Let’s face it – even the truest, strongest friendships undergo some strain when one half of that relationship decides to up and travel the planet for some unspecified amount of time. Even though you make the promises to keep in touch, to update each other all the time, there is inevitably some distance that sets in.
Maintaining a friendship across the world takes work. Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, allow you to stay connected to one another through photos and status updates, so you’re always at least somewhat in the loop, even if you can’t talk all the time. But those shared experiences, late nights at the bar, road trips, concerts, and heart to hearts that can only really be had in person are put on the backburner when you leave to travel.
So what to do? You don’t have to give up your friendships when you travel but you do need to be willing to put in some effort. If you’re on a fairly regular schedule, you can set up weekly or monthly skype calls to keep on top of what’s happening in each other’s lives.
Some people prefer email, and while that can feel less personal, it is a good way to get your thoughts out and stay in touch when your schedules don’t line up.
No matter how much you stay on top of being in touch, you should know that not seeing one another day-to-day or week-to-week, not being around for social outings or celebrations, will inevitably put some distance between you. However, if you are both respectful of each other’s life paths and choices and are genuinely interested in knowing what’s been happening, you will find that you can create a lasting bond that will weather these stresses.
One thing that surprises and often dismays travelers is when they find that people from home are less than curious or enthusiastic about the many adventures they’ve had and places they’ve seen. It’s disappointing when you want to share all of the madness you’ve experienced or want to recount humorous anecdotes from your time abroad. It may even feel like you can’t connect with them or can’t share a major part of your life.
Remember that they do not have a frame of reference from which to relate to your experiences. That does not mean that your travels or anecdotes or memories are without value. They are, of course, very important. The difference is that you can relate to where friends from home are coming from; you’ve been where they are. They haven’t been where you are, haven’t been traveling the world, immersing themselves in other cultures. In some ways, your experiences may make them recognize their own fears about traveling and about their dissatisfaction in their careers.
These can be difficult things for people to grapple with, so if you bear that in mind and both put in effort and sensitivity to one another’s divergent experiences, you will be able to maintain a happy and healthy relationship over any distance.