“You can’t trust anyone here Caiti, I told you.”
The unsolicited suggestion came from JL, a girl I work with and someone I find sweet and honest. Stupid-waste-of-time story less waste-of-timey, another coworker, KL, had burst in to tears outside our local bar last night as we were leaving. The “fault” of one bartender, a mutual friend of our entire crew. The events that unfolded led to my awareness of the rumours being circulated regarding my involvement with the situation – a surprise to me. It’s always fan-freaking-tastic when you find out information about your own life from others. This was the second time I have been involuntarily dragged in to something revolving around KL and a man type person, and the second time it had been so ridiculously baseless.
My problem now is, what the hell do I? The issue in the forefront of my mind isn’t the immature gossip, the inane and childish need for attention, or dishonesty in communication. While vaguely annoying, I am fortunate to have left any interest in such bullshit behind me when I turned 14. The situation, and the advice given to me, speaks of a much more complex problem – how involved should a traveller get in their new home, and the locals there.
There are different levels of connections a person can make, with varying degrees of emotional investment.
The amount of time you spend with a person can be irrelevant – you can give your heart to another in an hour, or spend months talking every day at arm’s length. The problem is that the time we require to care is small, but the time we require to know if we should care is far longer.
While you’re travelling you have the time to make an emotional investment, to care about someone if you choose to. But you don’t have enough time to learn if you can trust them with your friendship, or if they deserve it. Wherever I go I jump right in feet first, embracing the people and the community from the get go and in turn getting authenticity out of each experience – to not simply see the sights or travel on a surface level while your heart is still somewhere else (at home, in your native country/with a loved one), but to plug-in to the life of a new place; be it a bar or a village or a country. I reach out to everyone I meet with sincerity and a smile, an easy laugh and a real concern for their well-being. I’m no saint, but it makes me feel good to be like this, to be involved in bringing other people joy or companionship. And sometimes it hurts.
I know other people who keep their involvement limited, reserving their hearts for the safety zone of the tried and tested friends.
Whether it is in a new country or in the office, they smile with the rest but don’t often make the jokes. Present and enjoying themselves, yet remaining self-contained, they don’t get swept up by new experiences or people. Independent (at least in this situation) from the will of others, they are generally well-liked. Like apples. These people have less trouble leaving, and less local drama. They still go through all the ups and downs and intensities of the human experience, but with a select group that have been chosen from experience. Whether it is their nature, or a safety mechanism formed from scars, they are protected. In this situation, I can see how it’s useful.
However, as an interaction junkie, I don’t think I can be like that. I don’t think I want to. I love people, even though we all have the potential to be asshats and hurt each other. I thrive off relationships; even though I enjoy my own company, connecting with people and making people smile drives my happiness. As a writer, not embracing a place or culture, or reserving myself in any way from the full experience will impact my writing. As a human, I can’t imagine switching off like that. Bleurgh. The concept sounds awful to me.
So what do we do friendy poos?
When you have the choice between holding back and protecting yourself from the downs of human interaction and connection, or flying full force into the community you find yourself in, which do you choose? This is a question that surely applies even outside the travelling world.
There’s probably a balance to be struck, a mid-point where you don’t reserve or contain yourself completely – rather you slow down the connection process, take a little more time getting to know people as well as you can when language is a barrier. Then you trust. Like watching a dive in slow motion, and suddenly clicking full-speed to watch the splash. It seems like a smart method.
It’s just totally not me.
*Dearest Reader Peeps: I’d love to know what your opinions are, and experiences on this topic. Please fill up my inbox and comment section. Thank you lovelies.*