When Your Best Friend Can’t Travel: Tips for Surviving Friendship Abroad

Your bags are packed and tickets are in hand. A knot of anticipation starts to form in your stomach, but there’s also a knot of apprehension. You should be jumping with joy, but something is missing — your best friend. You certainly don’t want to leave your dearest friend behind. After all, your best friend is supposed to join you on adventures. This predicament leaves many of us wondering how to deal with the nomad life when our best friend isn’t able to travel.

Maybe she is already married. Perhaps you’re leaving for a semester abroad while she stays behind in a traditional classroom. On the other hand, she may be like my best friend and be battling a chronic illness. Whatever it is, leaving is hard. However, with some effort and a lot of love, friendships can certainly flourish despite distance. Here are some tips to help your friendship survive the life abroad!

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1. Share your adventures with them, but also remember to appreciate the simple things in life. Yes, I’m talking about Netflix. Your best friend is obviously going to want all the details of your escapade, just don’t let them become the only thing you share together. Movie nights together can still happen across continents. Create collaborative playlists together on Spotify. Have a special friendship board on Pinterest where you can share all of your favorite things. Don’t let her feel alone in her “normal” activities of daily life.

2. Write each other pre-written letters. This is how my best friend and I kept in touch during my time in Costa Rica. While we were able to send messages via Facebook, I arrived in Costa Rica not knowing if I would have any access to the internet during my stay. There was no way I was going to go a near month without daily chats with my best friend, so we decided to write daily letters to each other. We wrote the letters in a journal and then exchanged the journals before my departure. It was such a wonderful feeling to have a new note each morning, and somehow my best friend had the foreknowledge to write exactly what I needed to hear for the day. Now if you’re going to be gone for a full semester (or more!), you might not want to write a letter for each day; however, notes for special occasions are the perfect way to remind your friend of just how important the friendship is for you.

3. Keep apps like Skype or Google Hangouts on hand. Sure, it’s easier to just send texts when dealing with international wifi, but it’s important to take the time to voice call or video call your best friend. Your schedules might clash and time differences may make things awkward, but in the end, you’ll both be happy to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices. Even if you can’t make it work, attempting it will be appreciated by both parties. It’s comforting to know that your best friend hasn’t forgotten you and is willing battle bad internet connections to see a blurry, pixelized blob.

4. Bring a meaningful friendship trinket and take snapshots of it at different locations in your travels. This may be a notebook, a keychain, or a bracelet. Find something meaningful in your relationship and bring it with you. I did this with my best friend’s fantasy novel, The Follower. Since I was in a beautiful country, I read those letters in breathtaking places. I certainly made sure to take pictures and share them with her. They make fun personalized postcards, especially when you send them with notes like “Wish you were here!” Also, don’t forget to find your best friend something special and unique from your travels. It’s a fun idea if you find it early on in your travels and take pictures of using iconic backdrops from your journey. Print out the pictures when you return and include them with the gift!

These are just a few ways I keep my relationship close to my heart when I take off on new adventures. How about you? Do you have an tips or traditions for keeping your friendship alive when abroad? I’d love to read about them in the comments!


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