Relationships are essential to life, especially to living a good life. What happens to relationships when you become a full-time traveler is something we all will have to struggle with. Anyone who moves away from where they grew up has had a measure of it, but I think there are unique aspects for the nomad to consider. I’m going to offer what advice I can, based on my own life experience and from my own sense of ethics.
When to tell, Who to tell, and How to tell
You are going to go through some stages as you move towards living on the road full-time. Those stages won’t be the same for everyone. You may move through them quickly or slowly, you may even move back and forth between them. Who you tell and what you tell people should be different depending on where you are at.
Stage 1: A notion
At this point, you have an idea to travel full time. You may be reading a blog like this one, or a magazine article, or have known someone else who has made the leap. It’s something you know you might want to do, but you aren’t certain it’s right for you, or even possible.
In this stage, I think the best approach is to discuss with friends their own thoughts on the lifestyle without indicating it is your intent. Questions like: “Have you ever thought about living on the road full-time?” or statements like: “I wonder what it would be like to travel and live in an RV.” are both a good approach. Discussing it will help you reflect and you will get a sense of how others feel about the idea without invoking any concrete fears. If asked if you are serious you can honestly respond that it’s just something you are wondering about.
Stage 2: Serious consideration
At this point, you know that traveling full time is something you would like to do and your thoughts have turned to whether it is possible or prudent. This is when you should do a lot of reading and serious discussions with whomever you would be traveling with. It is time to weigh your own fears and concerns against your needs and desires. This is a time to figure out what you and those traveling with you want for yourselves and your life.
In this stage, I feel it is best to limit discussion of your ideas with a very small circle of people. These should be people you know to have the following qualities: wisdom, discretion, honesty, criticality, and generosity. You should make it clear that you want to keep the subject private because you have not made any decisions yet. You should also express that you want input, both for and against the idea. What you are looking for is council, things you may not have considered, and the opinions of people you trust as good decision makers.
Stage 3: Initial preparation
Now you know that traveling full time is a lifestyle you want for yourself and your immediate family. Everyone is in agreement that you want to pursue it. Typically you begin by making plans for what needs to happen to make the dream a reality. Here is where you figure out how much money you need and where it will come from. You could start limiting purchases and selling off stuff you haven’t used in a good long while in preparation for moving out. You may start building a business or making arrangements to work remotely.
This is also when it makes sense to start talking to close family and friends about your plans. Before you do that, make sure you give some thought to a couple things. Firstly, figure out who you think deserves to know ahead of time. They should only be folks who you care about, and who’s opinions you value. Secondly, you want to consider who the people in the fist group will confide in and if they would take it badly if you didn’t tell them yourself.
Make a list of the folks you want to tell. Note anyone you think might take the news badly. Consider carefully if that person is going to fight your intentions. If you’d wanted their council, you’d have sought it during phase 2, so if they are going to put up a fight you may want to save them for stage 4 when you are past the point of no return. If you didn’t want their input before, you shouldn’t let it dissuade you now.
You want to approach these conversations with the mindset that you have made a decision. “John and I have decided we want to travel full time, we’ve given it a lot of thought and are making plans. We wanted to let you know sooner rather than later.” From there, you should probably have a concise way to describe why you want to do it, and how you plan to do it.
Stage 4: Committed action
At this stage, you are moving quickly up to or have passed the point of no return. This means buying your RV, tow vehicle, selling your house, or otherwise making a commitment that is very hard to back out from. There should be no doubt in your mind that you are going to try traveling full time. That doesn’t mean you have no fears of concerns, only that you are committed to facing them.
Chances are good that most people you know well have heard about what you are doing or will soon find out. There is no point in hiding the information from anyone so go ahead and let as many folks know as you care to. It’s too late for anyone to change your mind, so if someone tries to get into it with you, let them know there is no point. You’ve made up your mind and nothing anyone can say will change it.
Stage 5: Living on the road
Now you are out and about, living the dream and facing its many challenges. Now, what matters is not who you tell, but how you keep in touch with those who you want to continue to be close to. Make sure they feel connected to you, and you to them. Depending on the person, that may involve different kinds of communications. Some folks like regular correspondence of some kind, others like the occasional missive to let them know they are still in your heart.
What to do when challenged
Unless you are very lucky, some of your friends and family may challenge your decision. Every person and every relationship is unique so I can’t give you certain answers, only general directions and ideas as to how you can manage your own feelings and responses, and how you can try to help them.
Know your own mind
Above all, you want to know your own mind on the matter. Consider carefully what your reasons are for wanting to make this change. Have a good idea of what kind of life you want to have while traveling. Think about how you will support yourself financially. Think about how you will keep in touch with friends and family. Think about how you will keep yourself safe. Think about what you want to achieve for yourself on your journey. Finally, practice expressing these things so it’s easy to tell others. When people understand you, and that you have given it long and careful thought, they are less likely to challenge you.
