Once upon a time having a friend who lived far away meant writing letters, finding a stamp, and the occasional (expensive) long-distance phone call. These days Facebook, texting and emailing make staying in touch much easier–but long distance friendships can still be very difficult.
Girlfriend ADRIENNE ERIN shares some wonderful and creative ideas for staying in touch with friends even when the miles separate us. (I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to go find some vintage postcards.) What are your ideas for staying close when distance comes between you, girlfriend?
Almost everyone has a long-distance friend. Either one of you moved, or you became friends in college and then headed back home, or maybe you even met them while you studied abroad. You spent all that time getting to know them – do you really want your friendship to fizzle out just because you have a few hours (or perhaps a few continents) between you? I didn’t think so.
I have several friends that are far-flung; a friend halfway across the country, a friend totally across it, a couple more scattered across various European countries. While sometimes I don’t keep up with them as well as I should (that reminds me, my French penpal sent me an email a few days ago that’s sitting in my inbox…), I try to touch base at least a couple times a year. Here are some ideas so you can reconnect with your faraway friends, too!
Don’t Just Call – Videochat!
I discovered Skype when I went abroad. It was too expensive to call my friends all the time (those prepaid phones ain’t cheap) but I had a decent internet connection. And I discovered that Skype is just so much more convenient than calling with a phone. First of all, you can obviously enable video, so you can see each other. But it’s great because you also have your hands free! I was always busy, but now it was possible to Skype with my best friend in Ghana while doing dishes or mopping floors in my homestay in Paris. Sweet!
I realize that for most people, Skype is not the most groundbreaking innovation. But have you thought about planning Skype dinners? It could be simple – the last Sunday of every month both of you order pizza delivery and eat your pineapple pizza simultaneously. (Bonus points if you call at the same time and race your pizza guys.) Or it could be elaborate – you both whip open your cookbooks (or for the more digitized, whip up your Epicurious) and cook something together. Just try not to get flour on your laptop.
Have lots of friends (your online college gang, your study abroad group…) you want to keep in touch with together? For those group e-gatherings, I like to use Google Hangouts, which let you invite up to nine other people. The timing of the screen it features can get a little wonky (when I hang out with my college buddies, it usually switches the video to someone at the tail end of what they say, so the whole thing can seem like a sort of seizure-esque collection of rapidly-changing talking heads) but for the price of free, who the heck cares?
Go Places Together
You’re geographically-distant, but you don’t have to be all the time. If you’re like me, you went to college with a ton of awesome people and they’re now spread out all across the country. I’ve got friends in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, California, Washington… this is starting to sound like one awesome road trip. An awesome road trip I’m planning to take, as soon as I collect the vacation days and acquire a car I’d trust to take me on a 6,000 mile detour. It’s sort of long-term planning. If your friends aren’t as spread out, this just gets even easier. Go for it!
Or maybe you’re too far apart to justify a roadtrip (driving from Pennsylvania to France might be a little difficult, despite what Google Maps used to advise). Plan a trip together instead! This is great especially if one or both of you live in sort of boring places. In some cases, you can even bridge the gap between the two of you and meet somewhere awesome in the middle.
Send Actual Mail
I know, mail is so two decades ago, and the USPS is sort of dying and stuff. But sending mail can be exciting, I promise! My college roommate used to swap fat bundles of letters with her best friend from high school – they’d write to each other for a few minutes every day and then send it all together about once a month. Another friend of mine used to mail a journal around in a circle with four of her old friends, who would gradually collage the whole thing.
But who has the time to write a letter these days? For the time-starved, exchanging postcards can be a fun way to connect. I keep in touch with my favorite aunt by sending her about a dozen postcards every month. You can get postcards featuring your city or state from pretty much any local gas station, truck stop, or museum/historical society gift shop. The shiny new cards can get a little pricy, so if you’re buying in bulk or just want something more interesting to send, look for the ten or twenty-five cent cards at the nearest antique mall – most of them have at least one vendor with a huge postcard collection filling several shoeboxes, sorted by state. If neither of these appeal to you, or you want to send something more personalized, make your own or send a Postagram with your smartphone.
As an aside, you can mail all kinds of crazy crap, if you don’t mind figuring out and paying the shipping. Want to mail your bestie a potato because of some weird inside joke you had when you were 17? Go for it! (*Disclaimer: I’m not sure if you can actually mail produce. You might want to check this before you start sending your friends your garden a vegetable at a time.)
Whatever you end up doing, remember that you’re doing this to stay in touch. If some elaborate plan just will never get done because it’s too time-consuming to plan, skip it – just pick up the phone! But if you’ve got a little extra time on your hands, going the extra mile can be a great stride toward keeping your friendship alive!
ADRIENNE ERIN is a writer who has always loved sending mail, cooking overly elaborate meals, and speaking French with friends she made from her online college. She spends her free time daydreaming about ridiculous roadtrips (Pennsylvania to the Yukon and back? Sign me up!) and sampling every ice cream parlor she can. Follow her on Twitter to see more of her recent work.
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