It’s really easy, as you get older, to neglect your friendships. Everyone is working, sometimes during conflicting hours. People have families, and free time stops being about brunch with the girls and starts being about swimming lessons for baby Jackson. And often, people move away.
In my case, I moved almost as far away as you can get, across an ocean to another continent. But I have to say, I’ve never felt closer to my friends. I spend almost more quality time with them now than I did when we were living in the same city.
Casual get-togethers don’t compare to friend getaways
When you and all your friends are in the same city, you tend to neglect those bonds a little bit. It’s no one’s fault and everyone does it. People get wrapped up in relationships, in work, in being too tired to go out. And it doesn’t seem like a big deal, because your friends are always there. You can see them any time. But if you’re not careful, anytime quickly turns into once every couple of months.
And how much can you really get out of a dinner once every couple of months? Sure, you can catch up with any new life developments. You’ll talk about work and relationships and pregnancies and future plans. But a couple of hours is barely enough to scratch the surface of what’s going on in a person’s life.
When you go on a trip with friends, even if it only happens once or twice a year, you can really bond. I recently went to France with some very good friends, the same people that I went with to Scandinavia in October. And though between trips, we only have occasional contact through group chats, the trip was a great opportunity to truly catch up. By the second day of a friend trip, the really important stuff starts to come out. And you get to discuss the things that you really don’t have time to get into when you’re trying to cram your friendship into 2-hour intervals between errands.
You realize that despite the distance, life can be eerily similar everywhere. Everyone has frustrations with work. Everyone has ups and downs in their relationships. And everyone wastes time with the same fuckboys regardless of where they live (and sometimes your friends make you realize you are the fuckboy). And it’s eye-opening and edifying to mix different experiences and perspectives when you’re thinking about your own life.
Take the faraway and make it close
Now more than ever, it’s striking to me how scattered everyone is. I have friends from my hometown that are in New York, Seattle, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Spain, and even Japan. And the more friends I make along the way, the more my perception of friendship globalizes. So to me, there’s nothing more important than bridging that gap.
I often use technology to do that. Sometimes my friends FaceTime me into small get-togethers back home. I have at least five active group chats going on at once. And it’s nice to feel constantly connected, but we’re not really. Though I am thousands of miles away from my friends, I’m usually not any less connected to them than they are from each other when they live in the same city. Because sometimes it’s harder to agree on a day where no one is busy to see each other than it is to set aside time four months from now to go on a trip.
So I reconnect with friends most when we spend a whole week straight putting up with each others’ craziness. When we get to sit down every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and really converse, instead of talking at each other on GroupMe. And then the distance actually doesn’t feel like much. I can go to Thailand to meet up my friend in Italy. And I can go to France to see friends who live in Miami and Stockholm. And it’s like I never moved away at all.
Make an effort to travel with friends
Obviously my lifestyle choices are not for everyone. (Though I strongly encourage you to find out for yourself.) But even if you don’t live on another continent, I encourage you to set aside time to have interesting travel experiences with your friends. Even if it’s just for a weekend. Contrary to popular belief, you can still travel with friends after you’re married, and even after you have kids. And you should.
Of course, traveling with your significant other or your family is a wonderful experience. But you shouldn’t let that stop you from enjoying another healthy kind of vacation with the family you choose for yourself (where you get to spend the entire time complaining about your significant other and your family!) We need that perspective from time to time.
Sometimes we need to get drunk and remind our friends to be good to themselves. We need to order the big dessert. We need to take 10 shots in the middle of the day. We need to spend an entire delirious train ride cracking up. We need to do each others’ makeup and dance like no one is watching. But most of all, we need to appreciate each other for being there, wherever “there” might be.