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Consequences of Long-Term Travel

I had been traveling full-time for nearly 15 months. One thing I didn't expect was to lose close friends as the distance between us grew each day. Friends who suddenly felt they couldn't relate to me any longer.

Day 442

I finally got a noon check-out at my hotel. Almost all check-out times in Australia were 10:00 am. I didn’t want to leave the beautiful 4-star room, so I stayed until the last possible minute. I drove to the Brisbane suburbs because I needed to repair the screen on my iPhone. 

The colossal mall reminded me of a mall in Cerritos, California, near where I lived. It was massive, and the Apple store was super crowded – just like back home. An employee told me to wait for five minutes. He quickly returned, and I explained that the glass screen was cracked and shattered around the home button – a hazard of stargazing in the outback. 

The employee told me that it would take about three hours to repair. I was happy that they could fix it the same day because my phone is my lifeline. I told the guy that was fine because I could browse the mall and grab a bite to eat. The guy was surprised at my relaxed attitude and said they had a woman who yelled at them for saying it would take three hours. She stormed out in anger. I explained that I’m used to long wait times, and three hours was nothing compared to Los Angeles. 

I spent three hours eating lunch, buying a few items like a new phone case, and then I got my nails done. I kept reaching for my phone to research things or to take a picture. It made me realize that I was uncomfortably addicted to my phone. 

By the time I picked up my phone from Apple and put the new cover on it, it was 5:00 pm. Of course, the store was closing, even though it was a Saturday. Things always close ridiculously early in Australia. 

Shopping hour in Australia
Shopping hour in Australia mall

The couple of days that I had been in Brisbane, I had been messaging a guy from Tinder, Chris. It wasn’t the musician Chris who ghosted me months earlier, but for some reason, I match with guys named Chris often. Maybe the universe wanted a Christy and Chris pair.

I messaged Chris, asking if he wanted to hang out that evening. It was Saturday, and I wanted to see the city at night. While I waited for a reply, I drove to the grocery store and ate dinner at a nearby Chipotle-type place. I booked a motel close to where I was in the suburbs because hotels in the city were too expensive. 

Motel room
Motel bathroom

I arrived at the crappy 2-star motel, and the smell was overpowering. It was like a cleaning bomb went off, mixed with perfume. I didn’t hear from Chris, and I realized that I was being ghosted. Again.

I wasn’t going to ruin my evening, so I took a bus downtown. I didn’t want to worry about driving in the city, paying for parking, and could have some drinks. The bus cost $5.80 and took 45 minutes because traffic was so bad. A game had just finished, and people were everywhere. 

City lights

I made it downtown, and it was extremely windy outside. I walked to a rooftop bar, and it was mostly empty. I bought a beer and enjoyed the city lights. At 11:30 pm, the bar announced they were closing soon, so I left. I walked through Queen Street and an outdoor mall. I couldn’t believe how dead it was on a Saturday night. 

Rooftop bar
View from rooftop bar
Clock tower
Clock tower with lights
Queen Street Mall

I found a jazz bar that looked cool and had live music. Before they’d allow me inside, they asked for my I.D. The bouncer scanned it with a computer scanner and took my picture. I walked down a few steps, and the jazz bar was swanky. It had an old-timey feel, was classy, and it was dark inside. There were small, round tables in the middle of the room and a few square tables against the wall with booth-type seating. The seating all faced the stage where musicians played jazz music. 

There weren’t many people there either. The musicians looked like college kids, but they were outstanding! There was a young woman who sang beautifully with a classic jazz voice. She wore high-waisted blue jeans, popular for women her age. I ordered a beer and sat at a table. During the breaks, the musicians sat at a table with their friends and seemed like band nerds, but they were cute. Two of the guys had long hair pulled back in buns. 

Jazz bar

The other customers were on dates or with a group. I was afraid that I stood out sitting all by myself. 

I ordered fries and another beer and tried to focus on the music, but loneliness wouldn’t go away. I thought to myself, “Maybe going to places like this is bad for me. It reminds me of how alone I am. If I were watching T.V., I would zone out and not think about being with someone.”

I was frustrated that I was ghosted yet again. It’s such a toxic behavior, and so many people do it. Why can’t they just tell me they’re not interested after all? I always start to get my hopes up that there could be potential with someone, no matter how much I tell myself not to. 

Sitting there listening to jazz music, I said to myself, “I need to get off of Tinder. I shouldn’t date. I shouldn’t even think about dating.” I didn’t want to be cynical, but I also didn’t have it in me to keep going through those emotions and letdowns. 

I messaged a friend about how I was feeling and how depressed I was about the possibility of dating or lack thereof. I didn’t want to be in that beautiful city at a swanky jazz bar all alone. I wanted to get to know someone. I wanted someone to want to be with me. Because of the time difference, my friend was just starting her work day. I had nobody to talk with.

I stayed until almost 2:00 am and then tried to find the bus. After walking and searching for 15 minutes, I found one. I asked the bus driver about my stop and showed him where my motel was located on my phone’s map. He said he’d get me there, so I sat down. Then he said, “Keep an eye out for yourself too. We’ll get you there.” The man didn’t even charge me. Maybe I looked too sad. 

