When I signed up for We Roam in March, I thought about joining their itinerary that launches in July, Orion. I knew I wanted to be gone for at least a year, and the idea of starting from the beginning with a group really appealed to me. But, once I decided to leave, I wanted to get going ASAP, and I was lured in by the prospect of Barcelona in May (spoiler alert: it’s fabulous).
So I agreed to join Polaris, the inaugural We Roam tour, and hop into a group that’s been traveling together since January. There have been a few new additions and a few departures, and I’m one of five to join this month. But the other four new recruits are guys, so…
I’m the new girl.
The last time I was the new girl was in high school, when I transferred schools halfway through my junior year. It didn’t go well, to put it mildly. The other students had been together since preschool for the most part, and the cliques were well formed. Coming in as the new girl meant harassment and capital-D Drama.
I’m happy to say that this is going better. Whether it’s age or just a correlation between the type of person who signs up for this program and a certain level of chill, everyone’s been very welcoming. I’ve had drinks and dinner (and played quarters, but let’s not talk about that right now) with a bunch of different people; the clique factor seems uncommonly low.
Which is good, because that’s honestly the only thing I was worried about coming into this trip. Everyone else was concerned about exchanging money or how I’d stay in touch or whether I’ll get mugged at some point (I mean, possibly). I felt like, all of that will be fine, but as someone used to spending a lot of time alone–hence the blog name–is traveling around with a big group of people going to suck?
So far, it doesn’t. Yay! But even with a relatively smooth transition, they’re still learning about me–and vice versa.
You don’t get very many opportunities in life to make a wholly fresh start. Maybe college, grad school, a few moves–but the longer you’ve lived, the higher the chance that you know at least one person wherever you go who will be able to tell your old stories. So coming into this trip, knowing absolutely no one, I have a little bit of freedom, a chance to show my idealized self, if I choose.
But I think for the most part, I’m just being me. Maybe a more extroverted version of myself, but I’m sure that will balance out over the next few weeks. I’ll admit that part of the drama in high school was my fault–unsure of myself, I tried to be what I thought they wanted. At 33, I’m pretty settled in my personality: I like fancy food and hate spin class. I read. A lot. I hate futbol but love football. I’m an incorrigible flirt with bad follow through. I like to dress up but hate heels.
I’m still willing to try new things, but I’m no longer formless; my personality has parameters.
And everyone on this trip with me has the same opportunity to present the version of themselves they wish me to see. Given that a few of them are here because of pretty seismic life events, they might be taking advantage of that. I wouldn’t know. One guy spent half of my first night trying to convince me his name was Steve. It is not anywhere close to Steve, and that was a pretty rude thing to do to a girl meeting 30 new people on zero hours of sleep. He was properly chastised.
Beyond the individuals, though, I’m also meeting the group. Everyone else has been together for at least a month; some of them have been together for four months. They have shared history, experiences, inside jokes. Relationships of all sorts have come together and fallen apart. Over the past week and a half, I’ve been putting together a puzzle and discovering new pieces every day. I’ll probably never have all of them–and I’m adding pieces of my own as I go. But I’m happy with what the overall picture looks like.
One of my fellow Roamers pointed out that I’ll only be the new girl for a month. He was a new guy last month, and next month in Prague, we’ll get a few more. I told him that given that, I wanted a tiara. Instead of anxiety, I think a new girl celebration is in order.