Finding Friends and a Sense of Belonging on the Road
Almost every introduction to people we meet on the road includes some form of the question, “Where are you from?”
Answering always feels a little tricky. We really just started, so to say we’re “fulltime travelers” feels a little premature. Our son calls Texas home, but we most recently lived in Florida. Most often, my answer is Florida and Texas, which just confuses people. And Brian is more likely to say Florida, but honestly, he’d prefer to call Ireland his home.
Most of my family members have deep roots in one place. Not me. I’ll tune into the A&M game to hear the “voice of Aggie Football,” and I will always call myself a Texan, but the idea of living in one location forever just doesn’t appeal to me. It hasn’t for a very long time.
I used to feel badly about that—like there was something wrong with me that made me want to move so frequently. Not anymore. In the past few months, we’ve discovered a whole community of nomadic people. These are people our age who contribute to society through work and volunteer activities and raise their families—all while exploring the United States… or the world.
We started by connecting with a few people online, watching YouTube videos of other full-timers, and reading their blogs. Just a few weeks ago, we met up in real life with 50 other families who travel fulltime. Rather than asking where we were from, the most common conversation starters were, “Where did you launch from?” and “Where are you headed next?” Those are questions I can answer because they aren’t about belonging to a place—something I’m not wired for.
For the first time, I didn’t feel like the weird mom who can’t settle down. We were all “weird” which made us completely normal. Well, sort of. 😉
What about Friends?
One of the concerns friends and family had for us when we told them about this adventure was about our son’s “socialization.” And sure, I want my kid to have friends that he hangs out and connects with regularly. I want him to learn how to interact with others and have meaningful relationships. And in the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen firsthand how this nomadic lifestyle is just as effective (maybe even more so) at teaching those life skills than a typical school setting.
Maybe you remember the awkwardness of trying to fit in during middle school and high school: the cliques, the worries about what to wear, the putdowns. While the styles and insults have changed since we were kids, the cliques and stigmas are as alive and as socially polarizing as ever. There are plenty of things I appreciate about traditional school, but socialization isn’t one of them.
When we met up with these nomadic families I saw a new kind of socialization—one that accepted people for who they were.”
When we met up with these nomadic families I saw a new kind of socialization—one that accepted people for who they were. Families pulled into the campground in big rigs, small rigs, new models, older models, even a popup camper. But on the playground or volley ball court, your rig and your clothes didn’t matter. The kids—and there were more than 130 of them—all played together.
- Over and over again, we saw kids switching up groups and talking with new people, not because they were mad at who they’d been playing with, but because it was okay to play with everyone.
- There were a few kids with special needs who were welcomed into games and groups.
- No one was shunned because they didn’t look like or wear the same thing as anyone else.
- And (bonus!) there was no stigma about being silly. At one point I looked out my window and saw a group of teens and pre-teens laughing while they played the hokey pokey. No one was worried about looking cool. The kids were just having a good time playing outside without the aid of an electronic device. How’s that for being social?!
We’re still new at this traveling thing, I and really have no idea how long we’ll continue. But I love that our son is collecting friends along the way. I also love that there’s this whole community of people out here who are willing to share their experiences—the good and the bad—and offer friendship and advice. Are we all the same? Do we all have the same goals and values? No way. But that’s really okay because you don’t have to “fit in” to belong.