Maintaining Friendships on the Road

We are just now off of a social tour. (I like to call any special leg of our on-going trip a “tour,” as if we’d mindfully planned a trip with certain goals. Well, sometimes we do, and sometimes tours develop on their own. In either case, naming segments of our routes, ”tours,” makes it easy for me to reference specific times and places on our endless, nomadic journey.)

For this social tour, we zoomed through September on the Midwest Friends and Family Tour, hitting Tracy’s relatives in Minnesota:

friends and relatives in Wisconsin:

and Iowa,

and then we spent time with Finn and his Dad in Michigan.

Early October we met up with friends in Ohio,

and then the double-visit in Tennessee, where we visited friends, and friends visited us while we were there.

Let’s call it a triple visit, actually, because I was lucky to see a cousin while I was there, too.

We’re back on our own now until January, and I have to admit my head is spinning from so many transitions. It seems like we’re either quietly going about our travel routines on our own (and I’m often missing friendly faces quite a bit), or we’re checking the calendar every day to plan whom we’ll see and to figure out how.

My brain and heart have to manage these stark contrasts in social time and solo time, and I’m still learning how not to feel off-kilter at both ends of the continuum.

Long-distance Relationships

When I don’t see any faces we know for weeks or months, I do get lonely. My social life looks like this for a long, long time.

I’ve written previously how it feels like we’re constant strangers in a strange land. So, I work hard to maintain long-distance relationships during my solo time.

I know most people keep up with distanced loved ones like this, so I’ll skip my list of my scheduled correspondence (phone calls, Zoom calls, FaceTime). Of course, I also text with friends randomly.

If you knew my list, I might seem like all I do is sit in front of the computer making small talk, but in truth I feel lucky to hear from one friend a day. I miss all my people and am often conniving to get them to visit me or figuring out how to visit them.

Ironically, feel like I suck at long-distance communication. I make typos constantly while texting and say impulsive, silly things. I’m so excited to get on the phone, but once there I want to have a pointed conversation and then get off the phone; I’m not good with letting the conversation lag and then finding a new topic. I’m always watching my data use on video conferencing. I text people very late at night, after my two beers, when I should be sleeping. (I’m sure you victims of that habit can tell.)

With Friends in Person

When I do see friends in person, it’s an intense time. Often Tracy and I have been rushing to get to where we’re meeting them, and then it’s a deep dive into the minutia of each other’s lives.

Long talks, lots of catching up with stories that are best told in person. I’ve written before how odd it can be to anticipate seeing someone so fervently, then cram in the visit, and then skedaddle, odd especially when it’s my son, with whom I lived for 20 years.

And right before and after these in-person visits, there’s usually a period of keeping in touch via texting more than usual, asking about stuff the other person had planned for after our visit, following up with their family, even day-to-day making sure they’re okay during travels.

The In-between

Here’s where I think nomadic life presents a special challenge.

I find it very strange to be so close to someone for a few days, then semi-close remotely, and then add them back into the mix of people I talk to sometimes.

While I’m with someone, I love them—I feel like we are very good friends (and we are!). Afterwards, we don’t talk for weeks, because either I’m on to the next person in the Friends and Family Tour, weirdly feeling like they’re the most important people in my life right then, or Tracy and I are back to our solo lives and I wonder if all that in-person closeness had been just a dream.

I know vacations can be like this for people who live in sticks-and-bricks homes: you swear you’ll always remember special places and moments and people, and it’s all close to your heart when you get home, and then soon it’s all reduced to photos and stories you’ve told other people.

That’s why I try so hard to maintain my weekly calls and video talks and random texting and work to see friends in person as much as I can swing it, even if my head and heart are spinning when we are together.

This post is, in part, a long-winded apology to loved ones I’ve seen in person since I’ve hit the road whom I haven’t kept in touch with enough afterwards. Also, maybe our visit was disjointed despite me getting so revved up beforehand (or maybe because I did get so revved up). Maybe this helps you imagine why.

Nomad Friends

Oddly, its the friends we’ve met on the road, either fulltimers or close to it, who seem easiest to keep up with on a random basis.

I know I can text them at weird times, because who knows what the heck time zone they’re in or if they’re on the road or camping or what (so all times are a spin of the wheel), and I can ask random questions because we don’t have a long, shared history that deserves catching up about.

Instead, I can text in the middle of the night, ”Where are you?” or ”Wanna hear a song I just learned?” and a lot of times they text back right away with, ”Hey! Good to hear from you. Sure!” Because they may be under the same dizzying spell of nomadic relationships and as eager as I am to maintain them.

Some of you I text with and call at odd times and ask random questions, and I’m deeply grateful for that. If I don’t do that with you but you’d like to, let me know. Whether it’s scheduled conversations together or random weirdness, it’s all essential to me, more important than you might know.