February 21, 2015

Long distance friendships - a crash guide

Friendship upkeep is hard. It's hard for anyone who lives close to their friends. It's about a million times more difficult if your friends live on the opposite side of the globe. But albeit being sometimes frustrating and tiring, having and keeping good friends is the most important pursuit in our social lives. It's more important than finding a partner. It's more important than keeping in touch with relatives you have nothing in common. Without friends, our lives are bland. They're empty and boring and lonely.

As with everything, friendships are sometimes borne out of necessity. Say for example you live in a small town with only a limited amount of kids your age. You become friends, but once you're off to school you realise how different you are and that there are people out there who are a better fit for you both. This cycle repeats itself a few times in our lifespan. But there are a handful of precious people who will never have to compete with anyone else. People who you stay close with even if you are a million miles away. The type of human you wouldn't mind spending every minute with, but it's not a big deal if you don't.

If there is one thing I could write a book about, it is how to keep a friendship going over months and months of travel. Moving away permanently is a harder blow for a friendship, because there is no time line, no end date, no return flight. But I have seen more friendships disintegrate over a few months of travel than I have over years of not living in the same country. There are the hurdles of time differences, sloppy wifi and a general "fuck it" attitude of the runaway. A mild case of "FOMO", regret and loneliness for the homie. Combine that with a lack of communication and you have a potent toxin sinking slowly into the blood stream of your friendship.

So, for the sake of saving millions of BFFs around the globe, here is my LDF (long distance friendship) crash guide! 

Simple channels

For the homie
Please get a smartphone. Without a smartphone you will hear from your friend maybe two to three times a year via letter or pigeon. Once you have a smartphone, install some apps.

For the runaway
Please take a smartphone and install all of the below apps:
Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype. (Whatsapp??? You may now scream the word "SPIES" in your head. If you're scared of spying, don't get a smartphone. The end.)

They're all you need. Phew...that was easy

Easy on the pressure

For the homie
This is the hardest part, homie. I know you miss her, I know you probably want nothing more than to share a bottle of wine with her and talk about life and love and the weirdness that is adulthood. And her replies to your hilarious (if sometimes a bit whiny) messages are few and far between, which makes you angry and sad at times. But please understand, this lady is out there meeting new faces everyday, seeing new mind blowing places and most of all is trying to be careless.

Internet connection is a luxury that she uses for maybe 10 minutes a day, trying to catch up on sharing some of her photos and to tell her mum and dad she is OK and equally free of STDs and babies. She will reply and you will catch up on Skype and she will probably have far more stories to tell than you. And then you won't hear form her for two or three weeks. But trust me when I say she hasn't forgotten you and if she could, she would share most of these experiences with you. So please, homie, don't pressure her. Don't send sarcastic messages about how she doesn't care at all about home, homie and everyone who loved her through those years of being a psychopathic teenager. Don't send accusatory emails in which you prompt her to spend more time writing to you. She won't write to you more. She will just feel guilty and pressured and book another flight to Mexico to prolong her right to be slutty and careless. (Edit: Never be slutty and careless at the same time! One after the other I say...one after the other.)

For the runaway
Yep, runaway. Despite me defending you in a huge paragraph above, you still need to get your act together. I am not asking you do be in a two hour messaging extravaganza every night with your homie. But just send a message. Maybe once every week. You remember how members of human society structure their time, right? Seven days make a week. So once every seven days, send a message to your friend. Even if the adventures of the previous week were slightly less exciting than the ones from a fortnight ago, wrap them in a nice little text. Maybe add a photo.

But it's not all about you and your life, runaway. Your homie needs some friendship stuff too. You know, support. Advice. A virtual drinking buddy. Someone to angry cry to when the stupid hairdresser went scissor crazy. Remember that being a friend isn't tainting your experience right now, even if you're sometimes not in the mood to talk on a crackly connection. It should have the opposite effect, it should elevate all your adventures. And it will keep you in line too! (AKA She'll remind you to stay away from American guys, slut!) And most of all it ensures you won't regret your decision to travel further down the track, because you made an effort to have something worthwhile to come back to.

Save some exclusivity

For the homie Ok, I know it's hard but don't let your best friend find out everything exciting in your life via public facebook statuses and Instagram posts. Try and bottle the excitement over a new job or your amazing marathon score or anything else you would usually call your amiga for and hold off sharing it on social media. Just a little while. Ok, ok. I know, we're all about instant gratification, so this is super hard. As an alternative and if you're about to explode, send an email or a whatsapp message first, then post it on facebook. The truth is, your friend won't mind on which platform she reads it first, as long as she knows you have gone through the effort of sending a separate message meant for her eyes only.

For the runaway 
This one is easy for your, runaway. You've made out with more dudes in the past six months than you have in your life. You've taken more photos than you have in your entire life (maybe of said dudes, maybe of something more scenic). You have a ton of homie-classified, explicit information. Now you just need to take five minutes out of your day to type it up and send it off!

Make time

For the homie and the runaway
Fleeting Skype conversations and snap shots are important to keep each other up to date. They are like the snack foods of communication - light, quick and satisfying. But you need to make time for something more substantial. You'll be craving a greasy and carb loaded plate of information being shoved from one side of the world to the other. You need those happy tears, those sad tears, the gossip, the whinging, the laughter and the love. But you need to plan ahead for those big meals. They require a bit of effort, cooking time and a hint of love. So here's my advice: Once a fortnight set aside an hour. Make it so in case there is a huge time difference between homie's and runaway's location, neither of you are super tired or in a major rush to get somewhere. Open a bottle of wine each. And then go for it. I promise you will not leave this restaurant dissatisfied. 

Safe travels everyone! And may runaway and homie stay united through gap years and relocations and live happily ever after.

images via pinterest