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Long-Distance Friends – Staying close despite the distance

Due to being a military spouse, living abroad and life in general, I have maaaaany Long-Distance Friends.

But whether you settle in your childhood town or run away from it as soon as possible, things change. You may be far apart from close friends due to work, further education, family or plain and simple adventure. Or those pesky spouses who’s careers drag us across an ocean. Or two.  

We all reach a point in our lives where we don’t live around the corner from all of our favourite people. Who knew life could get so complicated?? 

Granted, some friends are unique to a time and a place. Some people drift away. Its natural, but it’s all too easy to let a brilliant friendship go because it’s not convenient anymore. 

It’s time we started to appreciate how hard Long-Distance Friendships can be and figure out how to stay close despite the distance.

So exactly how do we do this? I am no expert, but I’ve got a few (not so shiny) pearls of “wisdom” I’ve picked up along the way…

Its communication, stupid!

Telephone

Communication, communication, communication. We have NEVER had so many tools of communication, but somehow we still struggle to keep up with our Long-Distance Friends.

It’s got a lot to do with time.

Life gets busy, you see the message but are running late. You make a mental note to reply later but then it’s 6pm and you’re making dinner, just smashed a glass and the dog is running around like a crazed monster. Then you’ve gotta go run, shower, watch that Netflix show, and suddenly it’s 6 months and you have no memory of that message you meant to reply to. Or you do and it’s easier to ignore.

DON’T IGNORE THE MESSAGES PEOPLE. Reply to them!

We can all make time for the important things. And trust me, as one of those Long-Distance Friends who has waited months for a reply – we will be happier to hear from you every 3 months than not at all! There is no such thing as too late.

So pick up the phone, send a message or send a letter! There is not a person on this planet who does not like getting post. And these little notes between friends are amazing things to keep and laugh at years down the line when you’re sorting through the junk under your bed.

Share with Long-Distance Friends

two coffee mugs

So communication is important, but Long-Distance Friendships are not going to work if you fail to share. Friendships are built on sharing – ideas, experiences, highs, and lows. It creates a meaningful connection that can hopefully last a lifetime.

Long-Distance Friendships struggle as you can’t be around each other all day, every day. Unless you make the effort to tell each other what is going on in your lives, there is no way you can know. It’s so important to share things to maintain a presence in each other’s lives.

No friendship is going to thrive on updates about what you put in your porridge/oatmeal yesterday.

Friends are there to support you. They don’t need to be there in person to do that. Yes, it helps, but I am sure they can share their (sometimes questionable) advice or opinions just as well over the phone.

Make plans, when you can

Diary to make plans

Picture this:

Friend 1: We should meet up soon!!!
Friend 2: Oh yea, that would be great!
Friend 1: I know! It’s been so long.

*A few weeks later*

Friend 2: Didn’t we say we’d meet up soon?
Friend 1: Oh yea we did! Did we ever organise a time?
Friend 2: I don’t think so…
Friend 1: When are you free next?
Friend 2: Oohhh I’m not sure, I’ll need to check.
Friend 1: Me too, it’s so busy at the moment.

*A few months later*

Friend 1: Hey, haven’t seen you in ages!
Friend 2: Yea, we should meet up!

And the cycle continues.

 

Sounds familiar?? When people never commit to plans it makes me want to gouge my eyes out so I don’t have to look at the circle of messages any more. (Was that too dramatic??) 

It’s so frustrating as this cycle is so easy to fix.

How you ask… Get the diary out and actually make plans.

If you want to meet up, puts dates on the table, discuss what works and what doesn’t. If you are going back to your hometown or will be close by your friend, then tell each other! They’ve flown 8 hours? It might be a good idea to make that hour train ride to a more convenient meetup spot…

Make an effort to make plans. For every 4 times it doesn’t work out, the 5th time the stars might align! Without a willingness to see each other when you can, the Long-Distance Friendship will die a quick death.

Be understanding of your Long-Distance Friends

Make Plans

I would loooove it if my friends could visit me regularly while I’m living abroad. And it would be amazing if I could fly back every other weekend for all the drinks and gossip. (Gossip is like oxygen to me). But unless I discover Hermione’s Time-Turner and some hidden treasure in the shed at the end of my garden/yard, that ain’t gonna happen. 

Life gets busy and despite what the travel bloggers say, it’s expensive to travel frequently. So, we can’t see each other as much as we might like to. This is insanely frustrating for Long-Distance Friendships, but we need to remember to be understanding. Don’t get mad because they can’t visit in summer or frustrated as you’re missing the annual fireworks display in your local town yet again. 

Appreciate that if they could visit, they would. And when you can, you’ll make something happen. 

(Come on guys, someones gotta win the lottery soon).

Remember why you are friends

My Bridesmaids and Long Distance Friends
Photo by Amy Sanders Photography

Being apart for so long makes it easy to forget what it was like being together. 

