One of the most rewarding parts of travelling, aside from being lucky enough to experience and explore another culture, is meeting a whole new group of people from around the world.
Your bunch of friends becomes wonderfully eclectic and you get to spend time with people from all walks of life that you might not get – or allow yourself – the chance to meet in your everyday life. In 2015, I was lucky enough to spend some time solo travelling the east coast of Australia, and realised that although most of my new buddies were way younger than me I still had a great time exploring (and partying) with them.
I’ll be the first to admit that, at the age of *ahem* 29, I would never have thought about spending time with a 19 year old and actually having anything in common.
Travel acts as a catalyst for meeting new people. When we find ourselves in a completely unknown city or country, we seek out others – often fellow travellers – with less trepidation than we might usually.
Travel strips us bare.
No, I don’t mean we spend all of our time in the nuddy, rather we are stripped of all our daily armour – the wardrobe (I spent months in the same pair of denim cut offs), the makeup, the job role, technology, misconceptions – and are forced to present the “real us” to the world.
Due to its transient nature, travelling often ensures that you meet someone new every day. When you’re chucking yourself into activities – group tours to climb mountains, scuba diving, boat trips – moving into new hostels, or simply just hanging out at the beach with a book and a beer, there is always someone new to talk to. Someone completely different.
Life becomes a lot more vibrant and interesting.
At the moment, I am based back in Manchester, England. It’s a great city (I wax lyrical about my love for my adopted home town for my blog on Northern Soul, It’s Not Grim Up North) with whom I am experiencing a rekindled love affair – if anyone asks about my dating life, I can honestly say that while there are zero men in my life right now, there is one big crush and that’s my city – but it is a place which I have certainly taken for granted in previous years.
As I look at it now, through eyes altered by solo-travel, I realise that we’ve been approaching this life thing all wrong.
We reserve our true selves – our curious selves, our more accepting, happy selves – for when we travel and feel far from home. I suppose it feels safer. We are convinced that we’ve taken a holiday from our humdrum lives, but really it’s like coming back to yourself.
Ok, so I need one of you to pass me a sick bucket when I hear someone state they “truly found themselves” when they were travelling but, although I kind of hate to admit it, it’s true.
Not in the cheesy, hippy-dippy way people might imagine. It’s more like bumping into yourself, or spending that little bit longer when looking in the mirror – like, really looking – and noticing what you actually look like for the first time.
Oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you. I was getting worried.
It helps us to figure out what we really want from our lives. I remember sitting on that very last flight from Hong Kong back to London and trying to make sense of the jumbled of thoughts inside my head. Everything had changed. My thoughts, feelings, opinions and future aspirations had all altered.
So why do we not make our everyday an adventure? Why do we not seek out new people? Experience new things? Throw ourselves in at the deep end?
Why are we so afraid to be kind to each other? To be truthful and less judgemental? To open up to another person and let them in?
In light of this, and all the dating-the-city stuff I’ve been doing recently, I’ve been urging myself and others to be more spontaneous in our every day.
Yeah, sometimes you’re just tired after work and want to go home and binge-watch Netflix with the dog, but you’re probably missing out on some serious fun. I’ve decided to use my traveller head when making decisions about my social life. ‘Travel me’ would have said yes to all invites, would have gone in head first, and spoken to everyone.
So what are you waiting for?
Go speak to someone new in your local pub. Take that invite and head for a pint with a new work colleague or someone you don’t know very well. Dance with a group of people you’ve just met. Go to that house party. Don’t sweat about the small stuff. Talk to people outside bars. Get off Tinder, or whatever it is you’re doing that’s making you look down at your phone, and take a good look around you. There are so many new people for you to discover in your home town or city, its just a matter of you putting yourself out there.
As I write this I am sitting with my legs wrapped in a blanket, dressed in my pyjama shorts and a questionable Disney tee-shirt. It’s a glorious day outside and I’ve got my laptop balanced precariously on my knees. The dogs vying for my attention, being all cute and silly and I am just that tiny bit hungover. It’s been a weekend where housemate and I have certainly been “more traveller” and said yes to just about all our social invites. I’m pretty exhausted.
A quick drink with a work colleague (a traveller) on Friday turned into new-found friendships and a further night out. German. Australian. English. Indian. We were a pretty eclectic bunch.
My point is, take a chance on that slightly unknown social occasion, the one that has the potential to maybe be a little awkward at first because you don’t anyone, because in reality it could be so much fun!