The last goodbye (or is it?)
As much as I loved meeting new people, for the first couple of years of my travels I found it really difficult when it came time to go our separate ways. This seemed to be the case whether we had hung out for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks and no matter how many times it happened, it never seemed to get any easier.
That all changed after a conversation with my friend Wendy, who I had met in Edinburgh less than two weeks after leaving Tasmania, back in October 2004. My mate Mark and I met her and two Austrians, Flo and Vanessa in the hostel that we were staying in and we spent a few days checking out the city (and its numerous bars) together.
Now that I think about it, that was the very first time I had really bonded with anyone while travelling and I still remember how strange it felt as I sat on the bus to Edinburgh Airport, after leaving the hostel in the early hours of the morning.
Fortunately, it took less than a fortnight to see each other again – Flo picking both of us up in Salzburg after Wendy had flown in from the UK and I had taken a train from Munich. We spent just over a week between Flo’s home town of Waldzell and Vienna, in what was the first of many catch ups over the next few years.
I don’t remember the exact details of the conversation in question, but I assume that it was a Tuesday and I must have brought up how I still found it pretty hard to say goodbye to people I met on the road. Wendy responded with something along the lines of, “It’s all part of travel though isn’t it? Do you want another tequila?”.
Even though my memory from that night is pretty hazy, that’s all it took for me to realise that meeting people, forming friendships and then moving on to your next destination is simply a part of travel.
One of the reasons it can be so difficult is because these types of relationships are often a lot more intense than usual. Firstly, you don’t know when (or if) you will see that person again, so you might end up talking about things that you wouldn’t even mention to some of your closest friends back home. These types of discussions can make the short amount of time that you spend together seem like a lot longer.
Discovering new places and experiencing new things together also plays a huge part in forming bonds that feel like they’ve been there forever – whether it’s hiking to the top of a mountain, attending a music festival, or simply walking the streets of a new city.
In addition, if you’re both away from home, it immediately gives you some common ground and something to relate to. That’s not to say you’ll only experience this feeling with other travellers – some of my closest friends to this day are people that I have stayed with in their home town.
There’s also a fair chance that if you’re travelling, or hosting travellers to stay at your place, you will have a similar way of viewing the world – something that can rapidly develop connections between people.
Mindful travel is one of the best ways to overcome, or at least reduce these types of feelings – for example, focusing on the present when you are with them, rather than worrying about the inevitable moment when you will part ways, is a far better option.
In addition, being present directly after saying goodbye will allow you to fully enjoy the next stage of your journey, as opposed to dwelling on not being with that person, or those people now. This doesn’t mean that you should forget the times that you had together, quite the opposite, just don’t let them prevent you from getting out there and creating more memories with the next group of people that you meet.
Finally, if you really want to make it happen, there’s nothing to stop you from focusing your attention on catching up again. Whether it’s meeting somewhere else on your travels, or visiting each other once you’re back in your respective countries, this type of travel with purpose will ensure that it wasn’t the last goodbye after all!