Becoming forgettable | How absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder

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Everyday, Dani and I open up our email accounts – we have six between us – and check our messages. It is all pretty standard stuff: newsletters, press releases, advertisements. More and more often, we receive thankful notes from our readers, who are inspired by our bold action to pack up and travel, encouraging us to keep traveling and keep writing about it.

Those emails are the best! They really spur us on and remind us how thankful we are to have packed up and started this crazy adventure in the first place. 

After all, the hardest part about living your dreams is that initial step to just get up and go.

Make new friends, but keep the old

However, what we rarely get are emails from friends and family. You know – all those people who made up our entire social circle before we left. The problem is, we really try to keep in touch. We’ll email, send pictures, send little ‘reminder’ emails about how we are so excited to get that email from them – an update about what’s going on in their lives. We’ll ask detailed questions, try to make Skype dates to call or chat…but to no avail. We even send about 20 postcards from each country we are in…and almost never hear back if the cards have even arrived.

Sometimes, this really gets us down. In fact, at some point last year we felt like people had forgotten us entirely. I think the longest I have gone without an email from friends from home is three weeks.

It is not that we are lonely, of course. We meet new people every day in the places we visit and, somehow more importantly, we have created a circle of fellow nomads that we have met both online and offline. With these people we tweet, Facebook, email and Skype – sometimes on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Relationships  2.0 – Friends and family in an online world

One of our favorites, who we have actually met in person, told us the other day that he loves hanging out with us because of our ‘magnetic’ personalities. Words such as these certainly help us to feel like we’ve not somehow become a couple of boring old do-nothings…but we still don’t understand why our nearest and dearest don’t feel that ‘magnetic’ pull anymore.

On a recent trip home to Chicago, we discovered one reason why we might feel so…forgettable. We met up with my aunt for lunch one day, and she was cracking up before we even said Hello! The first thing she said to us was how hilarious that post was about how long-term travel can cause heart attacks.  Over and over she mentioned how much she loves our site, and how she sends so many of our articles to people that she knows. That felt so good to hear – most people we know from home never even mention our site. Later that week, a friend said how much she loves the ‘Globetrotter Girls’ and brags about us to her friends. We heard these comments a few times from exactly some of the people who we say don’t respond to our emails, postcards, or attempts to Skype. This made us realize that at least a handful of people aren’t ignoring us. It’s like my aunt said – “Oh I always feel like I know what is happening with you two thanks to your website.” They know what we are doing, but we still don’t know about their lives.

Since becoming nomads we have both had the chance to visit home and told them about our website, or the number of pictures they can see on our Facebook page to keep up with our travels. However, although we are 100 percent certain that all of our friends know about the GlobetrotterGirls, few read the site or follow us on Facebook. In fact, of all of Dani’s friends – exactly one actively reads our site. As for my friends, only one has ever actively requested to see her face on our website after hanging out – a request we were most happy to oblige.

jess tracey felix eldorado canyonWe find this so confusing – especially as more and more people we have never met write us enthusiastic emails and love hearing about our adventures. It’s already hard enough knowing that we are not present for people’s birthdays, weddings or magical moments of their newborn babies who should someday be calling us Auntie Jess or Auntie Dani but in actual fact may never know who we are if we keep on traveling like this. Neither of us can stand not knowing why a friend on Facebook cryptically mentions ‘staying positive even if there are too many a-holes’ in the world. What does that mean? What happened? We email to find out, but no response comes – but when I am home, you still make me your choice to talk about it with, to cry with, or to drink through it with. Out here, I am decoding a Facebook message trying to make sense of it myself.

We know people are busier than ever with jobs and families and their everyday lives…but we also know that most of them still spend as much time on Facebook or Twitter or Skype – tending to their ‘farms’ or playing with ‘angry birds’ or posting cryptic messages. They are on the sites that could connect us…they’re just not connecting with us.

