5 Ways to Maintain Long Distance Friendships

I find life to be rather unpredictable. People and opportunities seem to show up in our lives when you least expect it or you didn't know you needed them. I certainly couldn't have predicted a few years ago that my life would bring me to London, or that I'd be living thousands of miles away from my friends because of it.

Like most people, I have pockets of friendships based on where life has taken me.

There's my:

  • Lifelong friends - four girls from my neighbourhood that I've known for so long that I quite literally don't have any memories of my life from before they were in it

  • Middle/high school friends - the kids who I went to school and church with and endured puberty, braces, driving licenses, and all the great things teenage years have to offer

  • College friends - the Penns; the ones from my a cappella group that became the very fabric of my college experience

  • DC friends - the ones who helped me navigate post-college life and introduced me to bottomless brunch

  • Miscellaneous friends - the friends of friends, friends of exes, or friends of friends' boyfriends that for one reason or another have stuck with me along the way

Long distance romantic relationships are notorious for being difficult and there's only two people involved. Throw tens of friends and a time zone difference into the mix and things just get crazy. 

There are 5 things that anyone can do to maintain long distance friendships.

1. Take advantage of technology

We no longer live in an age where the only way you can talk to your loved ones is by letter or postcard.

Instead we have phones that let us contact our friends instantaneously. Today's technology and social media platforms keep your friends at your fingertips.

FaceTime and WhatsApp are great for video and phone dates. Instagram stories (because who is Snapchat really in anymore?) keep you up to speed on where your friends have been and what they're doing.  

And since everyone is attached at the hip with their phones these days, there's really no excuse for not saying hi every once in awhile or engaging with your friends on social media.

2. Put in the time when you can

Everyone's busy, myself included. I get it. 

But when you do have down time, be mindful to use it.

Instead of listening to Spotify, I've started calling my family and friends on my walk home from work once or twice a week. Instead of bingeing on Netflix, sometimes I’ll catch up with someone while I'm getting ready for bed and it's evening time in the States. 

It doesn't take any extra time out of my day since I'm walking anyway and Netflix doesn't care if I ignore it for a night to catch up with a friend.  

Sometimes special occasions are the excuse to catch up, like when I FaceTimed Tracey on her birthday and Abby after she got engaged. Other times it's for no reason at all, like when my Mom wants to talk just because she hasn't heard my voice in awhile.

The conversations don't need to last long, but they make a difference. They make the distance feel smaller, and keep you from the "or else" mentality of "we need to text 24/7 or else our friendship will slip away".

3. Find things you can do together, apart

When I lived in Washington, DC, my Mom and I got ourselves in the habit of watching Hallmark movies together. We’d both watch the same movie that was playing on the network; her in Allentown and me in DC.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I am a sucker for a Hallmark Movie. What I love most about them is that they’re completely and utterly predictable; they last for two hours, there’s always a happy ending, and they leave you feeling good.

It was and is one of my favourite things we’ve done together.

Living in London is a bit different; there’s no Hallmark Channel and I’m five hours ahead so we generally can’t watch a movie together at the same time. But we can watch a movie or read a book on the same day and that makes me feel a little closer to home.

4. Get creative

Technology is great, but never underestimate the power of a letter or a postcard.

Before I left, I printed out a number of postcards and gave them to my friends and family to use to write me. I will be the first to admit that I’m not the best at writing to everyone every month; life gets in the way and all that.

But it is always such a wonderful surprise when I come home and there’s a postcard or letter waiting for me from my family or my friends. I keep them in a decorative suitcase on the fireplace mantle in my flat, and if I’m ever missing home I’ll pull them out and read through them.

They could be about everything or nothing at all, but they are the most wonderful gifts.

5. Plan ahead

Try your best to make plans to catch up and actually stick to them. Even if you only chat for 5 to 10 minutes like I did today with Kelliann, catching up with someone you love always makes you feel better.

It’s just like working out - sometimes you’re tired and just aren’t in the mood to go to that workout class that you signed up for, but you never ever leave the class wishing you’d just stayed home.

Conclusion

There’s no way to guarantee that your friendships won’t change after moving away. Like all things, friendships and relationships ebb and flow.

Some times you grow apart from the friends you swore you’d always be bffs with, and other times you hear most from people you didn’t expect to. I’ve certainly experienced this myself since moving to London.

What I’ve realised is that how often you talk to each other is not always the most important. It’s just the fact that you do.

Because it simply means that you both put in the effort to make it happen.