maybe i don't need anymore friends

Maybe I have enough friends

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?

  • January 12 2016

    I can relate to the whole FOMO dealio. Trying to stay off the computer for extended periods of time is tough. Especially when you’re an adult and have to do mundane adult things, like house work and shopping. It’s tough not to just “check out” for a minute. See what everyone else is up to on the internets. But lately I feel like you, and would rather make time for the folks who matter most. Because at the end of the day that’s what counts. Family and besties. Making great new memories to replace the old bad ones. Know what I mean?

    • January 12 2016

      Travel hasn’t necessarily made me evaluate friendships but life sure has. I finally deleted my facebook – like totally deleted not just deactivated. People used to look at me like I was a heartless animal when I would tell them I would regularly delete people from facebook because I just couldn’t with some people. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me but I pretty routinely evaluate friendships now and if I’m not getting anything positive out of it, I slowly tend to phase people out. I don’t know why I do this. I feel the need to be more intentional and real with everything. It’s like I just can’t with the BS anymore. But everyone has some level of BS – myself included. Anyway, I get it.

    • January 18 2016

      I’ve been trying to get rid of my Facebook habits by deleting/”unfollowing” a ton of people in my newsfeed. I’d always find myself irrationally irritated or mad about something, probably a stupid meme or whatever. It’s helped a little.

  • January 12 2016

    I don’t have a lot of long term travel experience the way you do, but traveling, in general, still always makes me re-think my friendships (or, to be more accurate – the importance of my friendly acquaintances). I guess it’s a side effect of going someplace new, or having a new experience in general. What I usually come away with is a renewed sense of how important my family is, and how I don’t need to keep up with the Joneses in order to feel self-actualized – a few good friends always trumps being a social butterfly, quality not quantity, etc. All of those beliefs fluctuate over time, but I like to think they’re the truths I keep coming back to again and again. ;)

    By the way I really like your new branding! I’m typically a fan of the more home-grown blogs just because I feel like everything feels editorial these days, but your website is so much sleeker & more navigable now, and it feels like I’m hanging out with you in a cafe, whereas before it was more like a cafeteria? Urgh that sounds worse than it did in my head. Anyway congratulations :)
    Tiffany recently posted…a place on the jellicoe road / Songs for Jellicoe Road

    • January 18 2016

      Aw, I LOVE that description actually! Haha. Thank you, Tiffany. I was definitely going for a more…”intimate” feel.

      This trip has definitely been the one to make me think about my family and why I’m always running away from home. I Skype with them every weekend and it feels like I’m close, but it breaks my heart to hang up. And I’m realizing now more than ever that those relationships are far more important than the desire to travel, although I’ll work on finding a balance for both.

  • January 12 2016

    Totally understand where you’re coming from and can especially relate to stretching yourself too thin for people who don’t deserve it. Even if people don’t mean to, they can sometimes end up taking more than they give and that drives me insane. I’m trying to be more mindful of how much I give of myself to people who don’t really matter as much as they once did. Like you, I believe people are worth getting to know and moving abroad has forced me to re-evaluate old friendships and embark on some new ones. It’s all for the best ;-)
    Diane recently posted…Our weekend up near Vannes

    • January 18 2016

      Yes, totally! I love all these comments with people feeling the same way. I LOVE my small social circle here in Berlin. The other week I was signing up for yet another Meet-Up and I was like, you know what? My life is already happily full. Delete.

  • January 12 2016

    This is so lovely, Candice! I completely agree with you – it’s hard to keep up with your solid friendships back home when you want to also make new travel-based ones, but sometimes that solitude is exactly what you didn’t know you needed :)
    Flora Baker recently posted…Kindness and Community on the Camino

    • January 18 2016

      Totally! Thank you, Flora. I took that solitude for granted on my Greece trip. It was wrestling so hard with the demons in my head, all I wanted was description. I wish I had the same peace back then as I do now.

  • January 12 2016

    I love this! I have always been of the mindset that I’d rather have two friends that I can always count on than 50 “casual” friends.

    I have a really difficult time truly connecting with people. Sure, I can get along with almost anyone and keep up a conversation but it’s hard to find people that I truly want to keep in my life. I guess it’s because I’m not a huge fan of “fun” friendships…if I can’t relate to you and trust you, why are you in my life? All of my friendships have been pretty intense, they’re usually all or nothing, and travel made that even more apparent. My two best friends live 4 hours away so I’m used to having distance between us but it was hard when I was traveling because it felt like everyone was instantly connecting and bonding and I just…wasn’t. I’m thankful for my solid friendships but I also need to work on balancing those out unless I plan on being lonely on the road, I think!
    Skyf I recently posted…Saving for Travel: The Contentment Challenge

    • January 18 2016

      Tooootally agree with you! Quality over quantity.

