From hiking the lush mountains of Chiang Mai to eating snails in the night markets of Marrakech, travel has made me come alive in ways nothing else has. When I travel, I release my inhibitions and tap deeper into my humanity. I strike up conversation with strangers, try foods I’m not used to, and dance barefoot in the rain like it’s nobody’s business.

You’ve probably read plenty about the wonders of travel simply because that seems to be the only perspective that gets published. Stories depicting the beauty of the world, and how to get to your destination for less than $500 are quite popular.

But what you don’t often hear about are the negatives aspects of travel. Many of us who travel often, or for long periods, tend to experience hardship, loneliness, and loss. We miss holidays, we miss weddings and miss births. Perhaps most painfully, we lose friendships we thought would last forever.

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I’ve been traveling somewhat consistently for the last 14 years. The first country I traveled to solo was Mali. Since then I’ve been to Cameroon, Turkey, Laos, Ethiopia, China, Thailand, Cuba and more. Twenty-six countries in total, one for almost every year of my life thus far. And it has been remarkable.

Image courtesy of Jaynice Del Rosario

Unfortunately, my travels coincided with my little sister’s formative years, a time when she really needed me but I was absent. I was not there to guide her through the ups and downs of adolescence or the complications of girlhood. I wasn’t there for her first period, to share in her excitement the first time she fell in love, or to wipe her tears when she first experienced heartbreak. At the time I had no idea what I was missing. I felt like I had figured out the key to living a dope life full of magic and adventure, and I was determined to let it ride until the wheels fell off.

It wasn’t until one day when I was back in the U.S. hanging with my-then best friend of almost 15 years that I first felt the pain of my own absence. I was angry with her for trying to salvage a friendship with a manipulative classmate, and I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t let the friendship go. “Why don’t you just give it up?!” I yelled. “She’s clearly not trustworthy!” With sadness in her eyes, she replied, “Yeah Jay, but she’s been here for me and you’re always gone.”

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My two-year stint volunteering in Ethiopia marked the end of that friendship and other college friendships I once thought were strong. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Didn’t my friends know that I was living my best life? Didn’t they want me to be happy? Why couldn’t they understand that I didn’t have unlimited access to email or electricity? AND WHY DIDN’T THEY TRY HARDER TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH ME?!

What I failed to understand was that even if people miss you, after a while, they get used to not having you around. Your absence becomes commonplace and soon after you stop getting text messages and the phone no longer rings. And it is painful. It is especially painful to lose something you once thought couldn’t be lost. I expected to find the people I loved where I had left them. I didn’t realize I was taking them for granted by expecting they’d always be there to receive me when I returned.

Image courtesy of Jaynice Del Rosario

Time doesn’t stop just because you’re away. People keep growing, they form new bonds, they fall in love, and they change. They always change, and it is selfish to expect them not to do so.

Travel has changed my life forever. I love it deeply and I am committed to seeing more of the world and helping others travel. But now that I’m aware of the downsides to traveling, I am making a more concerted effort to stay in touch, come back for the weddings, initiate the Skype dates, and plan more trips with my family and friends. Travel is a beautiful treasure, and treasures are meant to be shared with the people you love.

This post was written by Jaynice Del Rosario.

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