Travel, especially for extended periods of time, changes who you are. After opening your eyes to the rest of the world it can often be hard to come back to your friends as the same person that you were when you left. Full time traveller Tessa tells us what people who don’t travel find hard to understand about their nomad friends.


#1. How you Suddenly have a New Best Friend.

Your best friends may be confused about how you can leave for just a few months and come back with a new best friend. Of course, they expect you to meet new people but they don’t understand how you can become best friends with someone in such a short period of time. How can you be just as close to someone who you knew for a few weeks traveling as your lifelong friend?

As a traveler you are often alone in the world- literally. That is why when you are traveling, you instantly become friends with people. Neither of you have anyone else. Right away you clearly share similar interest- traveling, duh. You are also around each other 24/7. This includes sitting together for hours on long journeys, sleeping in the same bed and eating every meal together.

On top of this, you are experiencing wonderful and new things together and people who experience new things together grow closer. You two will share a bond of experiences that no one else will understand- not even your lifelong friend.


#2. Why you Don’t Care About Their Problems

As a traveler you have seen very beautiful places but you have also been hit with the hard reality of the inequality of the world. You have seen slums with shacks made of tin, children begging on the streets and people with missing limbs. Above all of this you have seen happiness and generosity in people who have far less than you do.

This is why it is hard listening to your friend (who has free health care, a full-time job and a two bedroom apartment) complain about how they hate their coworker or how their date last night didn’t pay. As much as you try to put it into perspective to your friends they will never truly understand until they see the heartbreaking reality of other people’s situations for themselves.

When friends talk to me about their superficial problems I often come across as not caring. Frankly, they’re not wrong.


#3. Why You Don’t Want to go Shopping with Them

There are many reasons why as a nomad you don’t enjoy shopping with your friends. The main reason is that you just don’t want things. When you are constantly moving around the last thing you want is more stuff to weigh you down. You have learned how to survive for a year with nothing but a backpack of belongings. This makes you realize how little you truly need.

Another reason is that you value experiences over objects. You would way rather go to the beach and swim in the sea or climb a beautiful mountain than buying material items.

Of course, you also don’t want to spend money because you are saving up for your next trip.


#4. Why you Always Want to do Something

Gone are the days when you and your bestie could spend the weekend watching movies together and gossiping. Now you always want to go on another adventure or explore somewhere new.

After travelling, one starts to appreciate where they come from a lot more. You realize that you make an effort to see other countries but never your own. Your friends who have never left home don’t see what the fuss is about and take a lot more convincing to get out to try something new.


#5. Why you are so Weird

When you grow up in a certain environment, you are a product of that environment. Once you leave, however, you also cut loose who you once were. With every new place that you travel to it transforms you and shapes who you are. Travelling opens up your mind to create new values, beliefs and opinions. You will never be the same.

The more you travel the more you change. Only When you return to your original environment and friends do you realize how ‘weird’ you have become. For the most part, your friends will still love you even though they won’t understand why you listen to K-Pop music and think red-beans are a dessert.


#6. How you Can Afford to be on a Constant Vacation

Your friends are all stressing about paying rent- never mind going on a vacation. So how they hell do you manage to always be on vacation!?

I understand how people may get confused about how I can afford to go abroad so often if they view my time out of the country as a vacation. Let me clarify. Travelling is not the same as a vacation.

I am a Canadian but have also lived in New Zealand, Austria and South Korea. In New Zealand I had a job at a pub, in Austria I was attending University and in South Korea I was an English Teacher at a public school. I wasn’t on vacation, I was still fulfilling my adult responsibilities, just in different countries.

While I was a resident in South Korea, I had a lot of friends want to come visit me - which I was very thankful for. A lot of people just seemed to think that when they visited that I would travel around with them showing them the country. No one seemed to understand that I had a full-time job and worked a normal 9-5. As a teacher I couldn’t just disappear and leave my students for a week in the middle of the semester because I had friends who wanted to hang out with me.


Words and Pictures by Tessa Elliott


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