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The Downside of Traveling For a While

The Downside of Traveling For a While

Friendships are like plants, they require water. If you go abroad for a year you might come back and find that you’ve lost your social circle. A lot will have happened and you’ll be left trying to play catch up. Also, you’ll have less in common with your friends. You spent the last two months in Cambodia, driving a scooter and getting tan. Your friends have been up to the usual and you’ve missed it.

Also, you might find out that you’re not as interested in hanging out with your old friends. You tell them about how cool Spain is, they nod and smile but there’s no spark. You say that you should all buy some plane tickets and go to Colombia for a few weeks in the winter. They look at you like you’re crazy.

Family relationships can also suffer. When you spend a significant amount of time abroad you can fall out of step with what’s happening at home. Cousins get married, people move, drama ensues, etc. All that happens while you’re listening to techno in Berlin, questioning whether you’ll have any hearing left when you’re 50.

Temporary Friendships

When you travel you’ll meet cool people who believe in adventure, have great spirit and think that Colombia in the winter sounds like a blast. Unfortunately, most people you meet are going home in two weeks and they live 4,600 miles from you. You can keep in contact but it’s damn difficult to build a virtual relationship. It’s not impossible, but for any given person the chances that a deep and meaningful relationship form are slim.

Do it While You’re Young

These things happen but screw it. I combat it with a few simple things, like making an active effort to hang out with my friends when I’m home. I stay in contact with my family and keep them in the loop. When I go abroad I always try to visit a few international friends. I’m still an outlier in terms of normal lifestyle, but I make an effort to mitigate that.

All that being said, I think the most important thing to remember is this. If you’re traveling and you find it lonely you can always come home, you’ll have the rest of your life to enjoy long relationships. However, it’s much harder to settle down, create a life and then leave it all behind to travel for a year.

You are the Average of the 5 People Closest to You

Average of the 5 people

Humans are wired to recognize and mimic group norms. If our closest contacts are bitter and angry, we’ll adopt that way of thinking. Our brain doesn’t care which mindset helps to achieve our potential. All it cares about is mimicking whatever behavior ensures we don’t get rejected from the group (a death warrant for the thousands of years that we lived in the wild).

This simple truth is why it’s important to choose who we let into our lives. Here’s what James Swansick, a well known proponent of healthy living and sobriety, has to say,

You will be the average of the five people you spend the most time around. If you’re consistently surrounding yourself with friends who bring you down or don’t share your perspective on life, you’re not going to get to where you actually want to be.

The Gently Boiled Water

A bad influence is difficult to notice when the changes are so gradual

A danger is that we’re rarely aware of how other people are influencing us. It’s not a radical event, like jumping into a freezing lake. It’s more similar to the frog in room temperature water, who never notices that he’s being boiled to death. A group can take months or years to influence a person, but it will happen eventually. Here what others can affect,

  • Your salary and your expectations about your future salary / promotions
  • Whether you’re pessimistic or optimistic about the future
  • How hard you work and your level of self-efficacy
  • What kind of food you eat, whether you do drugs or binge drink
  • How much you exercise
  • How long you’re willing to stick with a difficult project
  • Which laws you consider it acceptable to break
  • Etc.

Clearly others have a massive influence on us. I’m not the only one who believes this. Here are some notable gentlemen talking about it.

The Next Step

Look at the people in your life and ask: what kind of influence is this person having on me? Maybe there are a few people who you need to spend less time with. Maybe you need to make a proactive effort to bring new people into your life. Ideally the 5 people closest to you are positive, ambitious and supportive. It might not always work out like that, however, it’s a good ideal to move towards.