Absolutely No Regrets

Our motto is No Regrets – and we certainly do not regret choosing this lifestyle. You will not hear a complaint from us about this adventurous, liberating turn our lives took in April 2010. We certainly don’t regret getting out here to experience each day to the fullest. But I don’t think that either one of us were mentally prepared to have so many friendships shelved by lack of contact. Especially not in a world where social media seamlessly connects people across time zones and continents and these tools allow us to communicate in real time, any time.  Somehow these tools can’t keep us connected to friends from home, no matter how hard we try – especially because not everyone documents their daily adventures on a website we can subscribe to (by the way, if you haven’t subscribed to us, you should – you can sign up at the end of this post).

So if the past 21 months of travel have taught us anything, it has been that one of the downsides of this nomadic lifestyle has been the suddenly sporadic contact with people from home, the ones you have known the longest and shared the most with.

Luckily, we have also learned about countless people who would love to do what we are doing – and just might if we can convince them! We’ve also met some amazingly inspirational people ourselves this year and last year through the site. Some of the people we’ve come to respect so much are here in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the same time with us, and we have been able to spend time with a circle of great new buddies. Unlike last year’s non-event Christmas in Honduras, we celebrated Christmas with our friends Erin & Simon of Never Ending Voyage, eating all the things we miss here in Asia and spending a great day together.  This was a good thing, too, since there were only three Christmas emails from friends and family to answer when we got home.

christmas with erin & simon in chiang maiDo you find it difficult to stay in touch with friends and family over long distances? What do you do to stay in touch best with those you miss from home?


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Tags : Travel Reflectionstravel thoughts


  1. You put my exact thoughts into words that I can never quite express. I have traveled away from home for the past 7years in the states (for work). There are so many times that I wish family and friends from home would connect but they don’t….

    I always feel that it’s because they don’t understand my wanderlust and feel that we don’t have anything in common anymore.

    Well spoken; thank you.

    1. Hi Candy…that is so sweet…I’m glad we verbalized something you were feeling – it seems there are plenty of us that feel that way. Now we all just need to make friends and be in touch 🙂

      1. I too had been wondering about this and was trying to find the best way to write about it. I was going to go the “Who cares” angle and talk about how its human nature to adapt and carry on.

        I asked my good friend why he never asks me what I’m doing. Btw I’m of the mind we are all doing something awesome and noteworthy, traveling or not. I enjoyed my FBook chat with him so much I kept it.

        “its a passing thought ‘Oh loz is travelling’, then immediately ‘man i love xbox!’…

        I think the gist we get is ‘yep. loz is doing what he wants to do. hes safe. cool’. and thats it man. we all chase what we want and are doing exactly what we want to do right now we just have different priorities”

        Recently I realised there is another component. True we are having wonderful moments, often it is shared with awesome, like-minded strangers, whether locals or travelers. That is where the bonds are forged and strengthened. I think we sometimes wish – Why can’t these moments be had with longtime friends? Where bonds have already been solidified.

        1. Hi Loz, That’s definitely true – here we are making all these new friendships and experiencing so many amazing things in the world, but if we could share it with people with whom we have been friends for a long time, it might mean something so much more. I see what you mean. And also, it’s true about our friends – one minute they think of us, but then it’s right on to the next thing because like us, their lives are going on as well.

    2. I also experienced this problem while I was in Mexico for two months. I kept telling my children that I really loved getting emails from them…without sounding too pitiful I hoped. I was kind of homesick at times, even though- like you said, I had met lots of cool people in Mexico and wasn’t really alone with nothing to do. Unfortunately I had no Skype which I think is the answer to lots of problems, I guess it’s like everyday living at home….you don’t think twice about initiating get togethers or calling friends–but when you are traveling, it just seems like they should miss you more and be the one to do the initiating!!!!

      1. Getting homesick makes everything that much harder, too, doesn’t it? But at least you went to Mexico, spent time there, lived what some people would really consider a huge dream!
        Good on you for that, Claudia!

  2. So understand this. We always say this about our friends as well.

    i think that often they don’t as they feel they don’t have anything as exciting to tell you. Even though to you what they are doing is important and you want to know it, they feel it is not as it is there normal life and not as glamorous as travelling.

