If there’s one thing that I’m truly horrible at, it’s making new friends. During high school, I never noticed my ineptitude because I was forced into friendships through band, and other school activities. My freshman year of college is when I first started to notice how bad at friend-making I truly was. It turns out, if you’re bad at something at home, you’re still bad at it when you travel.
Travel can be a freeing experience. You leave home to explore new parts of the world, new cultures, new foods, new people. I know so many people that have made solid friendships with strangers in foreign countries. They meet casually in a hostel, coffee shop, or bar, and just hit it off. I don’t know how they do it. That’s the real problem, not only am I bad at making friends, I don’t know how to do it.
We went on a few cruises when I was younger, and every time my older brother formed these week-long friendships where he and his new friends would go on adventures together; while I stuck to the library and read through the 10 or so books they had on board that I was interested in. It’s not that I didn’t try to make friends, it just never seemed to work out. I was too awkward, or shy, or uninterested in the group activities the crew put together. I assumed I would get better at making friends as I got older. I was wrong.
Nowadays when I travel, I spend most of my time with a pair of headphones in my ears. I’m sensitive to noise, so I like to block out the irritating sounds people make. That and I enjoy listening to soundtracks while I walk, it makes things more interesting for me. Even in pubs, or restaurants, sometimes I’ll pull out my music and listen to it to deter strangers from approaching me.
That’s one of my main problems, I’m not an approachable person. I ‘m short, chubby, and seem like a cheery little forest fairy, but in reality I am a sewer gremlin with the attention span of a lazy dog. I’d much rather be left alone than have to speak to a new person. Sometimes I don’t even want to be around my friends! Solitude is very important to me, and it tends to bleed into my traveling as well.
These days, I travel in shorts bursts. I don’t know how to connect with people over a span of 48 hours. The only friends I’ve made (and kept) over the years have been through forced relationships (ie. Marching Band, Class, Clubs, Roommates). It takes months, if not years, for me to trust new people.
So, what do I do instead when I find I need conversation? I’m friendly to the strangers that do say hello. I’ve had short conversations with people are bars. I collect minuscule acquaintances. I don’t remember names. We don’t add each other on Facebook, and I can’t call upon them when I need a place to stay. But, I make little memories of conversations, and faces, that seem to fulfill my basic need for friendship/companionship. I don’t need human interaction as much as some; just as they may not need solitude as much as I do. Everyone is different, and sometimes being a loner is just fine.
What’s something you wish you were better at? Sometimes I wish I could make friends easier, but I also enjoy being alone so it’s hard for me to want to try harder.
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