After a major life change, relationships with people in your life will shift. Add a geographic move to one of those changes, and maintaining those relationships becomes even more difficult. When you graduate from high school and college, you typically move away from home, but other changes like career shifts or marriage can also require moving to a new city, state or even country.
If you want to maintain a relationship over a long distance with friends or family members, you will have to put in some effort. You will need to plan ahead in order to spend time together, and be understanding if plans don’t always work out. Here are some ways to make sure that your long-distance friendship stays intact.
Become Pen Pals
Writing letters back and forth may seem old-fashioned, but it’s a great way to stay in touch with people you love who are far away. While emails or text messages are convenient and easy to send, handwritten letters and cards are something really special. This is an especially nice idea if you’re keeping in touch with grandparents or older family members – they will appreciate the extra effort, and if they write back you’ll have a wonderful collection of their notes to you. Letters are even more fun if you have fancy stationery and writing utensils, or include sentimental items from wherever you are. You can send postcards, local event fliers, leaves or pressed flowers, gifts from the school store or local drug store, or whatever else you come up with. Sending physical photos is another great addition, and something truly cherished by family and friends alike.
If you do decide to go digital, make sure it’s still special. Set up a separate email account for your pen pal letters, or make a schedule for when you’ll update them. If you’re running short on time, send links to funny videos you’ve seen or articles that taught you something. You can still easily include photos – again, maybe you set up a Flickr or Photobucket account just for your pen pal pics instead of including them in your regular photo dump on other social media pages.
Make sure that even though it’s online, it still feels like you’re making time for each other when you sit down to write.
But what if writing isn’t enough? What if you want to talk in real time?
Using live video to stay in touch has become way more popular in the last few years. You can use any number of programs to talk to people you love, no matter how far away they are. Some messaging programs even have a video option built right in. With google chat, you can hold group video meetings with the whole crew at once, and with extensions and add-ons almost anything is possible.
Video chat, like writing back and forth, can be a great way to share news or stay connected like you were when you were physically close. You can watch your favorite tv shows together and catch every facial expression, or compare predictions over the commercial break. Video chat also allows you to share your surroundings – especially handy if you travel somewhere totally different from your hometown or college campus. Some of these programs will even let you set up a new phone number and load prepaid minutes onto your account, which can save you from excessive fees if you traveled to another country.
John Green, now a superstar YA writer, (Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns), is also a video blogger on YouTube. Green is half of the “Vlogbrothers” team, the other half of which is his younger sibling Hank. John and Hank started their back-and-forth vlogging format almost ten years ago, with the simple goal of staying in touch across the country without relying on a text-based format to communicate. Since their humble beginnings, the Vlogbrothers channel has spawned a huge community of fans and supporters affectionately called “nerdfighters.”
Your goals don’t have to be as lofty. In fact, John and Hank set out just to see each others faces more often, even though they lived far away from one another. Do you and your friends love to video chat, but rarely find time to log together? Follow in these now-famous footsteps, and set up a YouTube channel where you can swap your thoughts in video format. It’s easy enough to lock the videos so that they’re only visible to the intended recipient, but maybe you want to reach a wider audience, or update your whole family at once and allow mom to share the link with Grandpa.
What is really great about Vlogbrothers is that it never really stopped being about brothers connecting with one another. Now John and Hank see each other in person more than ever before, and they’ve got a whole group of new friends following along each step of the way.
Keep and Make Traditions
No matter how old we get, there is an undeniable rhythm to time. As the season change, so do our activities and tastes. Making sure to keep up old traditions with friends when you return home together, or set up new ones in your new locations, is a great way to stay connected. If you’ve changed climates all together, find out a way to blend the old and the new. You can also make a tradition out of trying new things. An Annual Adventure can be a great way to both recognize the history in your relationship while allowing it to grow and change along with you. You can swap off on who gets to choose the adventure, or organize the adventure so that each of you pick out different elements.
In fact, planning ahead is a very important part of staying in touch with long-distance friends in general. If the distance is the result of a school or career change, chances are there’s more than one new long-distance friendship in your life. You’ll have to figure out how to balance all the new changes–maintaining old friendships while nurturing new ones can be a minefield of emotion and shifting needs for all involved. But if you keep communication lines open and be honest with yourself about your own needs as well, these changes can bring about exciting new elements to your life.
Long-distance friendships are trying and they’re not always fun. Relationships can stretch and sometimes break under the stress of new surroundings, new people, and new priorities. But if you’re really dedicated to making your friendship work, no matter how many miles come between you, then there are plenty of ways to make the changes fun for everyone.