Travel means leaving people “Buenos noches, Gueid,” a four year old girl just said to me. That was the last time she could direct those wishes on to me, as the next day Chaya, Petra, and I took leave from the Finca Tatin — the hotel where we worked in the jungle of Guatemala for [...]
Travel means leaving people
“Buenos noches, Gueid,” a four year old girl just said to me. That was the last time she could direct those wishes on to me, as the next day Chaya, Petra, and I took leave from the Finca Tatin — the hotel where we worked in the jungle of Guatemala for three months.
This little girl was the daughter of the finca owner’s girlfriend, and she was also Petra’s first real friend. She would drag Petra around the finca like she was a rag doll, show her new things, dance with her, teach her Spanish commands. But now Petra, like every other traveler, has began learning what it is like to say goodbye, what it is like to leave a friend behind.
This is one of the most difficult aspects of the travel lifestyle: to travel you must leave people. I hate leaving my family when I visit them, doing so always makes me question why I travel. Traveling the world is easy, it is leaving the people that you meet which is difficult.
It was difficult for everybody to watch my wife, Chaya’s, family depart from us when they came to visit in Guatemala. My wife was crying at the departure, Petra was crying too, with her arms reaching out after her fast retreating grandma, her grandma waved sadly.
People come in, people go out, woooosh, like wind, that is the life of traveling. I am use to it by now, I have grown a pretty thick callous, I know that I will often meet the people that I really like again, or maintain contact with them through other means. I am use to traveling, but my little daughter is not.
Travel means leaving people, it means making friends just to leave them behind.
Petra hates saying goodbye. She is only one year old but she cries when the people she became acquainted with in travel move on away from her, or when she is forced to leave. Even when meeting little kids in the streets Petra refuses to be separated from them. She will meet a little boy or girl, hold their hand, poke at their face, do their baby things, but then, when the parents get over the cuteness of their kids interacting and want to move on, Petra screams and cries.
She likes having friends.
She does not like to say goodbye.
I fear that this is only going to get more dire: travel means leaving people, it is an integral part of the occupation. Unless you travel with a community — who could stand this? — being a perpetual traveler also means also being a perpetual person leaver.
I watch people come in and out of my life in rapid succession, I replace one person with another, one group with another one, on and on around the world. I am not a particularly gregarious person, I do not strive to have many friends to talk to daily, I have a wife and a baby and am happy with the blips of conversations that I have outside of this set up.
But Petra is more gregarious than I. She loves people, she has always been exceptionally social, and, now that she can move around with better precision, she is off to make friends. Babies can identify their own kind, they know that other babies are their peers, and they seek each other out. Petra is aggressive with making friends, she often scares away the other one to two year olds that she marks as being her tribe. She waddles up to them, calls out, squeals, and grabs them and tries to play. Sometimes they play back, and when they do this Petra gets really happy.
Separation creates a massive wave of anxiety, shrills, kicks, and cries. Petra does not like leaving people.
But Petra does like meeting people. Travel is also about meeting people, and my daughter already has the process down. It is my impression that she has yet to have a shy moment in her life — she enters a room and starts calling out to everybody she sees, she smiles, and tries to talk to anybody who will look at her. My daughter, Petra, has already mastered one of the most difficult arts of world travel:
She is gregarious.
If a traveler is not afraid of starting conversations, of meeting new people, then they will rarely be lonely. This has been a difficult skill for Chaya, my wife, and I to learn, we truly need to put effort into talking to people, but our daughter does it so effortlessly. If we can continue urging Petra to develop her social skills, then perhaps the people we
inherently need to leave could be rounded out by the prospect of the people we have yet to meet?
There is a whole world out there.
I want my daughter to meet all the peoples of the world.
Travel may mean leaving people, but it also means meeting people. After traveling for 11 years I have an incredible mosaic of faces which populates my cerebral projections of planet earth. This mosaic grows continually because I keep traveling.
Travel lifestyle means leaving people
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii
September 11, 2010, 10:16 pm
You and Chaya have learned that not all people that want to be your friend are really your friend. Children don’t have this problem. Wish that was true for all ages.
There are pluses and minuses to every way of living. Your daughter is learning something that many children (and adults) don’t learn: How to make friends. All children her age leave friends. Friendships are fleeting at that age.
As children age, they yearn for more long term relationships. These normally (in my opinion, I taint’ no child psychologist) are family and one or two really close friends. Even these, family included, come and go, but they last longer. People I know who have been Army brats or whatever seem to do quite well in life. Army brats are always moving, but they tend to stay in one place for a year or more and there is a pretty big support structure to the whole moving thing. Humans adapt to almost anything. Having something solid to mentally hold onto is pretty important in my opinion. Petra has you and Chaya. She has family back in NY and ME. She has pretty solid moral values from her parents. She will be different from 99% of the people on earth. THAT is, in my opinion a good thing. I hope you keep this blog or something like it going for many many years. Heck, this whole thing could be a study in humanity. Maybe turn it into a book. Then a movie. A whole movement to Travel Train” your child could begin. Create a school where parents could send their kids to learn how to make friends with other cultures. You could make millions…….
Or maybe I should not drink wine after drinking espresso…………….
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