I’ve written before about romance abroad – Paris particularly has a reputation for its romantic allure.
But honestly, making friends – and then leaving them behind – is the most difficult part of living a semi-nomadic lifestyle.
Whether you just moved away from college, moved home after college, or met someone in a foreign city, you’re likely accustomed to the unique loss of saying goodbye to a friend. It doesn’t quite have the emotional impact of leaving a romance, and yet the ache lasts much longer. You understand the abrupt disruption in your life that comes from leaving someone you love behind.
It’s a shocking, really, to simply look beside you and realize someone isn’t there.
Personally, my sentimentality knows no bounds. I have enough emotions for five people. So how do you cope, other than to quote song lyrics and blow up each other’s snapchats?
Not too long ago, I visited one of my best friends in Ottawa. Our last day, she dropped me off at the airport, and while on the verge of tears, I briefly, and genuinely, wished I hadn’t come at all. That’s how much I despise leaving people.
Making close friends is the most difficult part of living abroad. It’s also unequivocally the best – something I had to remind myself flying away from Ottawa’s pine trees and towards the lights of New York city.
Finally, instead of wallowing (well, after a little wallowing), I created a list of my favorite aspects of Ottawa – My Canadian Highlights, which you’ll be able to see later this week.
First though, here’s a little love to the friends we make, the people we love, and what it means to maintain friendships when you’re scattered all over the world.
I. Making friends abroad
Admittedly, your first “abroad friends” oftentimes form out of necessity. I had such friends, and while we only kept in touch for the first month in Paris, they helped me transition into my new life without the sense of loneliness that can trap you in new cities.
And then you meet “your people.” These are the ones you won’t forget – the ones who will laugh with you about nothing for days, and let you cry over seemingly insignificant moments, understanding the full weight of being homesick, heartbroken, uncertain, or just utterly baffled by the French and your new way of life.
II. Maintaining friendships
But you need to put in a little bit of effort. Of course, this goes for all friendships, but exploring new places can alter your sense of normalcy. In the midst of the chaos, remember to check in with these people on a more personal level. Remember to sit and listen when you’ve finished dashing around castles and museums for the day. The best moments are often the simplest.
We also need to discuss maintaining friendships on the road. Because along with your travel partners, you most likely have those wonderful people back home – the people who may not understand or envy your nomadic lifestyle, but who love you, and support your wild dreams nonetheless. It’s much too easy in life to neglect these relationships and shelve them for a later date. It’s not for a lack of affection, but when we live entirely different lives, maintaining close friendships can seem daunting, and even tiresome.
We shouldn’t do this.
Make time for them on your hostel’s terrible wifi; make an effort to visit these people when you come home. You won’t regret staying in touch with someone who matters.
III. They’re home
Having a sense of “home” when you don’t have a physical home is essential to my own survival. As I’ve maintained from the beginning on this blog, I’m essentially an overgrown hobbit with better foot-care maintenance. I have a strong penchant for comfort, cups of tea, and adorable nooks with an absurd amount of blankets and pillows to curl up in. I create mini nests wherever I go, and get mocked relentlessly for it. I need to have a home. For me, I know I can call my childhood room “home” but the older I get, the less emotional this attachment becomes. Dorothy had it right: “There’s no place like home.” Yet rather than a Kansas farm, I believe this applies much more to people than a place. Family is home. My parents and my brother are home, as are all my aunts, cousins, uncles, and grandmothers.
And friends, the ones I’ve been gushing over, are home.
My best friends in Paris anchored me when the city couldn’t, and my best friends from the states reminded me of myself when I forgot.
The charming Brazilian and French men in their leather jackets may take you out, but it’s your best friends who will stay and dance long into the night with you. They’re the ones who won’t leave – the ones who will be your home when you’re somewhat rootless, living month to month out of a backpack. They’re the ones who will never go out of style.
As we continue exploring the world, venturing to “cozy” New York closets, townhouses in Nashville, a string of hostels in Vietnam, or Parisian chambres de bonnes, remember your best friends. Keep in touch with them. Send messages, smoke signals, write letters, and make a conscious effort to love them and see them before they slowly disappear from your life – because you will deeply regret it if they do. Besides from holding your hair back when you’re sick and reminding you that you already own three red purses, these people are your home.
So here’s to the friends we meet, the people we can’t live without, and learning to live and love long distance – the platonic way.
What has it been like to maintain friendships when you live in different places? Do you have any tips I’ve forgotten? I’d love to hear your thoughts!