We travel to make connections. To culture. To nature. To people. To our authentic self. We join the dots to make constellations. Like the explorers of old, we use the constellations to map out our world.
The question is, how do we do this without losing our connection to home? Anyone who has ever felt homesick for a place they have never been before, knows the difficulties that arise when home isn’t where the heart is.
Maintaining friendships, networks and relationships is difficult for those wanderers and wayfarers who live a life on the road. We are told to keep in touch. If only it were as simple as a few words on the back of a postcard: wish you were here.
But there are so many more ways for us to keep in touch today than there were 10 years ago. With that comes much more of an expectation that we will be constantly contactable. So how do we balance this expectation with the imperative to live in the moment?
In all honesty, after two years and six continents living on the road, I have made plenty of mistakes when it comes to this. It is a fine line. Either I have been tethered to a Wi-Fi connection or in the midsts of a social media blackout. From these mistakes I believe I have finally learned a few things about walking this line. Here are my top five most important lessons.
1.) Pick your poison
Choose one favorite mode of social media, two at a stretch. Then let absolutely everyone know that this is the best way to reach you. I found that when juggling Facebook, Instagram, Skype, iMessage, e-mail and Whatsapp, I was bound to drop the ball. Messages, and eventually friendships, get lost. Prioritizing will save you time and trouble.
2.) Schedule a regular time to read through your messages
This might sound more work-day than holiday. To some extent, traveling is about throwing out the schedules along with the to-do lists. In reality, however, if you set aside a little time for this everyday, you free up the rest of your day for adventures and exploration.
3.) Reply as soon as possible
This dovetails with the previous tip. When you set aside time to read through your messages, reply to them too. The longer you wait to reply, the more pressure there is on your response. One of the best parts of traveling is that you get to abandon the day to day stresses of life to focus on the bigger questions of existence. The nagging to do list at the back of your mind is going to get in the way of this. Address the to do list and the messages. Then move on to the important stuff: the things that make you wild and free.
4.) Learn when to apologize
Inevitably, you will fall behind with your communication. Yes, it may be a while since you messaged. Yes, your response might be shorter than you would like. No, you don’t have to start every email with an apology for this. People understand. Apologizing can undermine your confidence. Once you stop sounding like you are questioning your own choices, others will stop questioning you.
On the other hand, if you really stuff up, and you were not there when your true friend needed you... apologize. Then apologize again. You might have been 1000 meters up a mountain, or scuba diving the depths of the sea. To your friend though, it still feels like a real loss. Acknowledge that, and do better next time.
5.) Practice mindfulness
Learn the art of zen and dedicate yourself to the task in front of you. Do chores with gumption. Reply to work emails with gusto. Then throw yourself into whatever adventures unfold throughout the day.
In the pursuit of memories over things, we swap a consumer culture for a connection culture. We find these connections all over the world. Our roots however, are what keep us down to earth and grounded. It may not be where the heart is, but for so many of us, our sense of home will be the most important connection that we make throughout our lifetime. Treasure it.