    It does make you sad though. I just concentrate on building those relationships with those who want to keep in contact and still love those who don’t and catch up when we return. Things do change though. I’m not as close as I once was with a lot of my old friends

    1. I really never thought of it that way Caz- people feel like they’re just not exciting to us – that just might be true! Also, even though they don’t ever get in touch, my best friends are the ones who, no matter what, when I come home it’s like no time has passed at all. I have a few of those and it’s amazing how comfortable we still are around each other. But it doesn’t mean I don’t wish we talked more while we are away. You’re right though – focus on the positive relationships. Really good advice!!!

  3. I completely understand this and we’ve had a very similar experience. It is easy to feel like you have been forgotten although when we went back we discovered that some people do read our site often but just never comment. I even found out my friend’s mum reads it all the time!

    I think it’s true that those people often don’t respond to emails because they think they don’t have anything exciting to say, and they know what we’ve been up to through FB & the website.

    Those that don’t read or write emails probably just find this life too difficult to relate to. Unfortunately there will be some friendships that just drift away.

    We are glad to have you two as new friends though who understand what we are doing.

    Love the thoughtful and personal post btw 😉

    1. Exaclty – there are those who really do read the site and it feels good to hear that they do. And also, yes – I honestly never thought about the fact that some people might not think they have something interesting to say. But I really do still want to know everything that is going on with people – when I go home and get back all involved in even the tiny details of friends and family, I love that. I wish it could stay like that on the road. We promised this time after Chicago – my friends and I – that we would be better….for the first week we were, but not so much anymore. We love having you guys as friends, too – not only do we understand each other’s lives – but we just keep meeting up on different sides of the planet 🙂 ps thought you’d like this post 🙂

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this! My last big trip was for 2 years and I barely heard from friends or family. It really surprised me. I, too, received comments from friends who thought their lives were too boring to write about and often got told… ‘we’re living vicariously through you’… after I returned. But actually I loved receiving news from home and the absence of communication was felt.

    And I hear you about the postcards! I religiously send postcards from every place I visit… making sure that all my friends and family get one every month or so. It’s a huge effort. It would be nice to know that they arrive.

    As bloggers and writers, communicating is our bread and butter. Perhaps it just doesn’t come as naturally to others.

    1. Hey Kirsten – also an excellent point – as writers and bloggers I suppose we are automatically keen to communicate, something our friends might not be, that’s true! Glad to hear we’re not alone on the post card thing. Only two of our friends ever even really mention them. But we keep sending them because we know people do like to get them, right? And we’ve definitely heard the vicariously living through you more than once, too. Which is great, I am glad we are living exciting lives, but home is just as important to us! Thanks so much for commenting, btw!

  5. Oh goodness.. yes, we’ve definitely noticed this as well in our social circles. And every time we return to one of our previous home bases, we seem to have less and less connections.

    I think it’s at least partly a combination of:

    – Some real life relationships just don’t translate to online mediums, especially those that were initially developed in person
    – When you fall out of daily proximity to some folks, you fall off their monkeysphere (ie. the number of people they can actively keep up with)
    – While folks admire what we’re up to, they either just don’t get it, don’t feel they can adequately contribute or feel somewhat intimidated.
    – They read a entry blog, and feel caught up enough with us.. forgetting that we have no context for what is up in their lives.

    In some ways it’s sad – I do very much miss regular interactions with people who we were once regular witnesses of each other’s lives. For the first couple of years, I thought this would be the thing that took me off the road… missing these types of friendships.

    Being nomadic does entail some redefinition of community. And once I was able to make that shift, I think community is now a major contributor to what continues to drive us to keep on the road some 5 years later. And definitely, our closest friends these days tend to be fellow nomads … who we enjoy rendezvousing with all over.

