How do you make friends on the road?
So, today I’m going to get a bit more serious with y’all, as you might have guessed from the title of this video. I want to talk about loneliness.
I’ve been living in the van for over two years now, and when I started making these videos and answering questions people had, I kept seeing the question ‘How are you not alone?’ Or ‘how do you make friends on the road?’ And at first I was like ‘psh thats not a real problem people have, don’t worry about it!’
And then I started to think about it, and I thought back to the very first week I spent in my van alone.
I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time of 5 years. I had spent most of the previous week crying or sleeping. But I realized I needed to get out of my home town and just… go. Didn’t matter where, I just needed to go. So I drove myself out to Joshua Tree National Park. I remember feeling incredibly anxious when I was rolling up to the parking lot, I was feeling really uncool and unloved during this time and it made me extremely reclusive. When I finally did get a parking space, I barely left my van. I drank my coffee alone, I at breakfast alone, and when people came to talk to me I tried to hurry the conversation along so they could get back to whatever it was that they were doing, which was certainly more important than talking to me.
I thought that no one would want to climb with me. I was genuinely terrified that people would just ignore me or ask me to leave, so for the most of that trip I went bouldering alone and tried not to talk to anyone.
A few weeks later I decided to pick up and drive out to Indian Creek by way of Bryce Canyon. Same thing. I walked the canyon rim alone, I shut my door anytime someone walked by, my worst fear was that someone would try to talk to me. I was avoiding people at all costs, but at the same time I was painfully lonely.
I wanted friends to share this with so so badly.
After I drove into Indian Creek, I remember this moment of looking around at all the campsites full of people. They were all hanging out together, they had fires and were getting rowdy, and I just remembered driving off to one end of the parking lot and parking in the dark, alone.
It felt really terrible.
The next day I had two choices. I could leave without ever going climbing with someone. Or I could stick around and try to make friends. So I drove up to the message board, its this wooden board in the middle of the campground that people post notes to, and I saw that there was someone else traveling alone who was looking for a climbing partner.
In that moment I had the opportunity to take yes for an answer, or to drive away. I chose yes!
Sara was the person I ended up climbing with for the rest of the week. And after that I started meeting people at the crag, I started chatting people up around the campfires, and since then I’ve been able to retain friendships with people all over the world.
So for me, it was just that one step of putting myself out there. Letting the world know I was alone and looking for people too, and after that it all just fell into place.
It’s been like that everywhere I go really. You just have to make one strong connection with someone and it all falls into place. People on the road don’t like to be alone, so if you’re alone, it means there’s some other people in their vans who are also alone and don’t want to be.
I think generally, if you’re a nice person. You have generally good hygiene and you’re interested in something cool, you will find your tribe. And let’s face it, You have a van and that’s super cool right now! People love talking about their vans! You can make friends just by walking up to someone and asking them about their buildout.
The only people I see who come into the community and then leave without making any lasting connections are people who are super rude or creepy. So don’t be rude or creepy and you’ll be ok.
It’s kind of like dating I feel like? If you’re moping around all the time thinking about how no one will date you and you’re super desperate for a date, then people will kind of try to stay away from you. But if you’re doing something you love and you’re filling your schedule with cool things to do, then you often find people who are also out there doing the cool things you’re doing.
Finally, I know that traveling alone is hard. I definitely have a hard time being alone sometimes, but its also good to get some space to yourself. I’ve learned that I really need alone time. So if you find yourself in an extended ‘alone’ space, enjoy it. Read some books, work on your van a little bit, take a freaking shower or go on a hike alone.
I promise it won’t last long.
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