The Road Between Friends is Never Long

I switched cities when I turned 18. Sunny Tenerife for busy Valencia (and shortly after, even busier Madrid). At that time, I had to say goodbye to people I cared about – to friends I grew up with, to my closest family.

Hiking in Tenerife, Spain

I knew I was returning eventually – for summer holidays, Christmas, Easter and the occasional long weekend. But with time, these home visits became less frequent. Time had grown me apart from the island and so to most of my friends in it. We went separate ways and, although I do keep in touch with some of them, I must admit, I haven’t seen them in almost 3 years now.

Distance is the greatest test of friendship

It is easier to feel your heart close to someone who lives right around the corner (or, well, at least in the same city). In the moment the physical distance between you becomes larger, it won’t take long to realize whether they are one of your friends that you can count in one hand.

It’s true that proximity plays a very important role in friendships. Living close by, studying the same subjects or working together gives you something in common and, overall, makes it convenient. This said, proximity isn’t all – A friendship based on post codes doesn’t have enough base to go through thick and thin.

Having been living away from home for the past 10 years, my friendships have been continuously challenged. I’d like to say that I’ve become less apprehensive to goodbyes, but I haven’t. I still board on planes with a tear rolling down my cheek after every adieu. Some of the people I’ve said goodbye to, I will possibly never meet again – they were convenient, temporary friends with nothing left to share but occasional Facebook messages. In other cases, though, distance has grown the relationship stronger than ever.

Birthday Flowers, all the way from NYC to London

So far, yet still so close

On the day of my birthday, I was surprised with these beautiful orchids. An even bigger surprise was to realize that they came from New York! (Ok, not literally, but you know what I mean…).

What I have learned during the last 10 years is that, when it comes to maintaining a strong friendship, it’s not about distance but about connection. If it’s strong enough, it will definitely survive any distance. In fact, some of my closest friends haven’t shared the same country of residence with me in the last 3 years.

Formentera, Spain

It’s hard to get used to this physical distance – not meeting for an after-work (or after-class) drink, not having brunch together on a sunday going over all the weekend happenings, not improvising a weekend escape. But when it comes to real friendships – those with whom you follow through a regular connection – this drawback is quickly topped with greater advantages:

  • You’ll always have a couch to crash on when you travel. In the past 7 years, I’ve visited cities in England, Portugal, France, Spain, Australia, Germany and Switzerland (among others) without having to spend money on accommodation!
  • You’ll have the best city guides. Friends might not always be city experts, but they are experts on you, are excited about your visit and hungry for discovery.
  • You’ll expand your global network. Put it this way: if every friend you have that has lived or is living abroad has at some point met other expats or locals that you meet when you go for a visit, you might as well be increasing your network of friends around the World (and maybe one of these new friends gives you tips for your next trip to Stockholm or puts you in touch with people in South Africa!).
  • Plus, you’ll never run out of anecdotes and stories to tell!

For me, the key to long distance friendships is closeness – via E-mail, Skype, Facebook or any other media possible – and finding a way to keep the excitement to know about each other, alive. Unexpected text messages starting with a “Remember when….?”. A very short visit (even when having less than 5 hours between 2 flights). Planning an exotic holiday (or, uhm, hen party) together. Sending a postcard from a place you’ve recently visited or a flower bouquet for a special occasion. With every detail, I feel closer to my friends – even when having oceans, mountains and uncountable times zones in between.

How do you keep your long distance friendships alive?

17 thoughts on “The Road Between Friends is Never Long

  1. Long-term travelling for a year, I made so many friends in (something like) 25 different countries. For several months after a new destination/friendship we Facebook each other, email each other, and sometimes catch up with a Skype or live chat session. Then, as time passes, things come up, and you don’t hear from each other so often. I have to admit, a year on, sometimes I forget who-is-who when I see a random name in my Facebook feed. I need a better way of staying in touch. Obviously, the really good friends I will never forget; but a lot of the other memories were equally worthy. I definitely offer up my couch if any of them are in my neighbourhood, and I expect the same from them.

  2. Some of my dearest friends don’t live in the same country as I do anymore, but whenever we do get to see each other it’s like our friendship never skipped a beat! I try to meet up with them at least every two years. πŸ™‚ Plus it’s nice having great friends scattered all over the world knowing you always have a couch to crash on.

  3. I have moved to many places in the last 10 years, some of them close to my Frankfurt (my hometown), some of them far away (it does not get much further away then Australia, right?). I miss my friends dearly. Some of my best friends I have known almost all my live. They will always be part of me. I would love to see them more often, but as I can’t I keep contact via Skype, Email, Facebook and iMessage πŸ™‚

    So much has changed in the last years on how we can keep regular contact with our loved ones. I remember 16 years ago, when I lived in the US for a year… No Email. Calling my parents in Germany cost a fortune. Letters took 2 weeks to reach Germany. That was tough! Nowadays it is almost like a walk in the park πŸ™‚

  4. Long distance friendships are so hard. However there is something really special about when you go back to visit and it’s as if nothing has ever changed. Hope you had a great weekend!

    1. I’ve come to the conclusion that with some people, long distance friendships will be hard to keep… but with others, it just flows naturally. Those are the ones really worth working for!

  5. First off, I love Spain so much!! I go about once or twice a year… This summer I will be returning to Tenerife, then Alicante, Madrid and Asturias… I just love it there πŸ™‚

    To keep in touch with my friends abroad, it feels like a full time job :p But, they are so important to me and keeping in touch is essential. Most of my friends and I keep in touch with an app called Whatsapp. It is, literally, the best app. You can send text messages, voice messages, photos and videos all for free. All you need is wifi. If you don’t have it, get it.. It is totally worth πŸ™‚

  6. Really really love this. It’s been six years since I lived in the same city as my best friend, but whenever I’m home, it’s like nothing has ever changed.

    1. ah yes, it’s the same with some of my closest friends – with those people you click, it really feels like time or distance doesn’t really matter at all.

  7. “When it comes to maintaining a strong friendship, it’s not about distance but about connection.”

    I love this line, Katherina, and couldn’t agree more. In the few years I’ve been moving around and living different places abroad, I’ve found friendships take on so many forms. While many are seasonal, you occasionally form a friendship with someone that really does withstand the distance once you move away. But it’s also fun to return to a place and resume those seasonal friendships, if only for a short visit. I think this blend of relationships is part of what makes travel so fun πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Thanks Candace. I can really relate to this – it’s fun to even meet back those “seasonal” friendships when you’ve got the chance to do so. At the end, with this, we’re globalizing our network and this, I find, always makes travel more interesting and fun!

  8. I find it really difficult to be in contact with long distance friends, but also feel like when i do finally see them its like we were never apart. I love that.

  9. I completely agree, distance is a test! Like you, I left France at 18 and left my high school friends behind. I don’t go to France that often and none of my friends has made it to Canada so far but there are friends I can go months without seeing, and we catch up immediately without any awkwardness.

    1. I find it a great feeling when you realize that you can catch up with friends you haven’t seen in months (or years!) without awkwardness – that’s a big proof!

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