April 12, 2018

The Problem with Seeking out Like-Minded Communities.

“I don’t want to be around like-minded people. I want to be around people I like.” ~ Will Sueiro

If you are following any full-time travel, digital-nomad, or location-independent groups on social media, you have probably seen the word “like-minded” used more times than you can count.

Although I do think there is a time and place for it in everyone’s life, I have become disenchanted with this word for many reasons. I particularly dislike its use in situations where people are searching for a course of action while embarking on a life change.

I used to like the word “like-minded.” I still loved it when we were doing our research five years ago, as we prepared to become a WorldTowning family—a way of living where we choose to immerse ourselves in a culture outside of our hometown in order to obtain a greater understanding of the world.

No one in our stationary circle at the time understood what we were trying to do. The word gave us a sense of belonging with a group of folks who understood the journey on which we were embarking.

It is human nature to want to belong to some extent, even when we are going against the majority. I now understand why this word is so used on almost every marketing material from businesses promoting full-time travel.

When we started our journey, the word “like-minded” still had a special place in my heart. The first six to eight months (depending on whom you ask) in Costa Rica were nowhere close to what we expected. We made several long trips to attend parties with other “like-minded” people to find our tribe and help us feel like we belonged somewhere.

We were so used to having a community in our Boston life, that we felt completely lost during this transition. At the time, we did not realize it was a transition—we just thought it was us and our inability to make this travel life work.

Our hunt for like-minded people served its purpose as we worked our way over the adjustment hump.

After our brief encounter with “like-minded” people in Costa Rica, we realized that they were not the “end-all, be-all” in terms of our new community.

Why? With over three years of travel under our belts, we have learned that most like-minded groups tend to be very insular. They often hail from one’s home country or a country that is very similar to one’s own country; and, they frequently speak the same mother tongue.

As a result, when we find like-minded folks, we are not challenged to come outside of our comfort zones, which affects our ability to have truly authentic experiences.

So, what is the alternative?

Instead of seeking out like-minded people, perhaps we all would be better off searching for like-hearted people.

Like-minded groups are akin to college fraternity groups. Everyone is together with a common interest and goal, but there is often the added element of drama that no one wants or needs.

I define like-hearted relationships as those that are based on a connection of interests and attitudes toward people and the world. Like-hearted relationships bring together people from a multitude of backgrounds, with different mindsets, vast expertise, and varying resolutions. This combination of people can give you an amazing group of friends with whom to hang out and learn from.

Think about this for a minute: If you brought together a group of like-hearted individuals, each of whom brought his or her unique skills, ideas, and global perspective to the table, what kind of magic could you do in the world? Imagine how the children in these groups could benefit by going beyond like-minded and focusing on like-hearted?

Are you reading this and saying, “Well, I want this experience, but I cannot step that far out of my comfort zone”?

That’s okay. Baby steps. However, do try to be open to new experiences with locals, and, when I say locals, I mean people who were born and raised in the area in which you are living—not expats.

I cannot begin to put into words how enriching it has been to have local friends who are of different cultural backgrounds, whom we have met in the countries in which we have lived in and visited. Besides spending tons of time together as a family, this is the second biggest benefit of WorldTowning for all of us—without a doubt.

I know making friends from another culture is not always easy. I get it.

I spent almost an entire year attending a homeschool group in Ecuador with only locals. I could barely communicate in Spanish and, on most Fridays, I spent a lot of time standing alone. It was hard, really hard, but I do believe my daughter and I both got so much out of the experience. Gaining a global perspective by making connections with people from different geographic locales is one of the best and least expensive benefits of traveling.

As fun as it is to hang out with people with similar traits (background, language, interests…), it can also be incredibly limiting. The thought of only socializing with those who are like-minded to our family feels like listening to myself talk all day. What fun is that?

Let’s take it a step further.

Instead of looking for people like us, why don’t we all just look for people we like? If we open our hearts to make friends with those who are different rather than those who are familiar, if we find those who are different-minded, but are people we genuinely like, imagine how much we all could grow?

Some of our dearest friends are not even close to being “like-minded,” but we like them. Think about your current friend circle. Are they just like you? Is this enriching your life? Is it boring? Are they like-minded, but not really people you like?

I hear a lot of experienced travelers surmise that those “back home” only want to be around people like themselves. But, this can be true for people of all lifestyles.

It is hard for people to move outside of their comfort zones to bridge cultures, languages, and worldviews—whether they are full-time travelers or not. But, when we do make those connections, when we do push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we just might find that, while like-mindedness exists in small pockets here and there, like-heartedness can be found anywhere.

And, that is something that I’ve grown to really love.


Author: Jessica Sueiro
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron

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