Making (& Maintaining) Friends as a Nomad

It’s not always easy for nomads to make and maintain friendships. Physical proximity is – whether we like it or not – a major element of friendship. Proximity isn’t mandatory, but it is very helpful. Many people maintain legitimate long-distance friendships. But the prevalence of social media has also fooled many of us into thinking that long-distance friendships are easier than they are and have – in fact – fundamentally redefined how we approach friendships.

Nomads – by definition – do not remain in a single location for very long. That puts us at odds with the majority of the population that favors “putting down roots”. We can’t rely on our traditional friends to leave behind their jobs and their families to run off with us on some adventure. Nor can we even depend on fellow nomads – because your itinerary (or whimsies) will likely be at odds with those of your fellow nomad.

This is not an easy topic to discuss. It seems we value the perception of being popular and well-liked more than the reality of being popular or well-liked. Admitting that we might not be as well-liked as we think can be downright embarrassing. Even moreso when I consider the possibility that some of my friends will read this post. Yet, what I mentioned only in passing a few days ago in my last blog post is now – I think – worthy of further examination.

The Case for Leaving Wisconsin

I had every reason to leave Wisconsin last summer. I had just quit my job and sold my home. Having lived in Wisconsin almost my entire life, I was bored and loathed the climate. I had spent five weeks on the road touring the western half of the continent and saw some real gems. With all of the other changes going on in my life, I had an opportunity for a real fresh start – a clean slate. I could put some distance between myself and my old life and start anew.

And yet I remained here. And committed myself to a fresh twelve month lease in the process.

In jest, I will say that I don’t know why I did such a foolish thing. But in my heart – I know damn-well why I stayed. All of my friends are here. Everyone I know is here. Everyone I love is here.

On New Year’s Eve, I walked into a nightclub called Confetti’s. There I was greeted by a half dozen of my closest friends. And my god! what a warm welcome they showered me with. It was the kind of welcome that really makes you feel special and one that I – as an introvert – had to insist that they dial down a few notches because I found it overwhelming. But as the night wore on, that warm welcome began to contrast with the fact that I rarely ever see my friends. It made me feel like their affection was disingenuous. As if they were pretending to be happy to see me when, in fact, they were just being polite. I don’t know what the reality of it is. I often find it difficult to believe that people like having me around.

My Misanthropy

It is not enough to say that I am an “introvert” or “antisocial”. I am, but those terms don’t fully explain what’s wrong with me. Those terms tend to be synonymous with shyness. I’m shy, but my bigger problem is that I generally hate people.

This isn’t something I’m ashamed of. In my life, I’ve had good cause to loathe humanity. I’ve been betrayed by the people closest to me – namely my parents and my sister. I’ve been psychologically abused by my parents (and I have to start acknowledging that, as distasteful as it is to say). For eleven years, I’ve had to put up with shitty clients. I tend to be more intelligent than my peers, which makes day-to-day conversations frustrating. It boggles my mind the zeal with which most people get worked up over trivia and banalities.

All of this has resulted in a person who is emotionally exhausted and has learned to keep to himself to avoid being hurt. I’m not ashamed to be this person. My misanthropy is a source of strength and uniqueness. For better or for worse, it is who I am. I don’t want to be more outgoing, because then I would be someone else.

Being misanthropic doesn’t mean I hate everyone. And to wit, these six friends – these fellow haunters – are my friends because they are my equals in many respects. I have great admiration, affection, love, and loyalty for them. If they do like me, then it is probably because we’re kindred spirits. If they don’t – if their displays of affection are a mere politeness – then it’s probably because I always come across as a wet blanket.

Would It Be a Fresh Start, Really?

Whether or not they were sincere to me on New Year’s Eve, the fact of the matter is that I hardly see any of them. It’s not entirely their fault. After all, they all have jobs and families and other friends. I sit around home all day with little-to-nothing to do but live inside my own mind. I’m not outgoing, and I never initiate an invitation to do something with any of them – I always wait for someone else to invite me out. All of this leaves me feeling pretty lonely and wondering – quite frankly – whether it’s worth it for me to remain in Wisconsin.

With my plans for Europe seemingly dashed, my attention has returned to what to do with my future. I can use the money I was going to spend on that trip to get me started somewhere else properly. Western Washington and Oregon are at the top of my list. It’s scary being so far apart from literally everyone I know and without employment. (The only person I am aware of on the west coast is an internet friend I’ve met in real life once. And even she would still be at least 600 miles away.) But hey – really – how is that any different than my life right now? If anything, I’m reluctant to look for work knowing that any job I find would be temporary if I am adamant about leaving Wisconsin. The sooner I leave, the sooner I can take seriously the task of finding work.

But here’s what really terrifies me… I have friends here. As infrequently as I may see them, they do exist. And it has taken me eleven years to cultivate this small group of friends. I have “tried” to expand my base of friends to no avail. It’s difficult to make new friends when you’re planning to relocate to the tune of about 2,000 miles. What’s worse – my loneliness doesn’t seem to trump my misanthropy. So what happens if I move to Seattle or Portland and don’t change my own behavioral issues that have kept me so isolated?

Nomads & Relationships

Not all nomads are misanthropes. Many of us are exceptionally friendly and outgoing people. Yet, I’ve observed that there actually are a fair number of introverted, antisocial, and even misanthropic nomads. Perhaps the traits that lead to our isolation are some of the same traits that make us crave the open road – I don’t know.

But even the friendliest and most outgoing nomads have to contend with the physical distance generated between them and the people they meet. Unless and until we invent teleportation or inexpensive and high-speed travel – the physical distance between us will always be an obstacle to our relationships.

I apologize of I misled anyone into thinking that I had solutions to reveal in this blog post. I do not. There are hundreds of articles online that discuss how to meet new people in a strange land and how to cope with introversion and similar social anxieties. I’m not sure what one does when you’re contending with both misanthropy and being a nomad.

Loneliness

I walk a lonely road.

For the most part, I felt that it was important to share this negative aspect of being a nomad – told specifically from my misanthropic point of view. As I’ve said a few times in the past – nomadism and minimalism is a journey. Some of you reading this may be looking to incorporate these elements into your own life. It’s important that you know the downsides, as well as the upsides. I would never discourage anyone from going nomadic. I think the rewards are just too great. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also try to prepare you for the complications.

An Impossible Decision

I wish I didn’t have to choose between one or the other. I wish I could pack my friends and bring them with me out west. Even if I was able to make new friends out there, it’s not like I wouldn’t want to keep my Wisconsin friends.

But I can’t. And so I’m faced with an impossible decision. Two years ago, I had to decide to give up my house and my lifestyle because it wasn’t compatible with not-being-an-attorney.┬áThat decision was surprisingly easy to make. Don’t get me wrong – I loved my house. But financially, it was one or the other, and the trade-off was not worth while. Keeping the house was not worth the trouble of continuing to do a job I hated.

This decision is considerably more difficult. I am not resolved to the degree of confidence I held two years ago. There’s still a chance I chicken out. My friends are more dear to me than my house ever was. But the fact that I seldom ever see my friends makes easier the decision to move out west.

I suppose – if any of my friends happen to read this post – I would like them to know that moving out west is not a decision I make lightly.

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