This past weekend I had an experience that will likely be familiar to anyone who’s done any amount of solo travelling. I found myself (with my family, in this case) in a new place, with a small group of new people, in a fairly isolated environment, in which we interacted fairly intensively for a few days.
It probably helped that we were pretty off-grid, with little or no cell phone or wifi service, and so forced to be more in the moment than is perhaps the norm for most people these days in our hyperconnected (but strangely disconnected) world.
We cooked together, ate and cleaned up together, talked and sang and joked and walked and talked some more together. And the world did that thing where it gets really small – that little house in the countryside was the whole world for those few days, and those people, previously unknown, seemed very quickly like close friends.
It’s a nice thing, and I hadn’t experienced it for a while.
During our final meal together one of my new friends asked me, in the course of conversation, an interesting question. It was a question that initially made me slightly uncomfortable, since it brought up some old and long-suppressed thoughts and feelings, and I felt like I needed to give it some thought in order to properly contextualize my answer. The conversation moved along before I could do that (the problem with wanting to answer questions properly is that sometimes the world doesn’t want to wait around for you to get your thoughts together), and the moment was gone. But I’m left with the question, and it won’t go away.
So I’m going to try to answer it here…