The majority of my friends, I couldn’t tell you where they came from. They were just there one day. I don’t remember the first words we said to each other, just one day they were attached to me for the rest of their lives, imprinted on my heart and trapped in my phone; those poor, poor bastards. Ready and probably unwilling, yet devoted to listening to my man problems, liking all my photos, gin-based DMC’s (Deep Meaningful Conversations) and holding back my hair when I had drunk/probably still do drink too much white wine. We call all our mums mum, we know where things are in each others kitchen cupboards, and we know relationship disasters in fine detail.
The glorious foundation of many friendships; the ties that hold us all together.
Listening, vomiting and loving.
Then one day you get separated; life moves forward. We attempt to grow up and we move, we get jobs, we make life choices, we have different schedules or in my selfish case you sod off to the other side of the planet for a bit, and through many, many tears you go and be somewhere they aren’t. Travel, or living abroad for a bit as the case may be, is the most exciting time of your life! New experiences, new people: ultimately a new life. I never went looking for a life overhaul, the one I had at home was a pretty damn good one; the best friends, the most brilliant family, London on my doorstep, several Nandos down the road and god my dogs;
There are no words.
But I somehow ended up with this vast change, one I didn’t ask for in particular, but one that had to happen for me to create this life and journey somewhere I didn’t already exist. Not to rub it in; its been brilliant. I’ve travelled, I’ve lived in a different country and I am planning the next round of backpacking right now. All of this I have done on my own, which I guess is something to be proud of?
If you call becoming a pancake expert of every country I visit something to be proud of.
So yes, I am very proud.
Equally though, at no point does anyone tell you how difficult it will be sometimes.
Yes, like most people I found my first few days in a hostel alone very hard, watching Forest Gump with obligatory delicious Pocky sticks, contemplating chucking in the towel and heading home tail tucked between my legs. But then I remembered I was supposed to be shoving my amazing experiences in everyones (ex boyfriends and ex friends) faces and an overriding sense of pride got me into the swing of it- along with the help of some truly excellent newfound friends, with whom I have shared wonderful experiences that I have bragging rights on for actual years.
Everywhere I have been, I have been lucky enough to have created a new little family.
These friends aren’t like the ones you have known all your life and count as a sister or brother- not that it diminishes your love for the original fanbase; if anything it’s wholly strengthened in absence and in the preparation to be permanently attached to them for all the days following your feet touching down at Heathrow. Love for these can never be diminished. They know you best out of everyone, are there through thick and thin, and they beat boyfriends every time- if they hurt you then its literally…with an axe…in the face.
But, you spend more time with these travellers than anyone you’ve ever known, every minute of every day in strange places, in weird scenarios, regularly with a drink in your hand, with a responsibility to take the best instragrammably thin pics for each other possible, and to support every un-adult decision we can possible conjure up together all the while pissed on the back of a moped. Everything is on such an intense level that by the end you’re either deeply in love with each other, besties for life, or you’re deeply in a murder trial being stared at by a terrified jury.
Further than this friendship debacle though, is the period of time you spend living somewhere. Yes when I originally got to Australia I wasn’t wholly alone; I have some of my close, beautiful family here. But once that period of adjustment has settled down, you are ultimately alone in a country you don’t know, living an entirely different life, looking for mates and trying to persuade your colleagues to befriend you by slowly phasing into their lunch breaks, and also making them believe that you are in fact a lovely, bubbly person and that they just misunderstand your face/attitude/sarcastic comments/dress sense/eyebrow movements/taste in men.
Without my friends at home, who are my family and my soul mates, I will readily admit it has been tough. No one tells you that you’re gonna sit in your room in your share house, and just be sad sometimes. Sad because you miss them and sad because you’re letting yourself be sad when you should be living this crazy, happy life not wallowing like a sad panda. Not everything can be crazy fun all the time, not everything is travel, sometimes you do have to pay some bills, eat pesto pasta for every meal five days in a row, and netflix and chill on your larry (not the exact netflix and chill), and without all your friends, this time can be lonely.
I mean, I am very happy in my own company, I talk to myself out loud; like a mental patient. I ask myself questions and mostly I sing the answers. Like a shit Julie Andrews. But that doesn’t mean I want that solo aspect all the time, far from it.
You need people to rely on in your life, particularly in this new and different scenario; you have to create a new base.
You do it though, you think its hard to make friends and in your mind you’re quickly harking back to first days of school with huge backpacks, blazers and questionable fringes. But you make some really good friends, and because you’re all travelling you’re all in the same boat floating down the river gin. Even when you’re stood still in a country for a little while, those friends you think you won’t find, eventually are persuaded by your remarkably weird personality, and will give you a pity add on facebook and then settle into your warm embrace of ownership/friendship for many years to come.
We need to be realistic about the backpacking agenda, and the realities of the situations that are going to come our way on our travels. The idea of turning up in unknown places didn’t scare me, but being without my friends did. Being the nicest, most sociable person in the world doesn’t mean you are automatically going to find amazing friends you bond with. Equally, if you are like me with a serious case of resting bitch face, and an illuminating yet quite accidental attitude of don’t speak to me/fuck with me/come near me; then new friends aren’t the easiest to collect. (It’s all an act, I am a very popular person don’t you know)
Ultimately you have nothing to lose, no one knows you, and no one can judge you. Be you, be a bit of a better more outgoing you, or stand firm in your confidence in your own character. Make new friends, not for the sake of friends but because you actually want to. The thought of going back to a hostel where some dickhead with a guitar will be singing the worst rendition of Wonderwall I’ve ever heard, and twenty eighteen year olds will be trying to get me to go a club and have thirty jagerbombs, makes me want to shut myself in a box and get silently shipped back to England, postage stamp marked ‘shut the fuck up’.
I know I need to be more tolerable (never a truer word said), but I also know that I don’t need vast groups of people. I just need those special few who I know I can rely on everywhere. Who are way more organised than me, whose itineraries I will jump on because I haven’t worked out my own, and who I will keep tagging in memes for many, many years to come, even when we have all long gone home and got boring jobs.
You know who you are!
Its hard sometimes, to not be with those who know you best, but new people can become part of those ranks too, after all, how did they all become yours in the first place?
For my global family, I am pretty lucky.