Solo Travel Update
It has been exactly one month since my last day of work. Although I have dreamed about my colleagues and job, I have yet to regret my decision.
Today, poolside in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand, I opened a thoughtful email from an old friend. The email got me thinking about one of my aspirations for this trip: to figure out my tribe.
My working definition of a tribe is a group of people who are like-minded in terms of personal aspirations. These people ACTIVELY support your growth and you support theirs.
Not all friends and family are automatic members of your tribe. This is because of the key term ‘active’ as it relates to support.
Active vs Passive, Constructive vs Deconstructive
To explain active support, it helps to borrow the concept of Active Constructive Responding conceived by psychologist Shelly Gable2. This idea posits that close relationships grow even closer and healthier when a person responds with enthusiastic support (active constructive response) to positive news from their friend or partner.
Undesirable responses of generalized, understated support (passive constructive), minimization or demeaning of the news (active-destructive), or ignoring the news (passive-destructive) can weaken relationships and may lower the well-being of the news-giver.
I’m Out, Y’all
When a person says they are quitting their job to take their first solo trip to Southeast Asia for 2 months with no plan to resume doctoring or other work for several months upon returning, a variety of responses are heard:
- OMG, that’s amazing! (Big smile). I/my friend did something similar, do you want to chat with them about what they did or get trip recommendations? I’d be happy to connect you guys.
2. (nanosecond pause) OMG, that’s amazing! (widened eyes, raised eyebrows). (Awkward silence). I usually fill this part with by my backstory.
3. Wow! Uh, are you sure you really want to do that? You know, because, uh, you worked for sooooo long to be a doctor. Will you be safe? You have to really be careful out there.
4. Oh cool, I’m headed to Zimbabwe in 2 weeks, do you know anyone who has been there?
To be fair, none of these responses are horrible and I didn’t receive any passive destructive ignoring of my news. The first response of pure, unbridled enthusiasm and assistance is ideal though! The active and passive destructive responses are whack, but also a bit complicated.
Friends and family who gave the second and third responses meant well and genuinely want the best for me. But for unknown reasons which likely don’t have anything to do with me, they chose to or weren’t able to provide the kind of support that fosters progress.
The safety warnings were somewhat expected however those that know me know of my (generally) risk-averse nature. With the exception of a handful of less-than-stellar decisions influenced by inebriation in my younger days, I’ve led a pretty careful life.
Also, the generalized advice of ‘Be Careful’ helps less than more specific aid geared towards newbie solo travel or SE Asia travel, etc. And people are so afraid of unknown, far away, “scary” places, its ridiculous. Okay, I’ll stop ranting.
Who belongs to the tribe then?
Your tribe is ideally composed of people who are active-constructive responders. Not ‘Yes men/women’ either, because they fall into the passive constructive category of bland, unhelpful praise.
Instead, we need friends, mentors and partners who constructively criticize our plans and ideas while offering suggestions to truly help us move forward in life.
Where does that leave everyone else? Having people around who have known you for 10 or 20 years or your whole life is worthwhile because they can serve as barometers of how you have changed. But, these may not be tribe members off of which you can bounce your ideas and with whom you can celebrate your successes.
Also, not every friend or romantic partner has to fulfill every role. Ideally, the point of having several friends, a mentor, close family, etc is that each person plays their specific part in your life.
I’m not where I want to be in my life but I didn’t arrive to this point on my path because others criticized my ignorance of the world’s issues and my personal handicaps. I’m waking the eff up because of the openness, generosity and patience of those who led by example and are members of my tribe in my head or in reality.
While forging ahead on this arduous journey called life, be supportive and generous of spirit to those behind you and ahead of you. And find your tribe.
1)Gable, S. L; Gonzaga, G. C; Strachman, A.
Will You Be There For Me When Things Go Right?
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
2006, Vol. 91, No. 5, 904 –917