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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.
We 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.