I didn’t get to my motel until 3:00 am, and then I showered. My right eye was burning like crazy, likely from the overbearing fragrance in the air. It hurt so bad, and the smell was so awful, I barely slept. 

I hoped that I’d wake up to some encouraging words from my friend, but there was no reply. Days went by before she responded, and it was to tell me that she could talk in a few days. When that time came, she talked about problems she was having with her new boyfriend. By the time she asked about that night, more than two weeks had gone by, and I no longer wanted to talk about it. This was someone I used to speak with daily.

This is one thing that I didn’t expect when traveling long-term. I didn’t expect to lose friends. The distance, both literally and metaphorically, was growing the longer that I was on the road. It was like people thought that I was living the high-life, traveling around the world, having a blast at all times. When I was feeling down or lonely, I reached out from time to time to friends and family, but I didn’t want to be a burden or a downer. 

But there were times I needed someone, and nobody was there. I was on the other side of the world and had been for almost nine months. It had been nearly 15 months since I sold my house and began my full-time travels. My friend had moved on, focused on her new boyfriend and the new life they were creating together. 

My friend and I had a couple of long discussions during the first six months of my travels. She felt that I was off having wild adventures, and she was still at home doing the same old and couldn’t relate. I found myself trying to downplay how exciting my adventures were. I felt powerless to stop the growing gap as our lives split into different lanes. 

I’ve been able to keep in regular touch with a few friends because we both make our phone calls and text messages a priority. And I get it. We all have different levels of friendships. Some friends we talk to every week. Others once a month, and others only every six months. But the times of talking and messaging were becoming less frequent.

I put a lot of effort into my friendships, and I always have. I moved around a lot as a kid from Missouri to Colorado and back again. I used to write hand-written letters to stay in touch back in those days. I know the life changes that result from moving, but I didn’t consider those changes with long-term travel. My stuff was still in storage in Los Angeles. I hadn’t moved anywhere; I just didn’t live there anymore.  

The longer that I was away, the more my friends moved on, making me feel forgotten. Their lives continued, and it wasn’t easy to talk across such long distances. Some felt that they couldn’t relate to me any longer, which I struggled to understand. I don’t have children but most of my friends do. I’ve never felt like we couldn’t relate just because we didn’t have identical lives. Perhaps my loneliness affected my feelings, but it was feeling more and more like I was losing my closest friends.

When I met up with friends a month later, once I was back home, they often thought life must be 100% perfect – I was living the dream. While that is true 90% of the time, 5% is lonely, and another 5% is hard, and things don’t go smoothly, like my $5,000 mistake.

When a friend of mine tells me how they’re losing sleep from a newborn or how their kids are difficult, I don’t think, “Many women can’t have children. You should be grateful that you have them and stop complaining.” I don’t believe that at all. I know that they are grateful for their children and that they wouldn’t change a thing with having them. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes they want to pull their hair out. 

Travel is the same. I have never regretted my decision to travel full-time, and I am beyond grateful to have had the experiences that I did. With Covid lockdowns, I’m even more thankful that I had those opportunities. But there were times, like that night at the jazz bar, where it was challenging. Times when I fought back the tears. Times when I gave in to my tears and cried myself to sleep. 

I never expected it to be 100% pure bliss. Life doesn’t work that way. I just never expected that friends would struggle to relate to me or be jealous. I realized more and more that my journey was leading me in a different direction and that I couldn’t keep fighting for people to be in my life who didn’t want to be in mine, whether it’s a ghost from Tinder or a friend. I needed to respect that sometimes people choose to drift away; sometimes, those are the consequences of leaving your life behind and beginning a new one. 

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6 Responses

  1. I saw this meme the other day that said: I’m done with online dating. Now I’m only dating pizza delivery guys because I know they have a job, a car, and a pizza. hahaha! I’d seriously consider this if they were in my age group.

  2. One would think I couldn’t relate at all to your situation, but I do. I have lost a lot of people this year who I thought were strong friends–talk every day kind of friends. The pandemic changed everything. I even lost my church family. Now, I feel so alone. I don’t have a “talk every day” friend anymore. And the few friends I do hear from only contact me when they want something. I ached when I read this blog entry. I know exactly how you feel and I haven’t traveled anywhere. I have often wished I could escape my depressing situation. We all need a tribe, don’t we? We need somewhere to belong and we need people who love us for who we really are. I think you are pretty awesome and I hope we have dinner again soon!

    1. Yes, we all need a tribe. I think it is difficult when you lose the “talk every day friend” because it changes up your life. The thing is, we’ll eventually find new friends who can become a new tribe. 🙂

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Throughout her wild 3-week journey backpacking 220+ miles in the California Sierra Mountains, Christy encountered freezing temperatures, pelting hail storms, and losing her way, but found trail family, incredible views, and experiences that would change her life forever. Hiking up and over ten different mountain passes gave Christy a lot of time to think about why her nine-year marriage was falling apart, gave her the chance to truly embody her individualism, time to make new friends, and the strength she would need on and off the trail. Her life could never again be the same.
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