You have been working remotely on your laptop and traveling for the last three years. You’re exercising more, doing yoga, taking classes everywhere you go and love watching the tide go in and out. The experience has been good for you, body and soul.
But not heart.
You became accustomed to meeting new people all the time: some crazy, some successful, some amazingly good-looking.
For someone on vacation, this is dazzling. They have their stable, regular relationships at home (romantic or otherwise) and can feast on some relationship candy.
They’re the friends you meet at the hostel and drink with. The friends you say you’ll start a business with, and then ignore the next morning when you check out. The man you have a quickie with on the beach just for the story (the sex wasn’t really that great).
For those on vacation, these brief, superficial relationships are fun . . . Because they have solid relationships at home.
A nomad, on the other hand, has to work while everyone else is partying. When you first started, you hooked up with a bartender who lied about his relationship status. His girlfriend caught the two of you, and then the whole town knew your business.
Since these relationships don’t last, but you keep on traveling, they lose their appeal quickly.
The nomad moves through the world with the same anonymity as a role-player on MySpace back in 2002. You watch people fall in love, cheat, and find someone new in less than a week. You hide in the shadows: mildly entertained, but also (since you’re protecting your own feelings) unwilling to participate.
You watch the same dramas play out in different towns. You watch locals take tourists on the same dates and hook up in the same spots, only for those tourists to leave and those locals to run the same game over and over again.
You want to leave the tourist areas in search for a more authentic experience, but your work and your need to be tied to a strong Internet connection keep you shackled to tourist traps.
Sometimes you meet another nomad, and you co-work in silence. You understand one another, but are both still separated. You’re working on different goals and different tasks. You talk about your jobs and knowingly smile and laugh when someone invited you out and you had to decline.
A person running on a parallel track is the closest thing you have to a close bond.
There are lunches and dinners alone. There are times you’re the only one cooking because you can’t eat out every meal like someone on vacation. There are times groups will go try that new expensive restaurant and you’ll be heating up cheese and tortillas in a pan. There are times a boy will be into you but you’ll have to work, and by the time your shift is over, he will have found someone else. Sometimes it will bother you, and then they all start blending together.
Then it doesn’t bother you at all. Then your feelings simply lock up. You can’t keep meeting new people and caring about them. You can’t keep learning about people’s hopes and dreams. You can’t hold all their stories and pain anymore. You can’t stand talking to someone every day only to never talk to them again once their vacation is over. You can’t keep meeting new people to do things with.
There will be people you share a room with and you won’t bother to learn their names. Sometimes they will be offended, and you’ll feel bad.
And then one day they’ll be offended, and you won’t feel bad.
Because you’re leaving.
You’re eating better. You’re saving money by being in a cheaper country. You’re working while looking at beautiful monuments, natural wonders, and famous buildings. You’re working while eating delicious meals. You meet beautiful men of all ages, colors, and sizes. You’re a pro at finding the best deals. You use your Expedia points and your credit card to get large discounts. You’re part of travel groups on Facebook and you can pack your bag in less than an hour.
Some people back “home” (wherever that is) ask how many dicks you had to suck to get that plane ticket. Some people comment that you’re getting too old and need to settle down. Others wonder if you’re taking drugs.
This makes you feel more lonely: These people were your friends when you were immobile and miserable. Now that you’re traveling and enjoying yourself, they’re not there for you anymore.
They judge you.
You’re in this strange place — You are not as close to your old friends, and you’re developing only very superficial relationships with people you meet.
And then you meet someone who keeps talking to you after they go home. Someone who has seen your mental breakdowns, who has seen you have fun but also has stuck around while you’re working. They don’t expect you to be fun all the time. They know you don’t suck anyone’s dick to buy a plane ticket. They recognize that traveling is a part of your growth, a part of what makes you you.
And for the first time in a long time, you begin to wonder.