Making friends abroad – the sad side to life downunder

Is travel as great as it sounds?

I’ve spent the last year in New Zealand living a pretty nomadic life. Six months in Queenstown interspersed with travel around the whole country – plus five weeks in Ahipara. And whilst it’s truly been a dream to travel around this stunningly beautiful country – to live out of my car and camp in remote yet stunning places – it begins to get tiring and lonely after an extended period of time.

Since I left home in January 2015 my friendships have been somewhat fluid and never stable. While this way of life may work for some – especially those younger than myself – you begin to miss those friends you’ve left behind who you can talk to about anything, have a laugh with about everything and who will always be there for you.

I shouldn’t complain. I’m travelling and that means that your friends will go as rapidly as they enter your life. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some fabulous life-long friends from my many trips around the world. But, it’s like I suddenly hit a brick wall and realised… I’m too tired for this.

It was easy enough making friends in Queenstown – practically everyone is new for the ski season, everyone wants to make friends and it seems that you instantly know a bunch of people to party with and ski with. Whether they’re from your hostel, house, work or shared lifts up the mountain. It’s easy. But, these friendships are almost always temporary and rarely meaningful.

So I began to rely heavily on my friends and family back home. Through endless chats on whatsapp and facebook messenger, and the occasional skype session. It’s hard when those closest to you are 11-13 hours behind, so you can only realistically chat morning or evening – but when it’s the middle of the day and you just want to chat to your best friend – and you can’t. That’s when it sucks the most. As much as I crave being on the road and seeing the world – I began to crave stability and solid friendships more. And so I decided to settle in Wellington for the foreseeable future.

The sad reality of making friends in a new city

Wellington is a fantastic city. There’s so much going on, from comedy and live music to street festivals and amazing craft beer – not only is it ‘hip’ but it’s surrounded by the sea and lush green hills – it’s just absolutely beautiful. I love living here, I’ve got a good job, a nice house in a cool area of town, and I’m getting out and about – doing new things, meeting people and having fun. But, despite this, it’s still flipping hard to make friends.

Back in the UK I’ve been very lucky to have been blessed with some fantastic friendships. Even after I moved back to my hometown after living in Nottingham for 5 years, I had a solid group of new friends after a couple of months. I’ve never struggled with making good friends, until now.

Perhaps I’ve forgotten how to form normal friendships because I’ve been on the move for so long.
Perhaps I expect too much too soon and ultimately push people away – stemming from the ‘instant travel friend syndrome’.
Perhaps I’m overly friendly which comes across as ‘clingy’ – which maybe stems from my Christian background.
Perhaps people simply don’t want to be friends with someone who they don’t think will be around for long.

It could be a variety of reasons. Is it me? Is it them? Or is it to do with the society we have become.

Let’s face it. Our society has become so engrossed with social media, texting, Tinder, and other online activities that we’ve forgotten how to interact in the real world. Friendships have become disposable. Communication has become lazy. And too often we forget that the people we chat to via text are real people too. It’s become easy to drop people by just slowly cutting them out of our lives. Despite instant communication it seems to have become harder to pin people down and to hang out in the flesh – it’s become easy to cancel, to simply avoid contact by not responding to messages, and to flake out when we get a better offer. Gone are the days of planned regular hang-outs because we can simply ‘text to arrange something’, but then never do. We live ‘online’ lives even more than our real ones – we’d rather sit on our phones than meet someone in person. Is this why I’m finding it so hard – are people not bothered anymore?

I am a self confessed text-a-holic. I guess it’s my main way of staying in touch with my best friends who are miles away from me – it’s just become the norm for developing and keeping these friendships. And maybe this way of contact has overlapped into the friendships I’m attempting to build in Wellington – and having a detrimental effect. As a friend I like to check in on people to see how they’re doing – especially if I haven’t seen them in a while. I enjoy having a little chat via text, a little banter here and there. But so often our words can be misconstrued, or we may say too little, or too much – we may seem needy, or clingy, or desperate. We shouldn’t have to overthink what we say to prospective friends, in fear that we’ll scare them off. But then we shouldn’t feel like we have to respond to someone, or get upset when someone doesn’t. Texting is a wonderful way of keeping in touch, but it also dehumanises us and has a detrimental effect on furthering blossoming friendships. Stop texting, pick up the phone, or even better – meet over a drink or dinner to catch up properly. That’s the best way to forge relationships.

It’s the sad reality of suddenly realising you’re in your late 20s, that you’re 12,000 miles from home and you don’t have a solid group of friends close by to talk to and hang out with. Perhaps panic mode has set in – I’m realising how alone I am after spending more than a year away from home. And I desperately crave close friendships – but it’s just much, much harder than I ever anticipated, and have ever experienced.

It’s not as if I’m not going out of my way to meet people – I do regular weekly activities, I go to social events, meet up with already present friends – I meet loads of people, and yet it seems I have some problem moving from ‘person I hang out with a couple of times’, to ‘friend’. Friendship is a two-way street after all, but so often it doesn’t feel that way. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s a wider problem – maybe as a society we need to collectively rethink our treatment of others and start to treat people with more respect. I can’t answer that. But what I do know, is that making friends is never easy.

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3 thoughts on “Making friends abroad – the sad side to life downunder

  1. Anette says:

    Wow, sweety! you sound like you need one of the biggest hugs you can get. I know it’s not the same as a proper physical hug but I send you one in my thoughts anyway – huuuuggggg.
    Yes, finding friends is never easy and a lot of people you meet along the way end up being aquaintances rather than true friends.
    Here at VS we all miss you and your good spirits and I hope it helps just a little to know that you are always in our minds and hearts.
    We are looking at moving to new offices this year, so that will be exciting. The BG Store has closed down for re-vamping and the VS adventure just keeps growing.
    I hope you will consider us as your friends even if we are not close by.
    Lots of love and hugs from us all, Anette

  2. Sue Lockley says:

    Jo

    I must say I experienced the same after travelling for two years, same questions, where you going, where you been, everyone’s in transit, friendship are fluid.
    Definitely sounds like you need a base and job for a period so I
    hope you enjoy windy Wellington.
    But whatever travelling is great, the bug never leaves me……

    Have fun,

    Sue

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