When you're separated from your family, it can be difficult to sustain friendships and relationships. Perhaps you've just flown the coop? Or maybe you're dealing with empty nest syndrome. Whether it's a new job, a recent graduation, a move for love, or simply a change of scenery, there comes a point in most people's lives when their circle of friends and family becomes fragmented, and you can't just pop around the corner for a coffee and a catch-up. Yes, there's social media and texting, but despite the rise of technology to keep us linked, it's always easy to feel disconnected and as if you're drifting apart.
So, if you're missing anyone special, here are some ideas.
Make regular phone calls
It might seem to be an obvious solution, but arranging routine phone calls while you're separated can be difficult. In today's fast-paced world, where work, family, and general day-to-day life all catch up with you, setting aside an hour for a catch up can sometimes seem unlikely.
If that's the case, why not make your phone calls a special occasion? Set a monthly or bi-monthly date to Skype, Facetime, or conference call with a close group of friends or family.
You can also personalize your phone calls... virtual brunch anyone? Alternatively, how about a cocktail hour?
If you have a special somebody you need to stay in contact with, simply arrange a couple of calls a month, just like you're going to meet them down the pub... except your pub is a phone call. Limiting your phone calls to longer ones will make them easier to blend in and will make your call sound more like a social event.
Turn Email into a Conversation
The good old email, the best way to chat around the clock, helps you to tell the longest of tales at any time of day. How, however, can you really communicate with a computer screen?
Email is not as real or tactile as a text, and it lacks the personal aspect of a phone call.
Consider color-coding your addresses. Type responses in a different color underneath your friends' posts, so you're actively commenting on their thread. It transforms a single train of thought into a full-fledged conversation.
Using Social Media
There is a time and place for social media... while the age-old "Happy Birthday" montage on Facebook is easy, does it really replace a card or a thoughtful bouquet of flowers? No, in our view. Special occasions should be commemorated with special gestures. However, using social media to keep up with day-to-day life is a perfect way to stay in the loop and feel genuinely connected when you live a long distance away.
There are still a lot of interesting competitions on social media right now. We've recently been enjoying Facebook's "7 days, 7 black and white pictures" challenge, which sparks a discussion by deliberately sharing photos with your friends as a challenge.
Plan a trip or break away
Nothing beats finding something to look forward to, and for us, a vacation ranks first. Getting a trip planned in your calendar gives you something to strive for.
Why not schedule a vacation together? Assign a job to each friend or family member, such as booking a hotel, organizing travel, finding restaurants, and so on.
Working together would generate more energy and make the preparation feel like its own thing.
Send a letter
It's an age-old gesture, but it certainly works! Receiving a letter would undoubtedly brighten anyone's day. Imagine discovering a hand-written note for you among all the bills.
Messages don't even have to be long... a postcard is also a lovely thing to get. Simply taking the time to put pen to paper lets others know they are on your mind and in your heart.
So, how about you? What do you do to maintain long-distance friendships and family ties?