Searching For My People

Friendship is a fickle beast. One day you’re laughing hysterically, trying to catch your breath and the next thing you know, your friend asks you “how’s work?” and the only thing you can think to say is “good.” Other times you grow up together, attending mutual engagements but keeping your distance, and then a weird circumstance comes out of nowhere, pushing you two together (sometimes with a little alcohol) and it’s like new, vibrant people emerge from your previously static selves. And then sometimes, you meet someone, and it’s like putting on a warm, fuzzy pair of socks. It just fits. (And then your toes are warm, too!)

Over the years, I’ve often found that “my people” are almost always a bunch of dudes. I’ve always been the “cool girl”, the one who rolls with the guys and doesn’t make anyone wait for her to finish straightening her hair before we go out. It helps that my hair is naturally straight of course, but my gang of guys doesn’t usually last. Guys fall in love with me, I fall in love with a guy, we move to different places and it’s not so easy to just hang out (God forbid people put forth effort to meet up!) or any other myriad of circumstances often pull apart my group of friends within a year or so. I keep in touch with the occasional guy friend, but it’s not uncommon that the one-on-one contact throws off the friendship and it doesn’t feel the same. I can count the number of good guy friends I have to this day on one hand, but I can’t say the same for the number of male friend groups I’ve been a part of and fallen away from, eventually. I found the people I was most comfortable with just as quickly as I lost them, time and again.

My original (and forever) crew of dudes: my brothers.
My original (and forever) crew of dudes: my brothers.

In college, I really wanted to break that cycle. So I did what any sane, down to earth “cool girl” would do.

I joined a sorority.

Yep, one of those Greek organizations that stars in all of the USA college movies, the ones that get hammered in three story houses with balconies. I wore the letters. I did the chants. I even did the Halloween frat parties, although I dressed up as a “tree” on at least two occasions by wearing a green shirt, so clearly I wasn’t that into it. And, maybe to your surprise, I even had blonde hair. I was looking for my people.

You probably didn't see that coming.
You probably didn’t see that coming.
Alternative Caption: Pics or it didn’t happen!

And as is inevitable in a group of 60+ girls, I did find a few. We had a warm fuzzy socks kind of connection, we laughed, we lived together and spent a lot of evenings on the front porch with glasses of wine, talking about what we wanted from life one day. They were there for me when my heart broke and when I, more often, broke hearts and felt terribly guilty for it. They were there when I accepted my job in South Korea, I was there when they made plans to move across the country or into a different apartment for their final year of school. And on graduation day, I would have sworn we were inseparable. But the thing about fuzzy slipper socks is that they slip off just as easily as they slip on, and when they come off, your feet feel really really cold.

Two years later, the periphery best friends, the people I wish I could have spent more time with (but didn’t, because I was with my main ladies at the time) are the people that ended up sticking around. I thought I’d found my people in the sorority and I was right, but I just wasn’t right about who those people were. But just because I’d found friendships I could depend on and hold onto, doesn’t mean I actually had someone to hang out with on a Friday night. I was in South Korea. And in South Korea, I was looking for more of my people.

But they never came.

This is what causes me to hesitate when someone asks if I loved living in South Korea. This is why when you ask, “How was it?” I say “It was great!” or “It was an awesome experience,” instead of gushing on about how much I loved living there and can’t wait to go back. Because what I had hoped for, people I clicked with, never came. Old teachers left, new people arrived and yet I felt, to put it simply, friendless. I had friends and people to hang out with, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel quite as natural or deep as friendships I’d had before. I met some Korean girls that I got along with, but it was nothing like my friendships in the States and definitely nothing like my gangs of guys. After a while I began to forget what that instantaneous feeling was. I knew my friendships weren’t up to par with a “war council,” but for the life of me I couldn’t imagine what that would be like, anyways. It had been too long. When I left Korea, I knew that as wonderful as my memories with friends were, I’d come out empty in my search for my people.

I offered him a place as my bestie, but it just didn't work out.
I offered him a place as my bestie, but it just didn’t work out.

A month at home, and spending time with those who used to be in the periphery but had now come center stage, confirmed that feeling. I then made it a priority to find some damn friends. So I put in the effort to meet other travel bloggers, starting with two lovely ladies in Pittsburgh. We were only able to meet once, but I’m fond of them, and more than anything else, it confirmed that I need to get out there and start meeting more of the people I converse with on Twitter. Nobody knock Internet friends, because they’re some of the best people I know.

A month in Spain. Couchsurfing, traveling and generally just meeting a shit-ton of people has been better for me than I would have ever imagined. It all started with Linda, whom I met on a tourist bus in Barcelona. We shared headphone jacks (her side was broken) and I was intrigued by her story, since you don’t see a ton of over-40 travelers who are interested in doing the same kind of things I am. We both do photography, we both wanted potatoes without the sauce, and she’s the kind of dreamer who’ll ask me to film her advertisement video pitch at a random ATM machine in the middle of a mall. As the trip went on, I met more and more people with whom I got along easily. I got to meet Olivia from Halfway Somewhere while in Madrid and we talked a ton about travel (surprise!), a subject many of my friends aren’t able to broach. Old friendships sprung back to life as strongly as they ever were, new people made me erupt with laughter within minutes of meeting them. Not all of my new friendships are people I’ll make the effort to stay in touch with forever, but some of them are. Somewhere along the way, while in Spain, I’d met more of my people. And now I can remember exactly what it feels like.

