend I want to be as well as the type of people I want to be friends with. Leaving friends behind should never stop someone doing what they love – in my opinion, one of the best things about travelling is meeting new people and making new friends!

    • Reply KP Schwan April 20, 2015 at 3:56 am

      Couldn’t have said it better myself! So happy you took something away from it, and that you didn’t let those fears stop you from living your dreams 🙂

  • Reply Sandy November 29, 2015 at 12:07 am

    I feel emotional reading this because those feelings are so real for so many travellers. Couldn’t have written this better myself. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply KP Schwan December 2, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      Thank you Sandy 🙂 I’m glad you can relate!

  • Reply Aaron May 22, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Dear, KP, my name is Aaron. I love this article you wrote about how traveling affects friendships: I have a friend who is adventurous and nomadic, just like you. She’s in Germany right now, and it affected me so much when she left that it changed my personality big time. But, I’m always in touch with her, and I always let her know that she’ll always have a family in me when she comes back home. I made a promise to her that we’ll be friends for life and I’m keeping that promise as a true friend of hers. Anyways, thanks for letting me comment here. All the best on your travels!!!

    • Reply KP Schwan May 24, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your story. Friendships can grow even stronger no matter how far away you are from each other 🙂

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