In today’s global world if you make it past 25 and still live in the same city, state or country as your best friends you’re lucky. Many of us leave the cities or towns where we grew up or went to university to find jobs in faraway lands. And even if you stay you’ll see your friends spreading out across the globe and away from you.
The internet has definitely made long-distance communication easier and hypothetically you can call them up on skype or WhatsApp and see their face anytime – being mindful of time differences. But it’s hard to find the time, and the longer you leave it the more time you will need to catch up on their lives and to catch them up on yours.
So how do you maintain long-distance friendships over long periods of time apart? I’ve reached out to my best friends, who are spread out all over the world, for tips on how to maintain long-distance friendships and how they deal with the separation.
It’s me, the author! Originally from a small town in Australia, I now have Mexico City as my home base. I don’t know what you know about these two countries but they are very far from one another, meaning I’m also far from my closest friends.
“Make new friends, no-one will ever replace your best friends from home but it’s important to form new relationships. Your two-hour phone calls won’t be very interesting if you’re only talking about the old days with them. It will also help ease the FOMO when you see all your old mates hanging out with each other or their new friends. Remember that having new friends doesn’t mean you don’t love your old ones and it’s important to still make time for them whenever you can.”
I lived with Jord for years, all through university, and I have no shame in saying she has been one of my greatest loves! Since parting ways after graduation Jord moved to Wellington, New Zealand for a few years and has recently moved to Sydney, Australia to work as an Environmental Lawyer.
‘When I go exploring new places I always wish my best friend was there too, because I know how much she would love it and how much fun she would bring. But for now, I just store away those new horizons for the time when we are adventuring together again and I know it will be just like she never left at all’
Pook and I were inseparable during high-school but have been separated by space and time ever since we graduated our final year. We went to different universities and did exchange on different continents at different times. It’s been 10 years since we lived in the same town, but she will always be my Pookie!
“If there are what feels like oceans and light-years between you and a friend, do something little to let them know your still there. An ‘I miss you’. A ‘remember this [insert photo, quote, anecdote]’. A spontaneous phone call, even when you don’t have long to talk. And tell stories. Tell stories about your adventures together, and always make plans for more.”
Janey is a workmate from the same little town as me. She is one of those rare finds, the kind of person that after a few weeks of knowing her you can’t remember a time when you didn’t. Just an instant and lifelong friend.
“You always miss them like crazy and at times it can feel like you’re not a part of each other’s lives but as soon as you send that message, or make that call the distance seems to disappear (and then you just adore them even more for making an incredible life wherever that may be. Townsville… MEXICO ). There is also something comforting and exciting about having friends who live far away, knowing that you’re never alone in the world and that you’ll always have someone, somewhere in the world to go to escape your life for a while and/or travel.”
Having lived in the same faraway city at the same time, Syd and I have been each other’s connection to home on multiple occasions. She has now moved back to Aus and I miss everything about having her close.
“Try to schedule Skype dates with your long-distance friends as much as you can. Obviously life gets busy, so they don’t all pan out, but that’s ok. I think keeping in contact via text or tagging each other in funny memes is super easy, and a good way to let them know you’re thinking about them in between skype dates!’
Eddie and I lived on the same country road all throughout our teens. We met in high school, our families met and we have all been like a family ever since. Eddie and I have had a lot of time apart, living in different countries, but whenever either of us is home we make the effort to see each other or each other’s families.
“Long-distance friendships can be hard but it makes you work harder. I think it forms a closer bond. A fair bit of our friendship has been with one of us not being in the same country. We have always made time for each other no matter the time difference.”
Edmo has crossed the globe more times than anyone else to go adventuring with me! She is an invaluable friend and incredible travel buddy who never says no to new adventures!
“There are challenges which come with long-distance friendships. Some that you can and some that you can’t prepare for. It’s hard being apart and not being in their presence. It’s hard not feeling their infectious energy. It’s also hard not being able to pick up the phone and call because of time zones. And I hate that I can’t just run to their place and demand attention. But while there are thousands of miles separating us, I never feel like I’m not with them. Because even though we are separated nothing changes. We still have fun adventures. We still gossip and I definitely, still demand their attention. In fact, having distance has meant we get to try even more new things together. It makes me appreciate our time together more so than ever.”
Ann is another longer-term university housemate of mine (she currently lives in Cuba) and this girl is something else! I asked her to send me a short paragraph when I should have just asked her to write the whole article. She always goes above and beyond for her friends which is why we all love her so bloody much!
“Throughout my life friendships have been fluid and ever-changing, both in geography and strength. In some ways the former dictates the latter, for the very nature of long physical distances between friends implies a limit on time and capacity to interact and connect. Like most people, all my friendships have developed when I’ve lived in close proximities to these wonderful humans (sometimes the bedroom opposite mine). But with time and circumstances (aka work and men) we’ve stretched our legs and explored new horizons, like a bunch of excited, new-age Cristopher Columbuses, only with tits, and no actual plans to colonise.
And now? The histories of our established friendships remain – captured in photos, stories, memories, emotions – however the dynamic is shifting, year after year. In this way, our future history lies in our present hands. It’s how we write it that counts. I believe there is no right or wrong way – only what feels right or wrong. Some of my friendships have naturally drifted apart, and that’s ok – sometimes even healthy – for as we age our values and friendship needs have grown in different trajectories.
Other friendships have endured and we’ve kept in touch as best we can (weekly/monthly/biannually). Maybe they’ve survived the ongoing test of time because of biochemistry, but I like to believe it’s more. Like a little flame who’s spark burns on between one human to another, shining through two connected people with disconnected time zones and locations. It is through these friendships and any friendships that we humans do what we were born to do – share our life stories with each other, relate to each other, learn from each other, care about each other, want the best for each other, appreciate each other, celebrate each other, believe in each other. *Special thanks to the internet, telecommunication, aeroplanes and the mailman for making long distant friendships possible.”
Al is one of those all-rounder sorts, she is the most grounded and yet incredibly talented person I’ve ever met. She brings something unique into every friendship and I count myself lucky to count her as one of mine. Her tip came in last-minute but like everything she does, Al put in 110% and came in with the goods!
“The hardest thing about long-distance friendships is realising they’re going through entire life phases in my absence. I’m not there in the flesh to support them, comfort them or give them that encouraging little slap on the bum. Witnessing a friend’s life from the sideline is sad and it makes me feel like a terrible friend. What’s equally as hard is living my life in their absence. When you lose touch or leave catch ups too few and far between, sometimes reconnecting can feel intimidating. Of course, you want to know about their lives and hear every detail. But after so long, where do you even begin? And when do you find the minimum three hours you need just to scratch the surface? Or the energy you’ll undoubtedly need to go back to square one of the story when there have been a million incremental developments since?
But I got a call from a friend the other day who changed the way I felt about that. I hadn’t spoken to her in months and she was just calling because she had a spare five minutes. She wanted to tell me she was thinking of me and that she was proud of me. She told me to call her anytime and said it didn’t need to be for hours, just for a few minutes every now and again to say hello. It suddenly felt so manageable. I realised contact doesn’t always have to be the big delve. It can be as simple as picking up the phone to say/write ‘you’re in my thoughts and just want you to know that.’ Don’t get me wrong, you need the deep dive conversations… But those little updates in between, thread the bigger chats together and make you feel part of their day to day again.”
Final tip: Meet your long-distance friends somewhere (geographically) in the middle, it’ll give you a chance to make more memories together and no-one will feel like they are putting more effort into the relationship than the other. Start planning your next adventure together here.
If you have any tips for maintaining long-distance friendships please let us know in the comment section below.
And Happy International Day of Friendship!