Living & loving from a distance: 4 tips for keeping in touch

I love friends! Who doesn’t?! I love meeting people and getting to know them, hearing their stories and creating new memories together.  This is a fantastic part of living internationally, and moving often: you have to get to meet so many NEW people! 😉 Naturally, there is a downside to this lifestyle.  Living in multiple places throughout life can leave you feeling divided.  Sometimes, into more than just two pieces.  Being fully present in the current place is nearly impossible when family or friends are so far away and just as real as your next-door-neighbor.  Thankfully, we live in the 21st century now and keeping in touch is so much easier than an expensive monthly phone call, or the occasional letter.  However, keeping in touch can be a challenge.  When our lives get busy and we begin to settle in our home, and meet new people get involved at our kids’ school, its hard to remember our weekly calls to our best friend back home.  We can find ourselves neglecting the statement “everything will be the same!”.  Be prepared: nothing will ever be the same again.  But that’s part of the fun of reinventing yourself, and exploring new people, places, and things – at least it gives you something to write home about! 

And so, we come to my topic of the day.  Keeping in touch.  I wanted to share with you some practical ways to stay connected with your friends and family back in your previous home.  Its a tricky subject because it undoubtedly causes some conflicting ideas – how much is too much communication? Is there such a thing as overdoing it?  We need to come together, as friends and fellow expats, in helping each other become better friends, whether the recipients are staring at our faces, or halfway across the globe!  Maintaining relationships is important, so read this list and see what you think & if any of them could be useful to you! 

1. Be realistic (& don’t promise too much).  You’re going to have the urge to promise you’ll keep in touch with everyone, all the time, everywhere.  But that’s not possible.  If you want to be where you are, and enjoy it, and learn to love it you can’t make promises you can’t keep.  It’s not just that you can’t, but that you shouldn’t.  Don’t live in the past, using your excuses to keep in touch as a crutch that prevents you from seeing the NEW world around you!  Know that you will want to be aware of what is going on back home, but that you have a new home, however temporary.  Don’t set yourself up to fail by promising too much of yourself to too many people.  Don’t burn yourself out by trying to be too many places at once.  Just enjoy the moment.  Breathe.  Relax.  Talk to those who matter, to the important ones that will talk to you first sometimes too!  Let things develop naturally – some friendships may fizzle or fade, and that’s okay!  Going into a new place with the intention of leaning into it, and not holding yourself back, caught in the middle of two places is a freeing experience that will allow you to be an even better friend to even more people.  

2. Be creative (& show your friends your new home). Its always fun to get mail.  Any good news is welcome in my house, be it by email, text message, video blog, or carrier pigeon, I’ll take it!  When you’ve moved to a new place its important to show your far away family as much of it as possible so they can picture you there and imagine what its really like.  Maybe try writing a blog, even with little victories, little facts about life – your family and friends back home will appreciate seeing a more daily update, and also will approve of hearing your voice (even through writing!) about anything.  Film short videos if you can (everyone has an iphone, right?!) or take pictures – being able to put faces to names and images to places makes a huge difference in keeping people interested.  It may seem mundane, but daily details are often what we communicate least, but what is most telling of our experiences to outsiders. 

3. Be intentional (& tell the ones that matter).  When it comes to keeping in touch, I think you’re either good at it or you’re not.  I’m not particularly good at it and since I’ve been at college for four years, I’ve noticed that even more than ever before.  Its very easy to forget to write all seventeen of your closest friends every week for an individual update – and while it is important that the important people get the information, it takes some planning on your part.  Make a list of people that you want to know about (their lives) and that you want to tell about (your life) and weekly or monthly (you decide!) make an intentional effort to contact them.  

4. Be detailed (& keep it simple).  You’re probably busy! Don’t make keeping in touch a chore that you dread doing – it doesn’t have to be!  Create a Facebook page, add your family and friends, and update it frequently with quotes, pictures, or thoughts of what’s going on in your life.  By jotting down stories or thoughts consistently and in detail, your sharing will get easier and may even be an enjoyable activity! Don’t simply trust your memory, or think that you’ll never forget a funny or embarrassing thing that happens.   Write it down and share right away!  This is the best way to make sure everyone is getting to experience what you are, in the most real way they can.  

Keeping in touch isn’t only good for your faithful friends and family (note: free alliterations with the reading of this blog) but its also good for you!  Its a way of affirming the fact that you are loved and appreciated.  People want to know about your life and your adventures!  The whole responsibility doesn’t fall on you, but the sooner you develop the habits, the easier it will be.  Make your friends and family list today and see how you can simplify your routine for letting your loved ones in on your life! 

 

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