I’ve known it since I pulled out of the driveway at my home base last fall.
There are many wonderful things about this new lifestyle I’ve chosen, not the least of which is the constant stream of new people there are to meet. This life on the road offers endless opportunities to be exposed to new strangers who may become new friends. I’m usually pretty gregarious, and having lived more than four years in an apartment in a very rural area, I looked forward to what many RVers told me: that I would have a better social life once I was on the road.
And they were right! I’ve met more new people and made more new friends in the past four months than I did in the previous four years. It’s been a hoped-for outcome to everything I’d been told, and I’ve been lucky and grateful in this respect.
But this bounty of new friends comes with a caveat: I’ve been aware that, at some point, I would have to say goodbye to every one of those new friends, and usually after a not-very-long time. It’s the nature of the beast, this life on the road.
You know it. You expect it. You try to prepare for it. But in the end, you really can’t. At some point, you meet someone you really click with, and spend a lot of time with. Then one day, one of you announces that your time here is coming to a close, and you must get back on the road again, for whatever reason.
Though you may meet again somewhere else, chances are you won’t be headed to the same place from here. And so, parting is a must. And you can’t help it: It’s sad.
Just before Christmas, I had to say goodbye to a family I had become friends with. I enjoyed them all so much: shared technical and work conversations with the dad; girl talk and heart-to-hearts, cooking and craft conversations with the mom; and taught the kids to draw.
When I had to leave for my holiday destination, I found myself near tears when I had to say goodbye. The only thing that saved me was that I knew they were going to be near where I would be, and there was a good chance I’d be able to see them again soon.
As it turns out, we were able to get together, and there’s a possibility I may even have a chance to run into them again before I return to Pennsylvania for the summer. It has now become something sweet to look forward to.
But today, it happened.
Early this afternoon, as I sat working with my trailer door open, I heard my new friend Susan pull up in her truck. She was leaving to visit family and friends before returning home to Colorado.
I first met her a week ago, when I recognized her from our camping wash, on our way to the main presentation area of this very large gathering in the desert. She was walking and I was driving my Jeep (this rocky stuff is just murder on my bad knees). I offered her a ride, and with the challenging terrain, she seemed glad for the opportunity.
She shoved her chair on top of my storage tubs in back, hopped in, and I introduced myself. She did likewise, and we bumped along over the rocky, uneven washes until we got close to the presentation area. She seemed anxious to get there, so I told her to go ahead and get out, since I still had to find a parking spot. She thanked me and took off for her session.
The next day, a similar situation occurred, only this time in addition to her chair, she was carrying a smallish little terrier that looked a bit like Toto from the Wizard of Oz. Again, I offered her a ride, and again, she was glad to accept. This time, we sat next to each other for the session, and made small talk in between speakers. She let her dog, Fen, sit on my lap, and we were both happy.
We quickly discovered we had the same dry, kind of twisted sense of humor, and shared many outlooks on the world. You know that kind of situation where you meet someone who just gets you? Yeah, it was like that. Just easy and nice and enjoyable.
When I dropped her off on the way home, I realized she was camped within sight and easy walking distance on the other side of the wash from me. Over the next week, we would compare notes on which sessions we were attending, and go together when it made sense. After sessions, we would sometimes share a meal, or chat a little over breakfast, or run into town for ice or groceries together.
It was really fun and enjoyable. We talked a lot, about nearly everything, and I realized it had been years and years since I’d made a friend like that. She asked if I like playing games, and when she listed cribbage and dominoes, I nodded enthusiastically. It had been even more years since I’d played cribbage, but I remembered really liking the game and was excited to relearn how to play.
One night when it got quite cold and I had just learned how to run my generator, we stayed inside and watched DVDs on my computer. We talked and hung out with Idgie and Fen, who were wary but okay with each other.
A couple days ago, I became aware that this was the longest I’d been able to just hang out with someone and get to know them since I’d been on the road. And I realized that when we parted, I would probably feel lonely for the first time on my journey.
Susan and another friend accompanied me yesterday on a trip to Los Algodones, Mexico, to get some cheap prescription drugs we all needed. We had a wonderful, chatty trip down, remarking on the stark beauty of the mountains and how mysterious they appeared, shrouded in rain clouds. We talked about lots of things, and laughed a lot. It was just fun.
When we returned to our camping area, our friend Tatiana moved her truck near Susan’s for her last night’s stay at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, before leaving early in the morning. I was aware that Susan would be following her later in the day. But when she rolled up outside to say goodbye, I couldn’t help it: My eyes filled with tears at the thought of losing my new good friend.
We hugged, and I hugged little Fen, and said how much I would miss them both. Susan said the same, and we lamented that our plans did not include any potential for getting together again any time soon.
And so it was a bittersweet parting. We have each other’s contact info, and discussed how we could continue playing cribbage long distance. We exchanged small gifts: I gave her some of the coconut candies I bought in Mexico, and she gave me a roll of toilet paper (it’s actually somewhat coveted currency for RVers, who never know when we might need it!). And we both admitted how surprised we were at how hard this was, saying goodbye.
But that’s always the price you pay in life for opening your heart to someone: When you must part (as you always must, at some point), the space they occupied in your heart becomes a void. It never gets easier, but you learn to deal with it the more it happens.
And if you’re an RVer, you don’t say goodbye. You say, “See you down the road,” and reflect on the fact that you were given the good fortune to meet in the first place. You realize that each new friend is a gift to welcome, and to savor, and to cherish.
And so, I bid adieu to my new friend, and hope that one day before too long, we will again see each other…down the road.