      Honestly, most of those people you see bonding on the road likely never talk to each other again after leaving. I have like 300 people on my FB I’ve met while travelling in hostels and stuff but sometimes we had only known each other for a few hours. Sometimes their names pop up and I don’t know who they are. So yeah, artifcial.

  • January 13 2016

    Not really a travel but when you are away from your family, that’s when homesickness hits. This is true. And if ever I’ll be starting to travel soon, I’m ready for this consequence. :)
    Jeff recently posted…Presidential Debate 2016 First Leg Will Be Hosted by The Capitol University on February 21

  • January 16 2016

    Living as an expat has definitely unleashed the introvert in me, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. In fact, for the first time since I was a wee teen, I feel like I’m actually getting on with the things I want to do. Is it selfish? I dunno, but am definitely feeling a lot better for it.

    I’m glad you’re finding more time for yourself and also, I think curmudgeon should be the word of the week.
    LC recently posted…The Lowdown on Unpackaged in London

    • January 18 2016

      Same, actually! And don’t get me wrong, I love going out some weeks and having a ridiculous two-day party fun binge. But then I balance it out with a week of Netflix and pyjamas. Haha.

      God I love “curmudgeon”

  • January 20 2016

    As an expat, I understand what you mean and how you feel. Honestly, I also turned inwards when I left the States and moved England. The first three years that I spent here were difficult but really beneficial for me in a way that I learned how to live with myself and get to know myself better. After I moved, I was pretty homesick and I missed my friends. I feel confident and happy about making the decision to move here. Now things are different than before and I have friends, husband and kids that fill my days with positive emotions. Thanks for sharing! I think that is great that you are going for such hikes in the countryside.

    • January 21 2016

      I really love that so many people have had similar experiences! It’s something I’ve never really heard talked about in the expat world. Thanks for sharing your story too.

  • August 09 2017

    Hi Candice,
    Here is a long and random message, not really commenting directly on this post although I could relate. I’m writing from Toronto and I wanted to say I really like your blog. When I found it, I was actually looking to learn more about life in Newfoundland, but I couldn’t find a lot of writing online that was really relatable & personable, other than yours. My husband is from St. John’s (originally from a rural community) but he’s lived in Toronto for quite a few years now. We have a young daughter. Toronto is so expensive (especially housing, much more so than St. John’s), and so sprawled out it takes almost an hour to commute to see friends on the opposite side of the city (and it’s almost unbearably hot some weeks, bad air pollution etc). I keep thinking this isn’t the place for me anymore. Of course it’s easy to want to be someplace different. I really like the size and pace and beauty of St. John’s. A few of my good friends here are from St. John’s, so not to generalize but I can’t help but think Newfoundlanders are good peeps. Genuine. I want a good community for my daughter to grow up in, and I’m ready to grow roots somewhere new. I’ve briefly visited St. John’s (mostly spent time on the Eastport peninsula), but it’s hard to get a feel for what it’d be really like to live there, or how easy it is for someone from away to make new friends, to find work etc. Seems like a cool smallish artistic city. Now this is a hard ask perhaps…and it sounds like you personally are having ambivalent feelings about being back…but would you recommend the leap? What are the honest day to day negatives and +’s about living in St. John’s? What great new places have you recently re-discovered? Best neighborhoods? How diverse is it? Thanks!! Toni

    • August 09 2017

      Hey Toni, thank you so much for your kind words about my site! I appreciate that. :)

      I do love St. John’s, even more than ever now that I’m living here again. The arts and music community is absolutely amazing–really unbelievable for a small city. It CAN be challenging to meet people, but not if you put yourself out there. Through working and volunteering in the arts, I’ve made a lot of new friends. I kind of had to reconfigure my whole social circle when I moved back from Berlin, and so I just got involved in a lot of community things and it really helped.

      The downside is that the winters can really wreck your soul, haha. For awhile it’s funny, and Newfoundlanders love poking fun at shitty situations (I LOVE following Twitter chats when a good storm is on — people are so funny). And I kept pretty active throughout last winter, and made sure not to be stuck in the house all the time, but by March it was really wearing me down. If you can prioritize winter escapes, you’re probably ok.

      My fave neighbourhoods are anywhere downtown, but 100% Georgetown. Great little community feel, close to everything, beautiful homes. I’m not living there at the moment but I was housesitting there recently and I LOVED it. Downtown is just great.

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