August 1st, 2017. Arrived in Koh Lanta, Thailand Two Days Ago.
Real talk. I haven’t HAD to socialize for a very long time.
In college, I tried so hard to mingle with the cool crowd and was so often rejected (not verbally, but by way of gentle exclusion, thank god) as a potential member that I eventually just stopped expecting to ever succeed. Willingly, I resigned myself to being an underdog and learned to embrace the special and unexpected friends that flowed freely into my life, uncontrived (who, for the record, are way cooler and more multi-dimensional than any of those hipster kids I tried so hard to be like anyway).
I don’t want to paint myself as the timid, hermitic type who pees her pants and stutters when having to face a social challenge, because it’s in no way that severe (and anyone who is reading this, probably knows this and knows me). I’m bubbly, I make jokes, I can make small talk with strangers when I’m in the mood, and I can even hold an audience at a party every once and a while. But usually, as an example, the thought of walking up to an established groups of friends at a bar (even super kind/humble-looking people) and just saying hello makes my stomach turn a little bit. I can do it. But I don’t like it.
Over the past few years, my hectic worklife, social anxiety/awkwardness, and my complacent satisfaction with and love for the close friends and family that I can count on my fingers and toes, has prevented me from even trying to go out and make new friends. I embraced what I had, learned to love being alone for stints, and now I am completely out of practice (if I ever even was, which is highly questionable). The handful of new friends I have made during this time came so unexpectedly and without any conjuring at all that I am relieved to know that friends don’t require effort…when it’s right, it just happens. And it does happen.
I’ve always had a deeply introverted/lonerish side to me, and have loved being able to go about things alone (movies, shopping, dinner, travel, etc) but whenever I’ve wanted to be in someone else’s company, I could be.
Kristen has officially gone back to the U.S. and now I am alone in the realest sense of the word. I am on the opposite side of the globe in unfamiliar territory where I. Simply. Don’t. Know. Anyone. On top of that, the day she left, I went to the bus station, not quite knowing where I was going or how I would get there, and ended up moving from a very bustling beach town called Ao Nang, to a quaint little island in Thailand (hey that rhymes!) called Ko Lanta, which is currently experiencing their low season. Nay…I wouldn’t called it a low season. I’d call it their no season. Half of the town is shut down and I’ve only witnessed about 20 other foreigners in the last 48 hours.
Sure, I VERY MUCH enjoy the relaxation and freedom of answering to no one but myself and hanging out in hammocks all day without being on someone else’s schedule, but I now realize that traveling alone is different than being alone at home. You can’t just say, “Okay that peaceful book-reading time on the beach was nice, but now I’m ready to go hike that island with my buddy, bottle of wine in tow, and laugh about the day’s misadventures.”
My lonerish tendencies are almost to my detriment, because I can be alone for long periods of time and still have fun and be okay…but it doesn’t mean that I can avoid feeling lonely altogether. I could have more fun and be more okay with others.
WHAT IS IT about new and exciting experiences/places/cultures/foods that make you want to share them with someone else rather than go about it alone? I’m not just talking about sharing it with your best friend or a significant other (lord knows I’m still eons away from tackling that uncharted territory), but rather, even just a simple acquaintance that you may never see again after you part ways on different ferries tomorrow.
There’s something about aloneness and loneliness that even stumps the most independent of us. I don’t know exactly my purpose in ranting about this subject, except to say that maybe I’m a bit terrified by this newly recognized need to develop my socialization skills and overcome my social anxieties in order to make short term friends that will satisfy my human need to fraternize.
All the while, I’m kind of excited. If I didn’t like challenges, I wouldn’t have up and quit life and flown to the other side of the globe.
I think I need to keep reminding myself that yes, traveling alone means that you know don’t know anybody…BUT it also means that no one knows you. Which means that you can walk up to the group of people at a bar without fear. There’a 95% chance that they’ll welcome you in and ask you all about your journey and tell you about theirs, but if in the 5% chance they don’t, you can deflect to the bathroom, sneak out through the window, and you’ll never see them again. (Just kidding! But seriously…)
I do believe that on this journey I will find new soul sisters and kindred spirits to share my journey with, and they will come (and go) without lifting a finger, but those are the ones you can’t go searching for. You just have wait, I guess.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to overcome my “lonerliness” by stepping outside my comfort zone a bit.