Saturday was spent hiking 25 kilometres through the Berlin countryside with a bunch of strangers I met on Meet-Up. It was the nicest day I’d seen in weeks – sunshine, clear skies, and decent temperatures. Only the ice and snow proved difficult. My thighs ached with stomping down to find a grip. That’d be ironic, breaking a bone while breaking in my Camino boots, thus rendering the Camino impossible (I swear I didn’t secretly wish for it).
Along the way I made small talk with a Czech couple, and an Indian guy. I fell into step with a German girl, and we made comments on the tall trees and the barking dogs and the immaculate homes so different from the apartment buildings in Berlin. An Irish girl joined us and eventually we broke into more serious conversation: life in Berlin, education, careers. I was incredibly fond of them by the time the walk ended.
But at the train station, instead of exchanging Facebook info, I waved good-bye and headed off to find my tram, trusting that I’d see them again at a future Meet-Up.
The weird thing about moving to Berlin where I have relatively no friends is suddenly realizing how much I enjoy having relatively no friends.
I’ve been mulling over how to write this post for a week without coming off as a curmudgeon. I’ve always been of the opinion that people are worth knowing. I still believe this. But being so distant from my lifelong best friends in Newfoundland, I’ve also come to realize it’s near impossible to maintain those ties back home if I’m constantly looking for close ties while travelling.
Text messages and Facebook chats go unanswered. Sometimes I go for weeks without talking to my best friends, and then I’ll see photos of them celebrating someone’s birthday and I’ll get that keen sense of homesickness with a little side of FOMO.
But I also remember how stressed out I had been in St. John’s, constantly feeling like I had to keep up with social engagements and new milestones.
The thing about Berlin is that I’ve been given the opportunity to wholly embrace my introvert side, and I fucking love it. I haven’t had a night out on the town since New Year’s Eve, and I’m totally okay with it. Albeit I’m really looking forward to pizza and 2-4-1 cocktails this evening with an American friend of mine.
Instead, I spend more time alone. I go for long walks while listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve spent every morning this past week reading Zadie Smith while drinking black coffee and lounging too close to the heater. This is one of the odd weeks where I have a social commitment every night except Thursday, and I’m weirdly panicked by it. (In St. John’s, this wouldn’t have been unusual at all.)
This is the first time travel has ever really made me evaluate my friendships. I have a small social circle here in Berlin that I absolutely adore, madly. Yesterday Manon and Michelle came over for a little work session around my kitchen table, and we drank tea and ate tangerines and gossiped. Tomorrow I have a meet-up with some bloggers. Friday is a going away party for my friend Eline. I have maybe five or six good friends here, and it’s completely enough.
That’s not to say I don’t want to keep meeting people. I do, always.
I mentioned before that the people make the place, and I still believe it. But I have always stretched myself too thin in the past, and often without having much of a reason to. I’ve never fully stepped back to think, “Why is this person in my life, if they don’t make the time for me like I make for them?”
I went on bit of a Facebook friends cull the other day to remove the people who share none of the same values that I do. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to opposing views, but sometimes the anxiety isn’t worth it. I’ve been remarkably less distracted without all the anti-refugee memes and general gloominess of the world. (That doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to world news, btw. I’d just rather rely on different sources.)
It’s also why I’ve given up using apps like Tinder to meet people. It’s just too damned exhausting.
Homesickness has been a battle these past few days. Skyping with my parents makes me intensely sad. When I received a flood of heartfelt Christmas cards from friends back home a few weeks ago, I cried for 30 minutes. It feels so good to have so many good people in my life. But, in all that, I want to make sure they stay there. No more stretching myself thin.
Has travel ever made you re-evaluate your relationships?