This past fall I moved to a remote location for a few months to take a step back from real life, focus on my creative endeavors, and transition into a new career path. After spending at least the last decade of my life — especially the college days — rubbing shoulders with friends, lovers, roommates, classmates, and/or coworkers every single day, suddenly, I was alone. It was a bit of a shock.
Over the next five months, I lived alone in a cabin in the mountains of Montana, a period of my life that ended up being extremely formative and endlessly beneficial. Not only did I spend time discovering what I truly want out of life, but I learned to self-soothe in a deeper and fuller way than ever before. Yet, within that newfound independence, and for all its value, I was surprised to also note the development of deep human connection in my life: many of my friendships were flourishing, despite the lack of proximity.
As someone who seeks out new experiences regularly, I’ve developed quite a motley crew of friends from across the country and around the world. And I’m not alone in this, not by a long shot. We live in a connected world, one where it is perfectly reasonable to consider that someone who doesn’t share your zip code or daily routine can be just as much an important part of your life as someone you meet for drinks on Friday night.
Here are the top five reasons long-distance friendships matter.
1. The Best Ones Stay
You can’t fall in love with everyone. Freeing, isn’t it? Everyone’s different, so it makes sense why every relationship would be equally different. Some friends are great for going to shows; others are great for intellectual conversations over coffee, and others are great for advice.
When you go your separate ways in the physical world, the same holds true. Some relationships will cap at Snapchat, Instagram tags, or the occasional like. Others will develop into monthly phone calls that continue for years, projecting into the indefinite future. Both are beautiful.
2. You Learn How to Express Yourself
IRL, it’s pretty common for us human beings to fall into small talk, utilitarian conversation, avoiding sharing too many feelings. But in a long-distance friendship, you’re forced to communicate verbally or through writing (or, possibly, GIFs). In one way, shape, or form, you have to tell the other person what’s going on in your life.
For a long-distance friendship to be fulfilling and self-sustaining, there must be wildly successful exchange of communication. You must feel that you are being heard; the other must also feel that you are hearing them. But to feel heard, it’s up to you to adequately express what you’re trying to say. So yeah, free therapy.
3. You’re Never Truly Alone
Even if you love being by yourself, or if you find your independence to be your ultimate source of satisfaction, no one really wants to be completely alone in this world.
It’s relieving to know that even if you aren’t physically close to your friends, the rewards of giving and receiving support is only a phone call or email away.
4. You Always Have Somewhere to Travel
Arguably the best reason on this entire list! The only thing more fun than travel is traveling with someone else — or to someone else. I love when I get to introduce my out-of-town friends to my in-town friends or rediscover my city through their eyes.
Plus, this way only one person has to take the actual vacation at a time, but you both get to enjoy it.
5. Your Love is Less Conditional
Ever feel guilty for not calling your mom back right away? Or for not grabbing a drink with that old friend you ran into at the grocery store last month? When you’re busy, it’s easy to feel like you’re not being a great friend or giving enough of your time to those you love.
Long-distance friendship doesn’t have to be that way. When it really works, phone tag can go on for multiple weeks and no one’s actually mad about it. But when you finally happen to catch each other mid-commute with a few minutes to talk, it’s all worth it.