And we are far, far from home, but we’re so happy.
Far from home, all alone but we’re so happy.
A few weeks back, I was chatting on Facebook with my good friend Simona. We’ve been friends for nearly a decade at this point, having met during our final semester of university and bonded (initially) over our mutual love of Oasis. As if to make up for lost time, we crammed years worth of friendship into the few remaining months before we graduated and I headed south to Nashville for graduate school. At this point, we’ve definitely spent more time living in different cities and having a “long-distance friendship”, but you know how it is with good friends: you keep in touch the best you can when you’re apart, and when you’re back together, you make the moments count and it’s like neither of you has been away.
Anyway, Simona asked me whether I ever feel lonely out here on the road. It’s not uncommon for travelers to feel displaced and isolated at some point, the so-called “stranger in a strange land” syndrome, but the truth is, I can’t think of one moment during this journey when I would say I have felt lonely, and neither can Tony.
When asked why I thought that was, I immediately credited this site. Between actually traveling and then writing about our adventures on 20YH, I joked that I am way too busy and am having too much fun to have time to be lonely.
That is all true, of course, but it’s only a partial truth. I do channel a lot of energy and emotion into this site and that has been great since an idle Steph is a recipe for trouble, and this site doesn’t just give me something to do, but it gives me a purpose as well. Still, I think that the real reason I can spend so much time adrift on the waves of uncertainty and solitude is because of the larger community this site has made me feel a part of. I take great comfort in knowing there are thousands of people out there traveling and blogging and living adventures much like ours—even if I don’t know about most of them and will never meet many of them, it’s still nice knowing that, on some level, I’m not entirely alone out here.
But it’s more than that too. Before we left home, I spent hours reading other travelers’ tales. As I followed along on their journeys, leaving comments or exchanging emails, I felt that I had made some friends. The consequence of never having met in “real life” meant that it wasn’t ever really possible to miss them the way I might friends from home, but each new story served as a piece of conversation between us, a way of touching base and keeping in touch. And of course, there was always the potential that maybe somewhere out there, our paths would cross and our worlds would merge.
Rather than feeling like traveling has taken us away from our friends, we feel like it’s putting us in the path of more great people. As I have talked about MANY times before, through a combination of CouchSurfing and serendipity, we have been really fortunate to have met some really wonderful people on our journey, which surely helps keep loneliness at bay. Moreover, I am also happy to report that we have been lucky enough to have met up with a large collection of travel bloggers since setting out, successfully transitioning some fantastic online friendships offline. It has genuinely been such a thrill getting to meet up with people who we feel like we have known for years, where the whole “in person” bit of the friendship is really just a formality. Even when you’re both strangers in a weird new place, you get to share a bit of each other’s adventure and it bonds you together. These are people doing the same crazy stuff as we are, who already know our deal and what we’re doing so we don’t have to spend time going through the same old repertoire of questions that most strangers bombard us with about how long we’ve been traveling and where we are from and how we can afford to do this, etc., ad nauseum. Instead, we can skip straight to the good stuff and, in most cases, we wind up gossiping away like old friends late into the night. (Truly. It just happened tonight, which just proves my point beautifully, I think!)
When we launched 20 Years Hence, I never expected the site to reward us in this way, but it only seems right that I celebrate the 2nd anniversary of our first post by giving a little shout-out to the members of our community we’ve met along the way who have been such a fantastic part of our journey and have helped keep us out here angst free.
Some of our happiest, silliest, most memorable moments have been in the company of:
We ALSO met up with:
- Cody of Mindful Wanderlust in Bangkok, Thailand
- Maddy & Simon of Paddy & Maddy in Chiang Mai & Pai, Thailand
- Jodi of Legal Nomads in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Jenny & Tom of Till The Money Runs Out in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
BUT we were obviously having too much fun and forgot to take pictures!
I also wanted to say that as awesome as all of those meet-ups have been, we still go long stretches where it’s just Tony & me, navigating this crazy adventure by our lonesome. In those moments, the majority of our time, it is still this site that buoys our spirits and keeps us from feeling isolated, and that is because of you, our readers. If you have ever left us a comment, liked something of ours on Facebook or Instagram (did you know we do that now too? More photo goodness for your stalking delights!), chatted with us on Twitter, sent us a donation to keep the site running and our adventure going, sent us an email letting us know how much you dig what we do here, or reached out about design work: THANK YOU. Whether you have been with us since Day One or somehow found us and hopped on along the way: THANK YOU. We know you are out there, scattered to the various corners of the earth, rooting for us and accompanying us every step of the way. It is because of you that we never feel lonely but instead feel very lucky indeed.
Thanks for being part of the 20YH community for the past two years and we hope you’ll stick around as we toddle into year three and whatever new adventures (and friendships!) that will bring. Now, let’s all eat some cake!