I very much consider myself one of the luckiest people on earth being able to just drift around enjoying my existence here in South America. There’s the sun, the heat, the tropical ocean water, the surf, the beautiful beaches and the small towns with the laid back reggae vibes. And best of all, no responsibilities. It’s amazing! I am daily trying to remind myself how wonderful my life is right now and how great it is not ever having to regret a wasted day, because I actually have days to waste.
Although these things are wonderful on their own, they become the mere backdrop for the real highlight of traveling; the people you meet and the relationships you create along the way. They’re shortlived and intense like a hot fling, filled with fun activities and the discovering of new experiences together. Things that normally would take months or years to cover with someone at home when you’re interrupted by a daily routine. Meeting people when you travel is meeting them when they’re at their best, when they have no worries, nothing to complain about. It’s the easiest, most exciting relationship you’ll ever have! But there’s a reason you’ll still need and miss your friends back home.
Travellers love other travellers. You might think at first it’s because they’re cut of the same explorer-cloth, all about finding themselves and free of conventional ways. I think it’s because after you’ve travelled for a bit you’re as carefree as them. Being anxious, rigid and all stressed is not very welcomed as far as I’ve noticed. And I would know as I spent my first month this way. Which means my friends back home were still my friends even when I was a more annoying person. That’s a trait not so easily found on the road. As no one knows you really well, having a bad day will colour how they see you as a person, so you better snap out of that shit quickly.
As a hostel will provide you with new people every day, you will with some effort and initiative have an endless group of playmates and also a more diverse one than what you’d probably encounter at home. I’ve met so many people who surprised me in amazing ways beyond that first impression that led me to think we had nothing in common. Also, meeting so many representatives from so many different cultures taught me so much more than what I could ever discover in my little homely bubble. It’s all new, exciting and shiny, but relying on yourself to take part in the action, the action will not come to you.
The worst situation, usually revealing how meaningful a friendship is, is when you get sick. And at home you at least have the comfort of your own place, but being sick when you’re in a hostel is a bitch. Especially when you discover, like me, that the people who you’ve been hanging out with for a while actually didn’t give much of a shit. I was firstly disappointed, but then realised that even though you feel super close to these people you live with and spend every day with, these slightly superficial meetings has nothing on your close friends back home.
There are of course those few people who you will get really close to, even travel with for a while, before your paths go their separate ways. You hope to meet again and you’ll stay in touch even as you get back to your real life. Facebook saw to that. As well as the romances. Dating someone when you travel is not optimal. But it is what it is, you’re together when you’re together and not when you’re apart. Still, staying in touch on facebook.
So, after traveling for 9 months I was missing something familiar and more than a-week-or-a-month-tops relationships. You say goodbye to everyone constantly, and even get immune to it. You stop being sad about separating from all these amazing people because there are more fun people to come. And the most familiar thing I knew, was Itacaré, the place I stayed the longest and where a lot of familiar people were still around. I could go back and continue building on relationships already started rather than looking for a new place with new people.
Being back it is refreshing to see old faces again. The town has that safe feeling of home when you know how the it works, where to go and how to get there (usually by walking, the town is minimal). And people remembering you. Not being a total stranger this time, but someone who obviously liked the place enough to come back. Staying long enough, people in the street might actually call my name rather than “surfista”.
The one I thought I’d be closest too, is actually the most of a stranger right now. The last time I was here I was dating my surf instructor. I know, can I be more of a cliché, right? Anyway, it didn’t feel like anything serious, but it was just fun hanging out and so we did for 5-6 weeks. And then I left. Crying as this was before I got immune to goodbyes. Butv we stayed in touch. For seven months while I was traveling he was a constant reminder of Itacaré. As I was always going traveling, we made no promises and I think it would have been way to early to as well. No ties and living in the moment. That’s seems to be the mere essence of relationships when traveling.
So this time we hung out for like a week, before (after a lot of back and forth as Brazilian guys are not good at talking shit out) he breaks it off, explaining that having a relationship is too much when he knows I’m going to leave and get to move on while he’ll still be here. And I’m not the first who has presented him with this dilemma of course. Travellers are flaky f*ckers. Because he is right. For me it would just be some fun hanging out for a couple of months, I never saw a real future here, but we’d stay in touch for a bit as I’m going back home, you know, facebook. But then I’ll be off travelling again, and then I’ll forget. That is why traveling gets you addicted, you move from one high to another, and if something is not making you feel good anymore you just move on. You never have to deal with stuff, you become laid back and lighthearted, and people love you for it.
As I can tell I’m picking up some of these traits, I’m not sure I love me for it, because I love my old friends for their caring, loyalty and sense of obligation. So even though I’m not done with traveling just yet, I think I’m done with the long term backpacking for a bit. I’m staying put, making the most of my time left here in Itacaré and working on all my friendships, existing and new ones. Through good and bad days, although they are mostly good.