Believe in yourself
This is your decision, and your life. Only you have the responsibility and authority to make this decision. When others challenge you, consider them offering you their advice, not that they actually have a say in your decision. Thank them for their advice, and tell them you will think about it carefully, but make it clear they don’t get a “vote.” The decision is yours, and if you make it crystal clear you have already made it, many will naturally back off. Those who are wise will try to support you.
Understand the reasons people might object and how to respond
There are a number of reasons, good and bad, that people might object to what you are doing. Typically they fall under two motivations: people who are worried about you and people who are worried about themselves. Both of these are legitimate reasons to object. You might think people worrying about themselves are selfish, and that might be true, but consider that your decision to go is one based on your own interests. Looking after yourself and what makes you happy and healthy is something we all must do. That is what they are doing. You don’t have to do what someone wants you to, but you should try to have sympathy for it.
Advice that applies to everyone is this: listen to what they have to say. Let them speak their mind, and do your best to let them know you heard and understood what they told you. That is always the fist step to coming to an understanding. Also, remember that you can only control yourself, and others cannot control you. Have respect for them and insist they respect you likewise.
Those worried about you
People who are worried about you will express their fears. Your safety on the road is a common one. Another is whether you can make a living while traveling. Another is that you will be lonely away from friends and family. These are all good things to worry about. You should be thinking on them, and by the time you are challenged you should have thought of how you are going to deal with these challenges. When talking to someone who has these fears:
- Acknowledge the concern and that you share it.
- Tell them how you plan to deal with the challenge.
- Ask them for their advice (other than not to go) on how to deal with the challenge.
- Let them know you are confident that you can overcome the challenge, especially with their help.
Those worried for themselves
People who are worried for themselves will take one of two tracks, sometimes both. The direct and honest one is to say how much they will miss you and wish you would stay. There is both pain and pleasure in hearing it and its the sign of a close and honest relationship. I think the best response is to tell them you feel the same, that you will do your best to stay in touch, to visit when you can, and will miss them very much when you are away. Also, tell them you hope they will work to stay in touch with you while you travel.
Then there are folks who will express their fear for themselves by attacking you in some way. They may tell you that you are not living up to your responsibilities to family, or perhaps your responsibilities to society. They may claim you are afraid of hard work, or of settling down, or are running away from something you are afraid of. Understand people most often see the fault in others that they fear in themselves. The truth is likely that they don’t want to lose your company, or are jealous of what you are going to do. Instead of admitting that, they are accusing you of what they project their own motives would be. Here is my advice in responding:
- Try to focus on sympathy rather than anger before you respond.
- Don’t try to rebut the accusation or attack, instead, tell them your reasons for what you are doing.
- Ask them if they have ever dreamed of doing something similar.
- Tell them you will miss them and will do your best to keep in touch.
- Let them know your decision is already made but you appreciate their advice.
If despite your best efforts, someone remains belligerent and hostile I recommend you don’t speak with them again until you have set out on the road. They are entitled to their opinions and beliefs, but you are under no obligation to respect or heed them, and the conflict will do neither of you any good. Some people simply need time to let bad news sink in, others are honestly poisonous people you would be better of not having a relationship with if you can help it.
Keeping in touch on the road
I think the fundamental truth of any personal relationship is that people like to know that you care about them. Each person is different in how they express their care and what it takes for them to recognize such expressions. Often the most difficult relationships are when two people do indeed care, but have a serious mismatch in how they express and perceive expressions of caring.
If you mindfully want to keep in touch with someone give consideration to how they like to communicate and what makes them feel cared about. For some, a hand written postcard is very personal. For other people, they most want to see and hear you live. Others who grew up in the digital age may well find correspondence by email or social network satisfying. Some may be happy just to hear what you are up to second-hand. And some folks simply know you care and don’t need any reminders.
There are so many ways to keep in touch now: Mail, Email, Postcards, Social Networks, Video Chat, Blogs, Video Blogs, Virtual Reality, Video Games, Bulletin Boards, Word of Mouth (tell so and so I miss her), E-cards, Delivery services, Singing Telegrams, Texting, and probably plenty more I don’t know about. Figuring out how to do all this should be part of your planning for your new lifestyle.
I hope you have found the thoughts and advice helpful. I know that in the heat of emotion, it may be hard to follow some of this advice. Keep in mind that you don’t have to close doors. If you took the wrong approach at first, think about what happened, on what you should have done, and try again. Our relationships are among the most important things in our lives. They likely shape our lives more than anything else ever will. They can give us enormous strength, or they can tear us down. Be wary of those who would stand in the way of your dreams. Treasure those that give you strength and peace. Treasure them more than money, gold, or any other material concern.