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long-distance friendships and the need for a tribe

A home base, their own quiet space, a familiar tribe – people who have traveled the world are longing for more steadiness. They want to spend more time in one place instead of hopping from one spot to another.

That’s at least the impression I get lately. Is this an emerging trend amongst us long-term travellers and modern nomads or just a deep-rooted need that comes to life when you’ve been on the road for long enough?

Either way – I can relate to this very well. There are many aspects to the wish to stay in one place for a longer time. One that’s outstanding for me and that I’ve been thinking a lot about is friends and friendships.

How friendships feel when your life is split across countries and oceans

I’m writing this to share my experience on how friendship feels, can feel, when your home and life are split between places, countries, and across oceans.

Because it’s a special constellation when you’re living far from your closest friends. Friendships are different when living in more than one place – and sometimes you wish to be just there, in this one particular place.

As I have eventually left my Berlin home base and taken on a modern nomadic life, I have experienced many emotions thinking of and staying in touch with my best friends. And a lot of times it’s especially my girl friends in Berlin I’m missing – this close group of ladies, knowing each other so well and having fun together, supporting each other. My life-loving, powerful female tribe.

Being pulled between two worlds

I often feel like I’m pulled between two worlds – wanting to live the life that fulfills me and yet, wanting to stay close with those who I love and who I could have over for coffee every day! Although it is me deliberately making the decision to leave for somewhere else long term, I faced emotions of missing out, being neglected and hurt.

Why did she do that without me? Why didn’t she tell me? Emotions rising, irrationally, strong. I had moments of self-pity and disappointment.

I knew it wasn’t their fault. It was me, who left – and, still, I felt this way.

Long-distance friendships can be tricky, complex – and even more so when you have an ocean and half a day between you and your best friends.

The fact of physical distance remains

You would think, that in times of whatsapp, skype and instagram there shouldn’t be any obstacles. But there are. There is the fact of physical distance, all of today’s modes of communication set aside. You can try to bridge distance and time zones, but you can’t erase them.

This is something I have experienced again and again. Having your friends on whatsapp or phoning them is not the same as having them sitting next to you. Who wouldn’t rather come round and have a chat over a glass of wine after an exhausting day compared to making a call not knowing at all what the other one is up to? Even if you sent regular updates and set up long calls every fortnight, it is not the same as living in one place.

Last year I had a patch where this was a real issue for me – I felt neglected, sad and hurt. Hard feelings that I’m sure came with the physical distance between me and some of my friends. When I reached out for support, I didn’t get an answer. I felt abandoned. Like I was always there when my friends needed me, but now they weren’t there for me. I knew they were probably just stressed or occupied with other stuff, but I felt they should be supporting me in that particular moment. This was a time I thought intensely about my friendships, our foundation and what makes us stick together.

What can you say from a distance?

When you are not face-to-face, it can be harder to communicate. I was procrastinating what to say and what not to say. Balancing disappointment and understanding. What can you say, text from a distance, and what has to be said in person? On the one hand you don’t wanna be too harsh and self-righteous, on the other hand you like to let them know what you feel and think.

Intricately human, I guess. – And wouldn’t it be so intricate if there wasn’t so much love?

Back in Europe, I talked this through with one of my best friends. To me it felt like tearing down an invisible barrier that had build up between us. It was so liberating talking openly about it.

Long-distance friendships sometimes need time to adjust. And sometimes they grow stronger despite physical distance.

Having said all the above, I hope I don’t sound like I’m all complaining… It’s some of the feelings I have come to face along my nomadic journey and I felt like sharing – maybe there are some of you out there, who have similar thoughts and doubts and maybe this helps wrapping your mind around this issue.

And let me know: How do you take care of your friendships when traveling for a long time or living or working abroad? What are your experiences? Would love to start a conversation on this on Kat’s Sofa. Because we all need our tribe, no matter where we choose to be.


The beautiful image above is a photo by Seth Doyle found on Unsplash. Thank you, Seth &!

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