In Peru, Valentine’s Day is also a day to celebrate the other important people in your lives; your friends!
So to celebrate friendships around the world, I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learned and that have helped me maintain my friendships back home while living over 10,000km away.
Keeping in touch with friends can be tricky at the best of times, but when you live in different countries imagine how much harder it makes it! Just think, you can’t pop over for coffee or head down to visit for the odd weekend and I’ve definitely missed out on a lot of important moments in their lives, but I know that there are things I can do to help keep those friendships on the right track.
TECHNOLOGY IS KEY
I don’t know how I would have managed to keep such a strong connection with friends and family if we didn’t all have Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and social media in our lives. I remember when I first moved to Peru, my parents didn’t have WhatsApp so I couldn’t send them messages, and that was actually pretty hard. Sure, I could send an email, but it’s not as instant as a message. Now, it’s so much easier to send through a quick ‘How are you?’, here’s a photo of my dog and all those little ‘absolutely necessary’ day-to-day details that make you feel at home and more connected. I try to keep in touch with people, through a mix of all of these mediums as much as possible, although I know I don’t completely succeed all the time. Skype and FaceTime are complete life changers and make it possible to have catch ups face to face, so you don’t feel like your friends are only words on a page. This is about the closest I can get to having that cup of tea and a chat in real life, so I try and take these opportunities when I can.
NOTHING REPLACES REAL LIFE
This is a bit of a no brainer, but I always make sure I schedule time into trips home to visit as many of my friends as I can. Nothing can really replace an in-person catch up after all. I have met and played with so many of my friends’ new babies and toddlers that have all arrived since I’ve been away, which is something you just can’t do over a video chat. Shared experiences are the best way of keeping friendships alive and meet ups usually mean going somewhere with cake and that’s something I definitely encourage!
DON’T FORGET THE IMPORTANT DATES
Yes I know, this is another obvious one, but when I can’t actually be there to celebrate birthdays or wedding days with my friends, I try not to forget to send them at least a quick message or gift to make up for it. If you’re terrible at remembering, like me, use Facebook for birthdays (lifesaver) and make a note of any other important info in your diary, online calendar or notebook. I feel like I can’t call myself a good friend if I don’t at least remember the month of someone’s birthday!
MAKE AN EFFORT
I don’t necessarily mean making sure I contact everybody in my contact list at least once a week, – who’s got time for that – but I try not to forget completely. However, this works both ways. Just because your friend is the one who left the country or city, don’t make it their job to be the one who always makes the effort. Luckily, I have a lot of friends that I can just contact after a few months and it’s like no time has passed. We just start from where we last left off and I love that, but I never take this kind of friendship for granted. It’s important to check in every so often, see how life is going and just generally keep each other updated on the big stuff.
PLAN A TRIP
If you have friends who live in another city, state or country, try to find the time to visit them. Obviously this is not always easy (time wise and financially), but I’ve loved it when friends have come to see me in Lima. Some of my friends actually also live abroad, so I can’t easily see them when I visit home. This definitely makes things harder, but not impossible, as flight stopovers and budget airlines usually do the trick! The fact that they don’t live close by probably means I actually get to spend more time with them when I do visit, as opposed to just a couple of hours here and there.
DON’T WORRY IF SOME FRIENDSHIPS DON’T LAST
I know this sounds sad, but you can never really keep in touch with everybody. I remember times where I couldn’t imagine my life without certain people in it, but sometimes you just part ways naturally. Some people come into your life and are there for the long haul, but some will only stick around for a certain period, even if they were super important to you. In the last six years I’ve been abroad, I’ve had to learn to accept this and realise that it’s okay. This would inevitably happen even if we were living in the same city, so being on the other side of the world just means that it happened a little quicker.
I’m not saying that it’s easy to keep a friendship going from the other side of the world, but some are worth making that effort for. Luckily, your good friends will always be there for you, no matter how many times you fail to have that Skype chat. If it’s meant to be, you’ll make it work.
Photos from the Rose Garden at Anglesey Abbey