You might worry you’ve changed too much or that they will make fun of you for the slight accent you’ve picked up. (FYI they will – you’ll be the butt of the joke for the entire weekend and years to come. I’m never saying basil again in my life).

I honestly don’t think people really change. Yes, you may be busier, become more confident, be stressed, have a family or travel the world. But everyone retains the same essence of who they are.

 Whenever I meet up with one of my Long-Distance Friends we settle into our same rhythm quickly. It’s as though we are 16 again, with no responsibility, cluelessly discussing life and love and everything in between. (But mostly love, let’s be honest).

Sometimes people claim that friendships don’t last because your life paths have diverged too much. You don’t have anything in common so you can’t relate to each other anymore. Well, real talk from Ellen: To me, that’s a crappy excuse from someone who can’t be asked to make an effort.

Everyone’s lives take different paths – that’s jarringly clear in Long-Distance Friendships.

It doesn’t matter where you are in life or what stage you are at. If your friendship is strong, you’ll still be close even if you aren’t going through the exact same experiences. And if it doesn’t, well, it wasn’t a great friendship.

Be spontaneous

Map and photos with Long Distance Friends

Who doesn’t love a spontaneous trip? Especially if it’s to visit one of your Long-Distance Friends. I currently know people living all over the world, but mostly scattered across the UK.

While I was back in the UK, sorting out my visa nightmare, I made the most of this time by booking mini trips around the UK to be nosy and get a peek into my friends’ lives. But one thing I wish I did was be a bit more spontaneous.

I’m a sucker for planning and like to organise my weekends well in advance. My obsession with planning has definitely helped me to see those that live far away. But sometimes you don’t need to plan for weeks and months. Sometimes a quick message saying I’m free next weekend is all it takes.

Being spontaneous doesn’t just go for trips – it doesn’t need to be someone’s birthday or christmas to send a card! Embrace the British habit of sending cards and drop them a note in the post just to say “Hi”. Or give them a call on that quiet Wednesday evening instead of watching that terrible Netflix show. (Unless it’s Riverdale, then you should watch it).

Let your Long-Distance Friends know you are thinking of them during those random moments of the day. Waking up to a message in the morning or a quick Skype call on the weekend can mean so much. Especially when the distance is feeling a little bit further than usual.

It’s not “good-bye”, its “I’ll see you soon”

Saying good bye to Long-Distance Friends

This is something I think is hugely important.

I’m not sure the first time I heard this – it’s far too wise to be Original Ellen. I’m sure it’s come from some film or TV show. But it’s also something one of my dearest Long-Distance Friends mentioned to me recently, so it’s gotta be good advice.

It’s all too easy to spend precious time with Long-Distance Friends thinking about how short your time together is. The clock becomes a cruel master as the time speeds by, not even leaving you a chance to recount your funny story of the week, let alone the past year.

Before you know it, your time is up and you have to say good-bye with no idea when you will get to do this again.

Stop thinking like that!

Turn it on its head. Don’t focus on the good-bye. Appreciate the fact that despite the distance, you were both able to carve out this time in your hectic lives to enjoy being in each other’s company again. No matter how long or short.

And hell, don’t even say good-bye!

If you say good-bye that sounds pretty final. If you say “I’ll see you soon” you’re leaving the door wide open and underlining the fact that you’re more than willing to meet up the next time a chance arises.

Even if you don’t know exactly when you will see each other again, you can be sure that it’ll come around at some point.

My Long-Distance friends
Photo by Amy Sanders Photography

When you are moving around and not sure what you will be doing next year, let alone 5 years, your friends provide a sense of stability. Particularly Long-Distance Friends as they are apart from the messiness of your life and see you for you! Rather than the rushed mornings or chipped nail varnish which other friends might notice daily, Long-Distance Friends notice the bigger changes in your confidence or presence. They want to see how you’ve grown since you last saw each other.

Long-Distance Friends are unbelievably valuable and special. You meet so many people throughout life and will usually make connections with the good ones. But those connections will only remain strong if you’re both willing to make an effort to keep this Long-Distance Friendship thriving.

So buck up your ideas and go to see your mates!  

(American Translation: get off your butt and see your friends).

2 Comments

  1. Great article and so true! My family and English friends have definitely been my source of stability since moving to the USA. They’re also the people who known you on the journey and also know you the best, and that can be comforting when everything else is new & different.
    In our world of communication technology, it’s possible to stay in touch where, when & however we want to. But… perhaps those friendships that don’t survive weren’t very deep in the first place? 🤔

    • Ellen Ellen

      I totally agree! While the adventure of living abroad can be so much fun, its really important to maintain those links to home through friends and family and keep some kind of stability while everything else is changing.
      And yes, if long-distance friendships can survive the time differences and separation, you’ll have something really special that should last a lifetime!

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