In today’s society, the concept of family is something that has become naturally fluid. Family can be you and one other, you and twelve others, or even just you and your trusty dog.
But consider this: what if family no longer even means you and blood relations? What if family is now merely a network of people with shared experiences?
Thanks to the much-welcomed ever broadening mind-set of my generation setting some pretty awesome blueprints, the family unit no longer represents the cardboard cut-out of mum, dad and two kids.
This whole concept came to me on my year abroad. Now let it be said; I come from a wonderful family with whom I am incredibly close, and am in no hurry to replace. But being abroad forces you to learn to rely on new people – or different people at least – as what can your mum do 1,200 miles away when your Spanish landlady is shouting at you for being sick on her bath mat after a heavy night of drinking?
Travelling is a remarkable experience. Living abroad for a period of time is equally remarkable – but if we’re all being honest, anyone that has done either will be happy to admit it can be scary. Even for the least-sheltered individual, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, when as humans we are innately built to be drawn to the familiar, is daunting.
Humans are also hard-wired to be surrounded by others - our nature says no to the hermit lifestyle, and seeks to create meaningful connections with those around us.
So, put these two together, mix it with some foreign language barriers and serious culture shock, and travelling should be the most anxiety inducing prospect we can face. So, why isn’t it?
Put simply, the people.
The community of travellers isn’t exclusive, but my gosh is it special. Every person I’ve ever come across on my travels had a certain “je ne sais quoi”. They are friendly and warm, they are open and nonjudgmental. They are the kind of people that after knowing you for one night are happy to spend 6 hours slumped on the floor of a hospital with a killer hangover waiting for you to get treatment for a swollen and very infected foot. From the offset, there is an understanding that people away from home look after each other. And it doesn’t matter where that home may be: I have created real connections with people from Europe, Latin America, The Caribbean, The States – the list goes on.
These are people who have held my hair back at the end of less glamorous nights out, and who have come with me to police stations when phones went “missing.” They are people I have cried with from pain, laughter and heartbreak and who have wiped away every tear and made every mishap feel less overwhelming. They have supported – hell, encouraged my brightest smiles and have championed me to become a better person. They are incredible people, who make me proud and who I never want to lose.
Sure, I was born with siblings, cousins and incredible parents. But these people understand a large part of my life that those 'blood' family members never will.
I reject the modern concept of family, with its focus on genetics. To me, family are the people who love you unconditionally, and who you love in return. To me, family are those who you can rely on and know you will never be asked of anything in return.
To me, family, is my network all around the world of people whose lives are speckled with memories of me, of the way we felt, and the way we all changed from our globe-trotting life. Shared experience, that to me is the true value of family. And with that in mind, my god am I lucky to have one of the biggest families out there.
Have you discovered a new family while travelling, or has travel inspired you to have a changed perspective on life? Share you stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…