Creative Ways to Stay In Touch (When Your Friends Live Far Away)

62c049e82db4c40674b934e7a9a00443One of my favorite shows to watch is the old show “I Love Lucy.” In fact, occasionally I love to have a date night with Abe and stay home, order food, and watch I Love Lucy. Besides the hilarious Lucy/Ricky disputes, I think the adventurous best-friend relationship between Lucy and Ethel is one of my favorite parts of the show. I’ve told Abe before that there’s a part of me that wishes I lived in the 50s when milk was delivered to your door and your neighbor was your best friend. But today our world is so different from Lucy and Ethel’s…now, our neighbors are strangers and our closest friends are sometimes miles away! Maybe because very few people marry their highschool sweetheart and live their whole life in the same place these days? Or it could be that so many go off to college in a different state, different town, and make close friends from all over the world. Whatever the reason, lots of us are finding ourselves with contacts all over the country and it can be hard to stay in touch. I’ve kept in contact with several of my college friends, as well as some of my parents’ old friends, and thought I would give a few ideas of what helps to keep in touch.

Let’s start with the obvious, Facebook. I have one friend in particular from college who, after graduation, moved to Vienna, Austria. I can’t remember exactly how it started, but I believe I messaged her on Facebook the summer after we graduated, prior to her wedding, to wish her congratulations and say I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. We then started up a thread of messages that have lasted for three years! We still message quite often, and I feel as if we are very close and up-to-date on each other’s lives, even though we didn’t see each other in person for over two years.

When communicating over Facebook, I’ve found a few tricks to make it more meaningful.

  • Be Open –if you’re in a busy season of life, and your friend sent pages of messages filling you in on life, don’t be afraid to send a short note back saying your life is hectic at the moment, but can’t wait to “reply more later” (Alayna and I used that phrase all the time!) and then give a time frame when you think you’ll be able to reply.
  • Include stories –if you’re really trying to keep a close friendship thousands of miles apart, take the time to be specific or tell a story. For instance, Alayna and I both are piano teachers, and we often would trade funny teaching stories or mistakes, etc. It kept us excited and looking forward to the next message!
  • Allow for enough time –occasionally, I found myself reading her messages at a good time for me to reply right away. Don’t do that to your friend!! Read it, and make a mental note to reply in a few days, or weeks. When they need a week or two or three to reply, and you continually send back long messages an hour or two after they wrote, it can get tiring and create pressure. Take a step back and let some time pass, then go back and write what’s been going on recently.

Secondly, let’s look at Snail Mail. Do you know how many creative ways you can stay in touch using the old-fashioned postal system?? I had two particular close girlfriends my senior year of college. They were both graduate students who would be graduating the same year as I graduated with my bachelors. We hit it off in so many ways, but one of our favorite things to do was gather in Emily’s room late at night, do puzzles, and watch, of course…I Love Lucy! Since all three of us loved puzzles so much, and were heading three different directions after spending an entire year doing everything together, we came up with a plan. We each bought puzzles from the dollar store. Then we split up the pieces in our puzzle evenly into two plastic bags. So for my puzzle (a cat in a wheelbarrow in a garden), I gave Emily a bag with half of the pieces in it, and Maria a bag with the other half. Then we parted our ways, taking each other’s puzzle pieces with us. Over the course of two and a half years, we wrote back and forth to each other, and included a puzzle piece in each letter. We slowly began building our puzzles…I kept mine on my dresser, and I cannot tell you how exciting it was to continuously get letters in the mailbox and rush back to see if it matched any of my other pieces! I have to admit, it was easier to stay in touch with my Facebook friend. It was MUCH harder to find time to hand-write a letter, but it was SO worth it. For those of you who are puzzle lovers, this is a terrific, fun, and special way to keep in touch.

