Friendship (and maintaining friendships)—it’s one of the most important facets of our lives. From the time we begin to create these pivotal bonds on the playground, we start to understand their significance. We love our friends. They help shape us and share life with us. They are always there when we need a shoulder to cry on or a glass of wine to celebrate. They are there to grab our kids at school when we are running late and always up for playing homework hooky for an afternoon at the park. It does not matter if time zones don’t align or if we share a common fence. Our friends are often what hold us together, help us weather life’s storms and make sweet moments all the sweeter.
So, what if you choose to leave the community of friends you’ve come to know and love to become a WorldTowner? Does gaining the world mean losing your friends? It doesn’t have to.
After moving more than 30 times, I have thought long and hard about friendship. Some relationships have stood the test of time and distance, and some haven’t. What makes the difference? Friendships ebb and flow, regardless of geographic location, travel or lifestyle. This is the normal course of life. You will lose and gain friends throughout the years for various reasons. When WorldTowning, however, there are nine strategies we employ to ensure we keep our friends close.
1. Share a cup of coffee at your kitchen table—even if that table is on a different continent.
Will and I have friends all over the globe—and we use various forms of modern technology to make the miles between us disappear. For some friends, we set Skype and FaceTime dates. We also have texting or email buddies. For many, we go long periods of time without any form of communication, but, in the end, a quick text or message quickly brings us together.
2. Share your time.
I value my friendships, and I do my best to nurture them. It is not always easy to make time for friendships when you are busy raising a family and working. Throw travel in, and there is a different dynamic altogether. Unfortunately, when you travel it is unavoidable that you will miss special events and challenging situations when your friends really need you close. That is difficult. There is no way around it. Prioritizing your friendships and taking the time to let people know you care about them, however, is important. That is something you can do, no matter where you are in the world.
3. Share your feelings.
Inevitably, if you leave your home to become a WorldTowner, your friendships will change. Probably the most important thing I have learned is not to take this personally. I have found that the friend left behind often feels the void of friendship faster. This is because the WorldTowner is consumed with all the dynamics and logistics involved with adjusting to a new land.
Beyond this, however, each person reacts differently to distance in a friendship. If you notice that a friend is becoming distant or not as available as usual, try not to take it personally. Often, your friend is mourning your departure. If the connection was strong enough to begin, it will be strong enough to continue; it just may take maneuvering and tweaking to adjust to the new paradigm.
Start by sharing with your friend that you miss him or her. Then, strategize how you can continue to invest in your friendship.
4. Share your style.
We all have different personalities and friendship styles. Some friends love to talk on the phone, while others prefer in-person bonding. Take some time to explore your style and each individual friend’s style. Are your friends big technology buffs? Are they night owls or do they hit the pillow just after sunset? How will this affect time-zone adjustments? Are they avid social media users who would love a personalized post or private message? Do they long to live your WorldTowning adventure vicariously through postcards? There are ways to maintain long-distance friendships. While you may not be able to maintain the same level of contact you once did with every friend, you can always find ways to stay in touch.
5. Share your commitment.
Make every effort to connect with your friend. Even if he or she is not good with technology or connecting virtually, still make the effort, so your friend knows you care. Let’s face it, we all love in-person connections—a greeting (kiss, hug or smile), laughter, the sharing of war stories. The computer can only recreate so much; nothing can replace sitting next to a good friend and sharing together. But, I have found that the greater responsibility often lies with the one who has moved or left to become a WorldTowner to make extra effort to let their friends know they are still important.
6. Share your love on special occasions.
Remember birthdays. This may sound simplistic, but it is important. It is pretty easy to remember birthdays these days with the help of reminders from Facebook or set on your calendar. Nothing says I care more than receiving a message on your birthday from a dear friend. Take the three minutes to write something thoughtful to your friend—something that brings back a beautiful memory and lets them know you care, even though you are miles apart.
7. Share your world with them.
Invite your friends to visit you. Not everyone will assume they are welcome to come see you. Many people need a personal invite. Let them know that they have a loving place to stay, yummy meals and hospitality for as long as they want to visit.
Your friend might be the type of person who is bad about keeping in touch, but is willing to hop on a plane and enjoy a week of face to face time with you. Like I have said above, each person has a different friendship style. You may have a handful of friends who would love to come visit, but they need to be invited first.
8. Share their world and engage in their lives.
This is often challenging, because so often conversations gravitate toward your activities and new adventures. Many of my friends asked me to tell them about my life, because they were just doing the same old boring stuff. It is easy, in your excitement as a WorldTowner, to share enthusiastically, only to later realize you have heard nothing about your friend’s life. Ask questions about their lives, and listen to their joys, concerns, experiences and interests, as well.
9. Share your friendship with other WorldTowners.
Some friendships can originate online. These friendships start virtually, so virtual connection is the norm. When I initially started on my WorldTowning journey, making new friends virtually was a foreign concept. I quickly warmed to the idea, however, and can count many good friendships in my life that have blossomed from these online connections.
I am grateful for these connections, because these friends understand the nuances of the WorldTowning life. They know how hard it is to leave the people we love and how very much we miss our family and friends across the globe. Because there are so many shared experiences, you can support each other through bad days, offer advice or laugh at the funny things that happen while on the road. WorldTowning friends have helped me through some tough times during our many transitions since we became WorldTowners. Through these dear friends, and their extended networks, I am confident we can go almost anywhere in the world and find a helpful traveler.
Friendships are dear and they are also dynamic. As you embark on the WorldTowning life, give your friendships room to grow and adjust with you. Each of us is different, and what we may need in a friendship may vary from what our friend needs. Share, and by doing so you will ensure that these important people stay by your side, no matter where you are.
Now that we have given you some strategies to maintain those friendships are you ready to take the next step to becoming a WorldTowner?