Friends, Living Abroad, and Traveling

You may have noticed that the blog has been quiet the majority of the past two weeks and for this I apologize.  Going silent isn’t the best way to build an audience and while I don’t have any truly great excuse as to why I haven’t been writing, the honest answer is that I just haven’t felt compelled.  Two weeks ago was the end of the semester at my school and with that came changes, people coming and friends leaving.  I started to become extremely jaded with the whole idea of living abroad and traveling with no permanent home base.  And while 95 percent of the time I enjoy my lifestyle and would choose it over a cubicle job in the same city for the next 20 years, living abroad and long term travel comes with its downsides.  The one that causes me the most pain?  Friendships.

A college friend reunion. Saying goodbye to them has been hard.

By deciding to move to another continent or embarking on an adventure that takes you tens of thousands of miles away your are separating yourself from the people who have been your friends.  You have to sacrifice big things like weekend reunions in your college town and bachelorette parties, and you also have to learn to live without phone calls and quick text message updates.  It’s easy to feel disconnected from even your closest friends when you are living 13 hours ahead of them.

How to combat this problem?  Skype and e-mail are the obvious answers.  Technology has really changed the way we can keep in touch.  Video chatting is a spectacular way to show friends (and family) your new digs and allows you to have more of a real conversation.  The real challenge to this can be scheduling.  Make a date and keep it.  Even better, make a regular date (weekly, monthly, whatever) and stick to it.  I’ll admit that I am horrible at this (sorry friends!) and sometimes it has been far, far too long since I’ve talked to people.  With regular communication via the computer you’ll at least be able to hear about that crazy weekend everyone had, even if you weren’t there to experience it yourself.

My Roman au pair “family”.

The real downer of making friends while abroad is the fact that you will probably be saying goodbye to them far sooner than you’d like.  For most people living abroad is a temporary thing and when you are traveling, someone is coming while someone else is going.  In my experience, the friendships forged while being in another country develop at a rapid pace.  After struggling to grasp differences in language and culture together, people that you’ve only known for a couple of months can grow to be your closest friends.  The friends I made during both stints in Rome, and those I’ve had the pleasure of knowing thus far in Korea, will always be dear to me, but unfortunately, not usually near.

With my good Seoul friend, Tobye, after conquering Baegundae Peak.

The solution?  Don’t make friends when abroad.  Kidding.  But honestly, there is no way to avoid painful goodbyes.  The only thing you can do is keep in touch (your Skype and email commitment list just got longer) and focus on the positive.  Having friends scattered around the world makes for a good excuse to travel more.  With a free place to stay!

It can be difficult to balance your new friends, friends back home, and the sadness felt when saying goodbye or missing out on important life events, but the relationships I’ve forged while living abroad and traveling have become some of the most rewarding of my life.  And my close friends at home are just a video chat away.

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4 Responses to Friends, Living Abroad, and Traveling

  1. Yes, yes, all too true! I was devastated each time I left a place I’d lived in. It was so sad to leave people after a year or two or three and know you would most likely never live there again and only ever see a few of them again. That was easily the worst part of living abroad for me.

    • Amanda Slavinsky says:

      I’m glad someone else can relate. It is difficult leaving people behind and knowing that even if you return to that place it won’t be the same because those people won’t be there. But I guess that’s the burden we have to bear with this lifestyle!

  2. love this post, and completely agree with all of it!

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