My experience with people while travelling and what I’ve learned about deep connections
I was chatting to my friend once and she said something with so much honesty and couldn’t help but laugh because I really related at the time, she said “man, people go travelling to find themselves, but really you just get more lost”. Oh dear… Well I travelled for about a year and a half around South Europe coming and going from one place to another finding new friends, falling in love with them, leaving them behind- creating home and then forgetting about it. I was volunteering, then living in a few communities, then i took up art and sold postcards and paintings, I busked in the street too. I changed living location 7 times sometimes spending a few weeks but at most 5 months in one place. I didn’t have an intention to discover who I truly am or to pursue a spiritual enlightenment I just burned out after 3 years of a Computer Science degree and work and just needed a bit of a break from pretty much everything.
I used to be in the library til sunrise finishing some ol’ project that I’ve put off as usual. And I kept seeing these visions. I saw myself on this huge ass cliff next to the ocean living in a cave eating roast frogs for breakfast (alright, perhaps less extreeme but roast frogs do go better with the picture). I wanted to get away as far as I can not just from computers but the whole civilisation altogether. I thought all I need was quiet and solitude. However, soon when I started travelling I realised being alone is actually pretty boring (and I did get to live on a huge ass cliff in an anarchist community looking out to the sea in Sardinia). I realised that my mood, my thoughts, even my spirit was way more positive, happy and productive when I was with people. Having a laugh with someone or taking up a task in a team or having an engaging deep and emotional conversation were the simple undoubtedly necessary things that made me feel alive.
And even though I felt quite out of balance after I finally decided on a permanent home in Lisbon, in hindsight, I feel like I learned a thing or two. I think it was mostly about my relationships to other human beings. I’ve also read an odd book or blog about this whole socialising and connecting business. Being such a big bag of wisdom I’m sharing a few things that I’ve learned about creating positive and deep connections with people that made an impact on me.
It’s ok not to dedicate your time to everyone. Choose wisely.
I’d advice to try to be conscious of what you’re becoming when you hang out with this or that person. Do you feel inspired and talkative or you’re focusing on making an impression? Do you feel judgemental about yourself and others or curious and loving? Do you catch yourself spacing out or do you feel very positively engaged? Do you feel good about yourself or do you feel incapable of telling anything interesting? Would you like to talk endlessly or rather do something else?
These feelings might not be as obvious as they seem written down (well at least not for me). I sometimes have to stop for a second to notice what I’m truly feeling. When it comes to choosing who to invite for a coffee it’s not the person’s profession nor knowledge or experience but the feeling. Once you get the right yeses I’d say follow them and you’ll find yourself on a beautiful journey to a meaningful friendship.
Some people had been an inspiration for me to love, laugh to open my eyes to the beauty in others, society and reality and search for a better version of myself. With others I noticed myself getting more wasted, complaining about the government or simply getting in a bad mood for no apparent reason. Think what would you like to be like and if your friends are inspiring you to go that way.
Let people be who they are.
Ok so maybe you just read Doctor Faustus and now feel the thrill discuss the metaphysics of our mortal world with a fellow you’re sharing a car lift. But he just won’t hear any of it! What a primitive man he is...
Well just a moment. Perhaps Pete (the guy you’re sharing a lift in this hypothetical universe) had already thought about all these silly old debates and doesn’t find it engaging anymore, or perhaps Pete has a wife who he’s rushing to see after a long journey or maybe Pete is just damn bored of you already with all your philosophy and would rather have a laugh at Trump for being silly again. The long winded point I’m trying to make is don’t push your way without listening to the others- he might be just as frustrated by you for not engaging in his world. Listen to who they are and be sensitive. Philosophy is great if you both love it but if not perhaps you’d get along really well sharing cooking recipes, silly puns or listening to the news!
Listen. Nod every now and then. But seriously- hear.
People crave to be heard (not just listened to)- a thing I learned from Carnegie. When talking about usual chats- look for common ground that you both enjoy. If you’re really struggling look for ways you could benefit from what Pete (same guy from the car) is interested in. If the only thing he cares about are fixing cars- that’s not a bad skill to learn from. No one feels good when they are asked out of politeness so it’s a good idea to become truly interested in the other person.
When people feel ready to share something personal about themselves there is a need for a different way of hearing. When engaged in a conversation about someone’s feelings withhold the judgement. Be aware of your possible inadequacy to give advice. Be there. Sometimes it’s heavy and sometimes it’s about joy. Feelings are facts. They’re real, they happened.
Sometimes you might need some distancing not to be overwhelmed by deep heavy emotions. All I can say on that one is that focusing on the breathing and occasional breaks tend to make it easier. Silence is ok. Saying “it’s ok” is ok. Another cup of tea is ok too. Offering help in a gentle way can make it easier for both of you.
If you really enjoy someone’s company tell them.
Just that. Not flattering. Just the truth- “I like talking about squirrels with you”. If that’s honest- might be the nicest thing your friend heard that week. They will probably be even more open to talk to you about squirrels next time you’re around.
I found that closeness comes naturally if you simply like someone and you know they like you too. Love comes in many different forms. I really like some friends because I can have an amazing conversations about life, then others for having such a great sense of humor, some because I really enjoy dancing with them, and some for always having time for me and things i want to do. Connection comes not only through words but deeds and emotions and shared experiences. And of course making time and space for them to happen.
I wish you great friendships in your life