“Stay in touch” is what you always say when you farewell new friends during your travels, as either you, they or both of you set off on a new adventure.
But I challenge you now: take a look back on the friends you’ve made, and think about how many of them you actually stay in touch with. If you’re anything like me, you might be disappointed at how many good people you now have little or no contact with.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! My tips below — which I’ve just started following myself — will hopefully help you keep in contact with more of the people you meet around the world.
Remember Why You Became Friends
Friends you make while on the road are very likely to have one special quality in common with you – they like travelling! Even the local friends you make are at least interested in other cultures – probably just like you. These friends are the most likely to understand your desires to travel and experience new things, and to hear about your trips, and this quality can often be lacking in your friends back home.
You probably also have other common interests which led you to meet while you were travelling. If I look at some of my best travel friends, I really do have more in common with them than many of my other friends back home. And this is a very valuable thing.
Consider the Benefits of Staying in Touch
To convince you to make the effort to stay in contact with the friends you’ve made while traveling, I’ve got some benefits that you’ll miss out on if you lose touch!
For a start, you’ll be able to share your future travel plans with each other, which could lead to all kinds of fun: meeting up again in a new destination, hosting your friend wherever you live or visiting them in their new or old home.
You’ll also have a contact in a foreign country which can be handy for all kinds of reasons, but especially for learning more about another nation and culture, and perhaps even a language.
Make a Plan to Stay in Touch
Commit yourself to doing some kind of regular communication activity with your friends in different places. This might be a regular email, a blog they can read, or even the old-fashioned way of sending Christmas cards. Pick a style that suits you and be sure you decide on something you can realistically do – for example, a group email instead of all different individual emails.
I keep in touch with all my friends abroad and interstate at least at Christmas (or sometimes, I admit, in January!) and for their birthdays … well, most years at least! With my really close friends – the ones I miss even when I haven’t been able to see them for several years or more – I often will send them a very quick email or text message when they pop into my head, just so they know I’m thinking of them – and that’s enough that when we do meet again, it doesn’t feel like we’ve been too out of touch.
Make Your Far Away Friends Visible
You have to combat “out of sight, out of mind” when you’ve got friends that you’re unlikely to bump into down at the local shops. Consider putting up photos of your travel friends somewhere you’ll see them regularly.
I’ve got a gallery of my overseas friends sitting above my desk, and sometimes have a bit of a laugh to see all these unrelated strangers there together – or sometimes almost have a little cry as I realise that all of those favourite people of mine will probably never be together in the one country, let alone the same room (unless I win the lottery!). I also have several fantastic friends from my travels who are postcard freaks and I just love being able to put up postcards from their newest travels on my fridge.
Use the Technology
The best part about being a traveler in today’s age, in my opinion, is all the possibilities we get with the internet. Friends I met when I traveled to Europe as a young teenager have nearly all disappeared from my radar because we were relying on sending letters to a physical address – I’ve certainly moved numerous times and I think they have too.
These days it is infinitely easier to keep in touch reliably with people you’ve met on your travels, either by exchanging email addresses or connecting on social media sites like Facebook.
Social media works even better for me than email – on a site like Facebook I can see regular updates of what my friends are doing. Likewise, they can check out my life too – without having to write a long email – and when I want to or have something important to tell them, I can easily send a longer message or arrange to be online at the same time and have a chat.
Which brings me to the wonders of Skype and other chat systems – how wonderful are they? Being able to see and hear your friends in other countries (for free!) is really a fantastic development of the internet age.
Now Go and Make Contact!
Here’s my challenge for you: before you do anything else, go and send a message or get chatting with one of your travel friends who you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
In the process of writing this article I’ve zipped off and emailed my old Japanese teacher in Osaka (five years with no contact!), texted a friend on the other side of the country who I met while traveling in Europe, and written a message on Facebook to a former student in Slovakia who I haven’t been in touch with for a year or so. And I have to tell you – it feels great!