Sober friends eat together on the beach while in drug rehab

Cheers to New Friends

Graduate Blog: a travel, health and personal evolution lifestyle blog.

By Ryan Howsley Graduate

I’m the type of guy that hates the big crowds, bumper to bumper traffic, and the chaos of the big city. I have never really felt comfortable in a big group setting and I always felt like I get lost in the crowd. To be honest, having a lot of people surrounding me intimidates the shit out of me. There is just too much going on for me to process and I tend to shut down and get very quiet.

This is one of the main reasons that made the idea of van life so appealing to me. I would only have to deal with Jess and Uggs on the day to day basis. No big crowds, no traffic (unless passing through a city at the wrong time), and the freedom to move around as I please. Instead of meeting new people out at a bar through friends of friends with everyone playing the part of their best selves, I am meeting people in their rawest forms that are more focused more on self discovery than impressing their peers. You can almost always tell right off the bat if the people are cool — or if they are the stereotype of people living in a van down by the river.

Meeting new van people has been amazing. I’ve got to learn about how people from different parts of the world live, hear cool stories about their travels, and make some awesome new friends. My favorite van couple that we have met so far are these two chicks from Switzerland: Severinne and Margaux. Before embarking on their new van life, one was a cop and the other a social worker. These two shipped their van from Switzerland to the US and are traveling all the way down to Patagonia. We met them in Baja randomly at a beach. The first night we had them over to our palapa for dinner, we stayed up till the late hours of the night telling stories and talking about the differences between our countries and cultures. The next day Jess and I had to leave, but our paths would cross a few more times throughout our stay in Baja. We met up again near Cabo, where we a joined up with two more guys, Kyle and Tyson, and this time we had a whole pack to travel with. We rented an AirBnB together, surfed, and played on the beach for the next few days. This group was awesome and we traveled around together for the next couple of weeks. The point that I am trying to get at is that with each one of them, we got a strong vibe right out the gate that they would be a fun people to spend time with, but that didn’t happen with every person. Sometimes Jess and I got the feeling that the people we would encounter just wanted to be left alone or they weren’t really that into hanging out and telling stories. When that would happen we would keep our distance and do our own thing.

Living in a van truly allows you to choose with who and how you spend your time. It is not like when you are at work or in the city and you have to be around co-workers or neighbors that you may {or may not} like. On the road, if you are not into the people camping next to you, you can pack up and leave. This new lifestyle has heightened my sense of self awareness – almost by force – and allowed me the opportunity to venture out into new crowds and let down my guard. Each day I am learning new things about myself by stepping out into the unknown. I would be lying if I said that it isn’t challenging {or scary} to encounter so many unknowns on a daily basis but it is like Will Smith said, ”Bliss is just on the other side of fear.”

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