Getting along with people right away + food = a beautiful thing.
Getting along with people right away + food = a beautiful thing.

I’ve now spent a week in Dublin, Ireland and made my way West to the Aran Islands, where I’ll be working in a hostel for two weeks. When I first arrived yesterday, I was led up to a room where I met my roommates, two Spanish girls from Barcelona. Immediately we hit it off and the more that my true self comes out (read: WEIRD), the better we get along. Later, I met a guy from South Korea and we lamented over how much we missed Korean food, mostly bulgogi and pat bingsu. A coworker from France has offered up her time to teach me French pronunciation while I’m here. There were even several guests from Germany staying as guests that first night and we got to talk both in English and in German about tons of topics under the sun. We imbibed and danced and laughed, all of us together, and today I was able to share mate with two Argentines and other friends, an activity I adored while in Argentina. I’ve been here for 24 hours and I haven’t just found some of my people, I might have found an entire youth hostel of them.

While no one can say what friendships will last or not, I’m resting easily knowing that the people I’ve met here so far are fantastic and I’ve never fit in better. But when my two weeks inevitably comes to an end on these gorgeous islands (well, gorgeous when it’s not raining, but that’s Ireland for you!) I’ll be walking away with not just incredible friendships and hopefully some badass French pronunciation skills, but maybe someone I can say belongs on my war council. And at least for now, I’ve found my people.

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14 thoughts on “Searching For My People”

  1. Aww, thanks chica for the shout out 🙂 I completely know how you feel and could not agree more on the whole Internet friend “thing.” I have always found that the people I have the most in common with/share my interests and passions with are the ones who never live in my city, state, county, or hemisphere (ahem… ;)) I definitely need to do the same but I think it’s a bit tougher here in Pittsburgh than being based on some cool island off the coast of Ireland 🙂

    Glad to hear that you’re having a fabulous time and most importantly, meeting your “people.”

    P.S. You totally pulled off the blond hair!
    P.P.S. From the title of this post, I was expecting a genealogical one although somewhat related!

    1. Haha well the only people on this island that I can call my people are in the hostel, the rest is a no-man’s land of countryside Irish people… gasp! (They’re probably cool, too, who knows.) So maybe Pittsburgh has cooler people than you realize! (Global Pittsburgh? Have you joined?) But I’m really, really lucky to have met the people here. They’re wonderful.

      Haha and sorry to disappoint on the genealogy. I’ll give you a quick run-down: mix Europe together and I come out!

  2. Dude. Some of the people I’ve felt the most comfortable with ever were people I met when I worked at my hostel. I guess the fact that you’ve all chosen to be in that situation (rather than put together by the coincidence of where you grew up) gives an indicator of who you all are and that you’ll likely have similar values.

    That was 3 years ago, and I’ve kept in contact with a lot of them better than I have with my home friends and just yesterday I booked flights to France to visit my two best friends from there.

    It was fun to hang out with you though, cos I’ve never chatted with someone who gets this whole other side of things. I think I need to meet more online people now; you were my first!

    1. I agree, I want to meet more and more people from the Internet everytime I meet someone else. It’s always a fun time.

      And working in a hostel is a perfect way to make great friends, I’m sure it’s the same all over the world. I’m a little bit addicted, I kind of want to spend all of my travel time working in hostels now, I’m so sick of sightseeing and spending absurd amounts of money. Hostel work is perfect. Hopefully I’ll stay in touch with my new friends as long as you have with yours, though!

  3. Gorgeous!
    I have had my own ups and downs (lots of downs!) when it comes to friendships, but I have learned that the worthwhile ones will see things through despite myself. For that reason, my best BEST friends in the world are like my soulmates. I don’t keep a lot of riff raff around. 🙂 I always love meeting new people though and having friendship flings can be a beautiful thing, especially while traveling. Keeping an open heart can be hard to do, but it looks like you are doing brilliantly, and I’m so happy to hear about you finding your people. Keep smiling Sally, it suits you well! xo

    1. SO many downs, tell me about it! I know this is “natural” and changing circumstances reveal who’s hanging around for the long run, but it doesn’t make it easier. Ever. Holding onto the good ones for dear life is a skill I’m learning.

      Hope you can find some of your people in India too! Send me an email if you get the chance, I’d love to hear more about it. 🙂

  4. I would never knock internet friends – So many people I consider friends are those I met on the internet. In fact, my best friend is someone I met online. 😀

    Hope our paths cross one day, hun. Would love to really get to talk and meet up with you one day!

    1. I meet the awesome-est people from the Internet, it’s great. Hopefully we can meet up, I agree! I’ll be in Korea in August, so I have a good feeling about it. 😀

  5. Gotta love Internet friends 🙂 I definitely get what you’re saying here… once you digress slightly from the “norm” with your lifestyle or values the pool of potential close friends seems to really shrink! Glad you’re having some success out there finding your people!

    1. It’s ridiculous that with so much technology, you still lose friends. But I suppose that’s just life! I’m glad to meet people I really like, too. Yay!

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