    1. Hi Cherie – it’s so interesting to see just how many people share these feelings with us! It seems you have had such similar experiences to us, and that you also get sad about losing touch with those friends you used to know so well. The ones who are technophobes – we totally understand. It’s the ones who are all over Facebook/Twitter but don’t stay in touch that make us sad a lot of the time. Also you’re right about redefining community as a nomad. We have starting forming some really great relationships with fellow nomads, which is so fulfilling!

  6. Completely understand! I’ve been living in Papua New Guinea for the last 7 months – it’s not that far from Australia but I really do feel like I’m missing out on a lot of stuff from home. I think it’s harder for people to email those that are away – for them, it’s like life is still continuing and those “normal” moments in their lives that you really, really want to hear about are pretty standard for them! They probably feel like it’s not even worth tapping out on a keyboard.

    Stay positive though! You won’t be forgotten! 🙂

    1. Right, Rebecca – a lot of people probably think that these ‘normal’ moments are unspectacular, without realizing just how badly we want to hear all about them!

  7. I think Caz has a good point about why people don’t write as frequently.

    I’ve only been gone 14 months, and I do not receive frequent emails from friends. But I receive the big updates, and every once in a while, I get a “just thinking about you” email which absolutely makes my day.

    I think I just assume all of my friends read my website. If they aren’t, I don’t want to know!

    1. That’s funny, Stephanie! We kind of assumed all our friends would read our site, and then we would reference something that we had definitely written about and we could see right away that friends or family had no idea what we were talking about. Nowadays we get our most uplifting emails from our awesome readers and fellow nomads it seems. There is the occasional ‘just thinking of you’ email – but we’d still take a whole lot more of those!

  8. This used to really, REALLY bother me a lot when we first left. I don’t care now if my friends don’t read my website, I understand if there are more important things to do then wonder what I ate in Italy. People have busy lives, and I get that.

    But when I send personal emails and inquiries on what is going on, it does hurt not to hear back. Some friendships have absolutely faded from my life because of it – and have been particularly painful. One of my best friends before I left home is no longer in my life, and it happened very soon on in my travels. I was going through a really difficult time and I tried to reach out to her to no avail. What I have learned though is that if I’m not getting the same effort back from my friends then I put into it, then they are not worth it, and it is time to “unplug”. Friends come and go, and as painful as it can be, sometimes we are better off in the long run anyways.

    1. You’re right, Dalene – our friends don’t need to know about what we ate in Italy either – and the older we get, the busier people get with jobs and life and work and family. We get that, too. Some friends we definitely lose touch with – and that hurts. On another level though, what also hurts, is that when we go home and spend time with friends, it feels so great, but as soon as we leave, it’s communication graveyard again until we make the effort again to come home. I guess it would be nice to know more often that people actually thinking of us when we’re away…

  9. I have experienced this and not at the same time.

    I moved abroad and doing do made me lose a lot of friends. It was as if they thought I had abandoned them, which is ridiculous.

    But I also had a lot of people that would never email, skype or comment on my blog but when I did finally get ahold of them, I would find out they did read my blog after all. I constantly had to convince them that their lives interested me and just because they aren´t traveling doesn´t mean I don´t want to hear about their lives!

    Others never read my stuff and that hurts sometimes. You put so much into what you write and complete strangers will become your friends through your blog yet your friends from home don´t care?! So hard to swallow.

    Luckily, when I took my 6 week trip back to the states, I found that I still had a solid base of friends. It was much, much smaller, but being away truly made me realize who my real friends were. The ones that were equal in the communications, the ones I didn´t need to get life updates from because I already knew.

    Wishing you both the best and I hope to be one of those people you actually meet someday!

    1. Rease – you really hit the nail on the head here. We both still have really great friends back home. And while the group has gotten smaller – the best ones are still there, definitely, no question. We get particularly sad about the fact that we make ourselves so available online – Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Skype, email and of course, our site – we just wish more people would take advantage of staying in touch. But then, like you say, strangers and readers become our friends through our site, which is great – and we definitely, absolutely hope to be able to meet you someday – maybe next summer?!

