When I was applying to colleges I decided to go as far away from home as possible. Not necessarily because I wanted to or was ready to, but because I was so attached to my family that I knew if I didn’t get some distance between us I would never become independent. And so began my journey to Allentown, Pennsylvania, home of Muhlenberg College. I spent four years of my life on that classic, liberal arts campus developing deep friendships that made my world a better place. We spent hours lounging on the quad on weekends, buried in books studying together in the dorm common rooms, or rehearsing together in front of huge windows of the performing arts center. It was a small school where we all pretty much knew each other and it was our home.
My best friends and I experienced so much together – we lived with each other, spent countless days and nights bonding, and watched each other grow into adulthood. Finally, after years of feeling like a square peg in a round hole with my peers, I felt I had found my community. Then I graduated and moved back to Los Angeles…and all of my friends stayed on the East Coast or moved even further away (to the likes of Innsbruck, Austria). My community that was once only a bedroom door or walk across campus away was suddenly thousands of miles from me.
And still, seven years later, those people are still some of my closest friends. They may live 3,000 plus miles away, but our relationships are stronger than they ever have been. We’ve found ways to grow and change with each other and we are all living proof that long-distance friends can be just as meaningful as relationships with the people who live next door to us. It’s not always easy and it can take significant effort, but for those friends that are worth your time and energy, there are ways to keep these incredible relationships intact regardless of distance.
Here are some steps you can take:
When you’re far away it’s easy to forget to tell someone that you’ve picked up a new hobby, or started seeing someone new, but your long-distance friends want to know even casual changes in your life as they come up. Find a way to communicate that works for you and share the details about your day that you may deem insignificant. I love knowing that a friend of mine has recently discovered they have a new favorite food, found a new coffee shop where they do work, or had a great conversation with someone on a dating app. These little moments seem insignificant, but they are the stories you’d share if you lived together, so small updates are great ways to feel more connected. I love to send voice memos to my friends so we can hear each other’s voices and get a little more information than we would in just a text while also not having to commit to a two-hour phone call in the middle of a busy workday.
2. Set aside time.
Even if it requires planning weeks in advance, set aside time for a good, long catch-up with your bestie. Make sure you won’t be distracted and can dedicate as much time as you want and need so you can truly focus on each other like you would if you were eating dinner together. Make it fun! Play board games over Zoom, make a signature cocktail together, or eat together as if you were in the same place. Sometimes I’ll walk on the treadmill while my friends are also going on a walk and it feels like we’re taking a walk together after work where there’s no real-time pressure.
3. Plan a time to see each other.
I never like to leave a long-distance friend of mine without having some idea of the next time we will see each other, so even if it’s far into the future, plan a time where you can see each other again. Maybe the plans will have to change or shift because life happens, but in the meantime, it’s nice to know that you have a plan to see each other again regardless of whether it’s in a month or a year.
4. Be understanding.
Know that stuff is going to happen in each other’s lives that you aren’t going to know about or that you’re going to forget to tell each other. It doesn’t mean you’re any less close or growing apart, it just means that life is hectic and it can be hard to remember to give the full update sometimes. Just be excited to know the information when you do get a hold of it. Also, recognize that there will be peaks and valleys in communication with your long-distance friend. There may be times when you talk every day, while sometimes you’ll go weeks or even months without connecting. It doesn’t mean the relationship is over or that your love for each other isn’t important, it just means well, again, life happens. It’s okay. You can pick up where you left off: when you feel the need to reconnect…
5. Perform random acts of love.
If you see something that reminds you of your long-distance bestie, tell them! Text them out of the blue when you’re having a great or rough day. Let them know you love them and care for them and show up for them when they need you. That’s what matters most because no matter how long I can go without talking to my best friends, I know if I needed something they would be on a plane within the hour.
I will level with you. I miss my long-distance friends. If I could have my friends living next door or even within twenty square miles of my house I would be over the moon. It isn’t always easy to have friends that are far away, but it is possible and worth it for those that matter most. Communication in any relationship is key, but more than ever in a long-distance one. It’s not all over if a friend moves away. It doesn’t have to end if you get relocated for work, or someone moves in with their partner in a different city. With some effort, care, love, and patience, it’s possible to grow these relationships to become the strongest they ever have been.