I’ve been living in England for 18 years now and feel closer than ever to my friends and family across the pond. In fact, I would say that being overseas has, in many ways, helped me spend more quality time with my family. Because we live a long-haul flight away and because it is expensive to fly, I make the most of the trip. We spend the entire summer at my mother’s house on Lake Michigan. Yes, that is about six weeks a year. We’ve been doing this every year for the past 18 years, except when we missed the trip due to Covid. Having missed a year made the girls appreciate the trip all the more. They used to worry they were missing out on fun times with their friends in England. They were, but it wasn’t as much fun as the summer in the USA.
It is perfectly possible to stay connected despite the distances. Here’s how we maintain long distance relationships from abroad:
1. Schedule a regular call with the people dearest to you.
I try to call my mom once a week just to chat and find out what’s going on. I email with my two sisters on an ongoing basis and I have a group Zoom call with friends from university who are all over the globe about every quarter.
2. Send photos.
My mom says we never send enough photos. So the message is to send lots of photos. It would help if my mom had some modern technology but since she has no computer or Internet connection in the house, we have to resort to snail-mailed photos. Maybe this year I’ll talk her into getting connected, but I doubt she’ll go for it. It’s easy to share photos if you have Instagram or Snapchat. I also like this automatically updating digital photo frame so that you can share photos instantly from wherever you are. You’ll need an Internet connection though or this won’t work!
3. Set up a reminder system.
Use a calendar to remember birthdays and other important dates so you can send a card, gift or flowers. I also like to send random gifts throughout the year for no particular reason.
4. Don’t just share the big events in life, but also share the little things.
My friend sent photos of her kids’ first day at school, which prompted us to send photos of our kids’ first day, too. You could share a new recipe you enjoyed or a picture of a flower blooming in your garden. The great thing about friends is that the little details of daily life can give you a sense of connection.
5. Play a game together online.
My sister keeps in touch with my daughters by playing a word game similar to Scrabble online.
6. Host a family reunion.
When you have a large family, host a family reunion once a year. We reserve a few tables at the park near the lake and ask everyone to bring picnic food to share so it isn’t a burden on any one person. This way we catch up with the entire family tribe in one day.
7. Host a sleepover party.
My mother has her old school friends come once a year for a weekend at her house. They stay up late, play cards, do a puzzle and talk all night.
8. Take a trip together.
Travelling can make or break a relationship. So I’d recommend taking a very easy, short trip for a weekend away at a B & B or spa before you plan on taking a road trip through Tuscany together.
9. Use Zoom to do a project together.
A friend of mine is finishing her book and I’m finishing mine, so we support each other with a weekly Zoom call. It is great seeing her just get out of bed to make the call while I’m just about to go to sleep. Time difference can make connecting a challenge, but it is worth doing. You could do a smaller project together like clear out a closet or paint a room.
10. Don’t panic if you’ve lost contact.
I just send an email and say, “Hey, it’s been a while. Are you up for a call?” If they are too busy, I never take it personally. I simply ask them to let me know when they have more time.
11. Ask your closest friends to fulfill a personal need.
It’s counterintuitive, but when you ask a friend to meet one of your needs, you’ll find that brings you closer together. Find out what your top four personal and emotional needs are in the free Emotional Index Quiz.
For more tips on building powerful relationships, read Coach Yourself to Success.