Have you met many interesting people yet? That’s a question I hear a lot. I guess it makes sense for people to assume that, while traveling around New Zealand on my own, I would meet some cool people.
But I haven’t really, yet. And, truth is, it’s probably not because there are no cool people to meet, but because I choose not to engage with them.
The other day I was staying at one of the last few ‘secret’ camping spots in New Zealand with only one other guy. Being just the two of us, we started chatting. He was from New Zealand, traveling solo in this motorhome for the summer months and he loves surfing. We clearly had a lot in common. After we chatted for a few minutes, he suggested we could have a glass of wine together later on. I said ‘yeah, maybe’ but had no intention to.
And it’s not because I’m shy or worried about his intention. It’s simply that, given a choice, I prefer to spend my evening on my own in my van reading a book instead of making small talk with a stranger. Yes, I'm definitely an introvert ;)
I really like that I’m good at being on my own, that I enjoy me-time. I think it gives me a level of independence that others don’t have. It makes me less dependent on other’s people and their opinions and makes it easier to be true to myself.
But sometimes I worry that I’m too good at it. That I enjoy being on my own too much. The thing is, I love my friends and having them around. As much as I enjoy the solo traveling, going surfing, kitesurfing and on other adventures on my own, I always have even more fun when my friends are around.
What I don’t like, is spending time with strangers. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m the super shy, head-down, don’t talk to my kind of person. I like having a quick chat with people I meet along the way. Most people who met me briefly would probably describe me as friendly and outgoing. The problem is, after 5 or 10 minutes of casual chatting, I’m done. Spending an hour or more making small talk with someone I don’t know over a glass of wine sounds like hard work to me, not like an enjoyable evening.
But the thing is, all my friends were strangers at some point. And if I hadn’t invested time back when I didn’t know them, if I hadn’t made it through that early small talk, then I wouldn’t have the amazing friends I have today.
It takes me a long time to make friends – real friends. When I look back, a lot of my close friends have always been people I work with, live with or that are a regular part of my live for some other reason. That means, in the beginning I would see them regularly more or less in a natural way. And then over time you get to know each other, I start to get comfortable with them and a friendship starts to form.
When I meet people now that I’m traveling, the (overly loud) rational part of my brain thinks I probably will never meet these people again so what’s the point of getting to know them? It’s not like we’re gonna be friends after a glass of wine. I barely have enough energy for the friends that I have so how will I have energy for new ones?
But mostly, it just seems so exhausting to invest time in getting to know people. I’d rather spend that time on my own, reading, writing, thinking.
But what if I’m missing out on meeting amazing people? What if I’m missing out on meeting people who I can learn from? People who maybe have incredible insights and stories that could help guide me on this whole Life Done Differently journey?
I love being a solo travel right now, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I often do think it would be nice to find someone, one day, who I could share these experiences with. Someone who wants to come on adventures with me, who can teach me new things, push me to try harder, be more, be better - bonus points if he can help me figure out this surfing thing ;)
I’m really glad that I am someone who doesn’t NEED to find this person to be happy, but I do sometimes think that maybe life would be even better if I had that person.
But how am I ever going to find him if I don’t really engage with new people? How will I meet new people to learn from and get inspiration from if I’m not open to meeting new people? If I don’t invest time into getting to know someone?
I was kind of hoping that when I’m traveling on my own and have a lot of me-time, I would be more excited about meeting new people. I was hoping I would have more energy for it because I automatically get a lot of alone time to re-charge. But right now, it almost feels like the opposite is happening. It’s like the more time I spend on my own the more comfortable I get with it and the more I don’t need other people.
And maybe that is because I’m actually happier on my own. Maybe I am better off on my own. But I won’t really know until I try. So, I’ve decided that for the next four weeks I will try. I will make more of an effort to engage with people – not just for five or ten minutes but to actually spend some time with them and get to know them. For the next four weeks I’m gonna say ‘yes’ whenever someone suggest to spend time and I will also be more proactive to create opportunities myself. Call it my New Year's resolution!
That doesn’t mean I’m planning to meet a new person every day. I don’t want to overdo it because I know, too much time around people if the fastest way for me to not enjoy it anymore. I’m gonna start with baby steps and see how I go. Stay tuned :)