Sunday, February 27, 2011

Traveller's Remorse

When you travel for an extended period of time, forging friendships in a short period of time becomes a critical lifeskill. Seeing the world is great, but it almost becomes boring when you don't have a soul to share it worth. Naturally, as we get older, making friends becomes harder and harder to do. Your moral and ethic compass becomes more rigid. You have enough friends at home, why do you need anymore? Still, to a degree, we are infatuated with meeting random strangers. When you think about how big the world is, how can you not?

For me, each and every trip is like the first day of kindergarden. Mom and dad drop you off at school with a bunch of other wandering souls, all just itching for some kind of human connection. You find the one kid who loves playing with Legos as much as you do, and immediately a best friend is born. Yes, it's that easy, as long as you're genuine with yourself and with everyone you meet.

Unfortunately, the world is big. Really big. And often, home is far away. Over the days or weeks you spend getting to know someone everything is fresh and new. You don't have the time to think about the eventual plane trip home, when you have to leave and go an indefinite amount of time before seeing them again (if you ever get to see them again). It's a tough emotion to deal with. We as humans struggle with the concept of goodbye. We cry and weep. We accuse the world of being unfair. Sometimes we even close ourselves off to meeting new people, as we will only regret it when the time comes for us to say goodbye.

It's called traveller's remorse, and even the seasoned traveller gets it. We desperately want to let people in, and when we finally do they have to leave us, leaving an empty spot in our hearts that takes some time to heal. To avoid the pain, we throw walls up because that's what we're trained to do. It also works, although you deprive yourself of some of life's greatest experiences.

Fortunately for you, traveller's remorse is only a way of interpreting a situation. It's like the glass-half-full, glass-half-empty argument: all it takes is some positive thinking.

The first step is to embrace that impending goodbye and use it to your advantage. You don't have the luxury of being jaded or guarded. You have to train yourself to be genuine and open, and it has to be as natural as possible. Some of my best friendships were made in a matter of days because of this mentality.

The next step is to enjoy the moment. Since our survival instincts have taken a back-seat in our thought process, our minds and hearts have become future-orientated. We're constantly thinking about the paper due in class on Monday or the project due at work in a month. Living in the moment isn't as natural as it use to be. It's important to think about the future, but learn to turn it off. Learn to enjoy the moments that you have in a certain place or with a certain person. You'll have time to think about (or regret) those moments in the future, so right now you just need to enjoy them.

When it does come time to say goodbye, let your emotions get the best of you. Cry, be stoic, laugh: do what you need to do. Holding back those emotions isn't healthy, and the people that you met in your travels are probably feeling the same thing.

The last step is to take those feelings of regret and rid them out of your mind. The reason you're feeling sad about saying goodbye is that you had a truly amazing relationship with this person or place. The guarded and jaded don't feel pain because they haven't lived. Recognize that what you're feeling is evidence of a true, human connection. It's beautiful and real. You should never regret feeling those emotions. Ever.

When it is all said and done, be realistic with yourself. There's a chance that you might never be here again, and that you may never see this person again. The world is a terribly huge place, and we all have lives to live. But that's the beauty of true friends: they'll be there for you, no matter how long down the road it is. We live in an age where keeping in touch with each other is incredibly simple. Use that to your advantage. It's always sad to leave a new place and say goodbye to new friends, but I would never trade those experiences for anything in the world. I don't regret a thing, and neither should you. Stop making excuses to not open yourself up to everything life has to's truly beautiful on the other side.

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