One of my favorite things about travel is the people I meet along the road. But those temporary relationships are also one of the hardest parts of being a traveler.
While I am technically solo traveling, I haven’t been alone since February 12th. First I spent 10 days gallivanting across Costa Rica with one of my best friends. Once she left I spent three and a half weeks making new friends while teaching yoga at a surf camp in Tamarindo. I finally left DreamSea Surf Camp to travel to the Osa Peninsula and attend the Envision Festival, taking six of my DreamSea friends with me.
Yesterday I said goodbye to them all.
I’ve been traveling solo for years. I am an introvert and I love my me time. And yet, today, I feel incredibly sad.
Most of the people I met over the past month I will never see again. Okay, that’s not entirely true. In just 10 days I’ll be meeting up with four of them to travel through Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. And three of them are going to visit me in California in May.
But after May? What are the odds that I will see them again?
I know from experience that the odds are depressingly low. Sure, we might connect on Facebook semi-regularly and if we ever happen to be in the same country I am sure we’ll grab dinner, but more than that I cannot realistically ask for.
Over the past month I have met some of the most amazing people. And if I met these people while living in an apartment and working a normal job, I’m sure I would see them all the time.
But that’s not how it works as a traveler. Every trip I have taken has ended with me thinking to myself, “this person is effing awesome. We’re going to be friends forever. I’m definitely going to stay in touch and see them again.”
Do you know how many of those people I have actually seen again? One. And that was for a quick lunch when I happened to be travelling through their hometown.
I hugged my friends goodbye yesterday, biting back tears, and I smiled when they said, “see you soon!” I wanted to say the same. I still desperately want to believe that these people will be a part of my life forever. But as every traveler knows, “see you soon” is a promise I can’t make.
And yet, I keep traveling. Sure, I got teary eyed when everyone left, but I didn’t suddenly decide I needed to settle down and invest in long-term, stable relationships. No, I said goodbye, wiped my eyes, and hopped on the bus going the other direction.
You know that Hozier song, the one that goes, “I fall in love just a little, oh little bit, every day with someone new”? That’s my life. Everyone I meet inspires me and I am constantly falling in love (all types of love). And as much as it sucks to keep falling in love just to have to walk away again, I find a certain beauty in the constant goodbyes.
Every goodbye feels like a fresh start.
For the past month I have been one version of me and now that everyone is gone, I get a chance to start over. When you travel solo, you get to redefine yourself every day.
And every time I redefine myself, I feel like I get a little closer to learning who I really am. I remember the first time I traveled solo I realized how much of my identity was based on what other people told me I was supposed to be. For the first time in my life there was no one telling my who I was and wasn’t. I got to define myself and be myself in a way I never knew was possible.
I quickly became addicted.
I treasure the relationships I form while traveling. I meet inspiring people that I would never have the chance to meet living and working in one place. But for me, traveling isn’t just about meeting other people. It’s about meeting myself. Over and over again. Because with each person that comes into my life I get to see a new side of me. I get to learn something about myself that only they could teach me.
So while I am sad to see them go, and while I may or may not ever see them again, I am beyond grateful for the people who have touched my life while traveling. For if it wasn’t for all of them, who knows who I would be today.