I’m going to tell you something that may surprise you. After almost four years of living in America, I’m still closer with the friends I had in Jamaica than I am with friends here. I talk to my long-distance friends far more often, and they know way more about all the private details of my life. Some of them, I had not seen for years before I left the island, but we’ve kept in touch.
In Jamaica, we say, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are”. If you know anything about me, what I’m about to say next will not surprise you. Most of my friends are overseas, and I don’t mean back in Jamaica. Most moved to other areas of America and the others are as far-flung as Japan and Ireland. Only one moved to Atlanta, and we rarely see each other.
That said, keeping in touch requires more creativity than connecting with people here. Yet, I find that these relationships are more effortless than my newer connections in America. How is this? As my mother has said of her own long-distance friendships:
When you’re an immigrant in someone else’s country, having friends that can relate to your situation is what really gets you through it.
On that note, in 2017, I wrote an article entitled How to Make Friends When You Move to a New Location. In some ways, I suppose this is an extension of that. So, if you’re relocating to a new country or state, or your bestie is moving away, here’s how to build an even stronger relationship than what you had before the separation.
1. Stalk Them on Social Media
Social media is the number one way I keep up with my long-distance friends. Even when we don’t speak to each other for weeks at a time, I know when they find the one and get married, when they adopt a new puppy, or when they go to Israel for a birthday trip. I see it all. From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter, we keep tabs on virtually every postable aspect of each other’s personal lives.
This way, the next time we have a chat, we’re not asking dumb questions like, “So what have you been up to?” Who has time for that? My friends and I rarely — if ever — engage in small talk. Instead, when we catch up, it’s more like, “How did you end up all the way in Israel? Did you finally get your puppy to stop peeing on the carpet? Are you sure joining the military at this time was the best idea?”
Because of social media, I’ve also created long-distance relationships with people I have never even met. One such friend is Rochelle, my future doctor and travel buddy.
2. Chat on WhatsApp or Telegram
In the West Indian, European and Asian communities, and among people who travel often, these two apps are lifesavers. This is how we keep in touch:
- When texting and calling while overseas to avoid roaming charges
- With people overseas who may not have access to free text messages and calls to international numbers
One of the features I love about these is being able to send voice notes. My friends and I use these when we have a long tale to tell, but know that we may be in different time zones and on different schedules. You get the pleasure of hearing their voice, but the convenience of checking it when you have the time.
You can also use these apps for actual calling, including video calls. My Mom has used this to even remotely babysit my nephew, while his Mom takes a quick shower. Today my Dad rolled his eyes saying, “Your family in Jamaica sees you more than we do, and we live in the same house!”
3. Travel to See Each Other
When I renovated the mother-in-law suite on the property I bought with my Mom, I prioritised the fact that my friends might come to visit. One of them, who is an architect, even helped me design the space. In reality, none has ended up staying at my home and most times, I’m the one who ends up visiting them. But, I have the option nonetheless to play host.
I have travelled to see more than half a dozen friends across the United States, so far. In fact, my trip to see Tristan in Las Vegas in 2017 was what really took my travel adventures from the east coast to the west.
4. Travel With Them
Since flying out to Vegas to see Tristan, who also works with Alexis Chateau PR, we’ve gone as far up the west coast as Juneau, Alaska and as far south as San Diego, California.
When we head to the Maldives this September, Tristan might not be the only long-distance friend coming along. One of my friends in the UK and another in New York are also trying to make the trip. Another friend in Florida is interested, but his wife just had a baby, so we’ll see. Fingers crossed! Can you imagine, all of us are originally from Jamaica? Boy, do we get around!
For some of my long-distance friends, we talk almost every day. And for most, every week. There is hardly ever a major update in each other’s lives of which we’re not aware, more so than the people who see us on an everyday basis.
I’ve also found that my closest and most successful friendships are with the people I met in college or shortly after graduation. And, even more interesting, we’re closer now post-college than we ever were while we were running around like roosters without heads, trying to meet school deadlines.
So, what about you? Do you have long-distance friends with whom you maintain a strong, ongoing relationship? How do you pull it off? Share your advice in the comments below!
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