  10. Wow, I feel like I could have written this myself! Feeling like people have forgotten me back home has been one of the hardest things about my trip! I do everything you mentioned trying to get friends to keep in touch but it seems to no avail. A few weeks ago, I had set up a Skype call with a small group of friends back home and was devastated when they just totally forgot!

    At the same time, I do get emails or comments here and there from people telling me they’re reading everything – and often it’s the most random people, like a girl from high school I haven’t talked to in 15 years!

    I got the best surprise though when I woke up Christmas morning to an e-card from 30 of my friends back in Chicago!! I almost cried. Made me realize that maybe they haven’t totally forgotten me yet. 🙂

    Happy holidays – hope our paths cross sometime in Chicago or elsewhere!

    1. Katie – that is so so great of your friends to send you that card for Christmas – People don’t realize just how much these little moments sometimes matter more than anything. We also have friends from high school who read our site, too, we found out – love that! Definitely hope our paths cross sometime soon!!

  11. let me just say…shame on your ‘friends’…and I don’t care if they’re reading. I’ve been living abroad for the past 2 and a half years…sure, it is true that you don’t speak to friends as often as when you live in the same country, but my REAL friends ALWAYS answer an email if I send one, as well as regularly comment on posts and photos on facebook. I also get birthday wishes, birthday cards and gifts. So yes, communication is reduced, but heck, if a friend totally disappears I wouldn’t consider that person a friend anymore.

    1. Ah well….it’s a tough call. We were feeling the same way, too, and for some friends it is really frustrating. But for others – like one of my best friends, I went home and saw what her situation is like right now and I realize that she is in a really really tough place at the moment. Now I understand and don’t have any hard feelings. The others, the ones on Facebook ALL the TIME, that hurts. But we don’t count people out as friends at all. Life’s too short for that, we think, and also, I think we’ve both done an awesome job at collecting a pretty amazing group of friends, so it would be a shame to ex-communicate them. For now, though, we’re still hovering around sad, maybe we’ll move on to angry as time goes on. But we’d still never give this lifestyle up – at least not now!!!

  12. …and then you come home and realize that friends and family are simply stuck in the same “rat race” you left them in. They just don’t find the right time with one day running into the next. But in most cases it doesn’t hurt your relationship, as you reconnect as if you’ve never been away.
    2 or 3 years on the road might feel like a lot to you, because it’s an impression overload, but to people stuck in a daily routine it seems to be nothing.
    The weirdest experience is, when people speak about developments, news items, or simple family affairs as if everybody knows about them – except you. What has been back home their main talking point for months might have completely passed you by. We’re “home” now for over 2 years, and still discover “gaps” in our knowledge (where everybody thinks we should really know that).
    Don’t worry too much – not many relationships are lost! ♥

    1. Hi Juergen – definitely know what you mean with this. I’ve been abroad in total now for about ten years and each time I come home for an extended period of time, I realize that it isn’t so hard to just jump in and get used to things again. Sometimes I wonder if this matters more to both of us now because we are getting older and realize the importance of friendships more than when we were young twenty-somethings. Or maybe it is because we love this nomadic lifestyle so much more than just living abroad before, and want people to share in the excitement. I know for me personally it has a lot to do with the fact that I have never actually tried so hard before to keep in touch, and also because we are a bi-national couple, where do we go home to when we do go home? For at least one of us, this abroad thing is going to be forever….

  13. While I’m not a RTW, since moving abroad from Toronto to Berlin, I’ve found the same thing with family and friends! It’s certainly hard to deal with. Love your positive attitude and that you’re both going to keep on travelling. =)

    1. Thanks Cheryl! Sorry to hear you have found it hard to keep in touch, too…life is too short to not do what you love, so we are going to keep traveling as long as it’s what we want to do and wish you luck in doing the same! 😉 very cool that you moved to Berlin, it’s one of our favorite cities!

  14. I do understand to a certain degree how friends and family can lose touch when you are traveling long term. When you aren’t apart of their lives, and vice versa, you naturally lose a bit of touch. Although I