Here are some more fun, cheap ways to use snail mail:

  • Use a special code—either a made-up language (pig-latin, the “Ob” Language, etc.), pictures, or numbers indicating certain pages and words in a book you both have. The options are endless if you use your imagination!
  • Start a newsletter. This works best for kids—if your far-away friends have children the same age as yours, make up your own wacky newsletter/paper and send it out to them. It could include birthday dates and wish-lists, highlights of certain members of either family, funny stories, or upcoming events. Cute pictures and bold fonts will capture their attention and keep the kids looking for the next one!
  • Send a care package. This is more familiar to most everyone—loads of ideas on Pinterest! Pick one you like and customize it to your recipient!
  • Don’t forget to decorate the envelopes, and include postcards from anywhere fun you’ve been.

Have more snail mail ideas? Let me know! The puzzle pieces idea gets my imagination running to think of other things that could work like that, but let me know if you think of anything else!

Lastly, I’m grouping together Email, Phone Calls, and Visits. If you’re not into Facebook, emails can be used pretty much the same way as messages so look back up to the first point. However, I did want to just say that if you’re not really into emailing back and forth or used to writing long emails, you can use this to network and keep connections open. I would never Facebook message my college professor with my most recent embarrassing moment, but I have sent out a brief, kind email to thank them for their time with me at school and let them know how I’m doing professionally. I always tried to include a memory that I missed from their classes or involvement in my life, and have always received a kind, positive response back. Teachers especially like to hear back from old students and know that their teaching has made a difference! And it helps to keep your name out there too. Email or hand-written letters are best for that type of keeping in contact.

I have a friend who has friends literally all over the country and world. And on top of just having friends all over the world, she actually calls them and will spend hours talking to all of her friends! I’ve seen her hang up her phone after telling a particular friend all the recent developments in her life, then dial a new number and repeat the story again! I could never do that. I despise talking on the phone. I used to be worse than I am now—I used to literally not be able to answer the phone, and let everything go to voicemail. If it was important I called or texted back, and if not…oh well! Now that I’m older, I’m much better than I used to be. But I still don’t like it! My sister and I are best friends, and we only once in a blue moon have phone conversations. When I was dating Abe, I have to admit we did talk on the phone occasionally but neither of us are that into it either. We did like to hear each other’s voices though, especially if we hadn’t seen each other in a while. So if you are one of those people who like to talk for hours on the phone, I’m sure this is a great way to stay in touch. Here are a few ideas, from my limited phone-talking experience, that you could try:

  • Watch a movie together. This is for super close friends, or dating relationships. Super close friends are the ones who you probably talked to for hours yesterday getting caught up, and there’s not much new today. Abe and I hadn’t seen each other for a couple days (horrific, I know) and we watched Aladdin “together” on the phone. We pressed play at the same time, and listened to it all together while holding the phone.
  • Play games—like I Spy (it’s possible! Just modify J Tell them what room of the house you are in if they are familiar with your house, and then let them blind guess. If they don’t know your house…don’t play this game 🙂 ) or a rhyming game.
  • Ask questions—make a list ahead of time.
  • Call when you have plenty of time and a quiet space to talk.
  • Make sure your phone battery is charged!

Finally, I hope you make time to visit your friends! It’s a great way to get some travelling in and experience that face-to-face friendship again. My family has friends that live in Tennessee, but vacation in our Eastern PA area every summer. So once a year, after liking each other’s pictures on Facebook and loosely keeping up on their lives, we have desserts and conversations that normally keep us up way into the night hours. And surprisingly, we feel very close to their family. We don’t send regular messages on Facebook, have long phone calls or even send post cards, but just a yearly visit with lots of laughter and animated stories keeps our hearts knitted close.

In summary, the key to staying close is to make them a priority. To some it can be a matter of insecurity—you go from being best friends or roommates or whatever the case, to “out of sight, out of mind.” I know that there were some that I would have liked to keep in contact with, but had no reason to message or email and felt insecure just reaching out. Don’t be afraid to start the conversations—most of the time the other person is thrilled and excited to have a chance to keep a lifelong friend!

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Any experience having close friends who live far away? Would love any more ideas!

~Flossie

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