Maintaining Long-Distance Relationships Globally When Traveling Full Time

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Long-Distance relationships

The troubles and tricks to maintain long-distance relationships for a full-time traveler! 

How to maintain long-distance relationships — or how to keep in touch with your loved ones, your friends, and your family? Whether it’s your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, father, best friend, or oldest friend, if you’ve packed your bags and left your hometown for a few weeks or more, we find ourselves in various long-distance relationships. And often, these long-distance relationships suffer.

But don’t fear! Actually, it’s getting easier and easier to maintain long-distance relationships as technology gets better and better. Gone are the days when you have to worry about call charges abroad, if your letter arrived or not, or if your carrier pigeon got caught in a storm and will never come back again.

Traveling abroad for a long period of time, going away for work, or moving abroad can all be very rewarding and fun. Or maybe they’re just part of the job. Either way, if you’re constantly away from home for whatever reason, you’re bound to encounter the same issue.

I’m lucky enough to have spent most of my post-teen life traveling or living abroad. But of course, this comes at a price. The more friends you gain around the world, you lose just as many back home. Whilst this may not in all cases be a bad thing, you still might want to prevent from happening.

Let’s take a look and see what you can do!

Technology is a True Friend

Before I talk about some of the problems you may encounter in your long-distance relationships and how to deal with them, let’s look at how easy they are to maintain in the 21st century!

This is just a small list of some of the apps you’ll NEED to keep in touch with.

The four core apps I couldn’t live without (now) when traveling abroad:

WhatsApp

Allows video calling and messaging over all countries and only charges on data.

Messenger

Allows video calling and messaging over all countries and only charges on data.

Zoom

A video calling app popular for big group calls.

Skype

As well as a video calling app, you can call landlines and mobiles across the globe for much cheaper than local network charges. Great when you’re without data or have bad internet connection.

There are also a bunch of products out there to help maintain your long-distance relationships! You could consider buying your partner a cuddle pillow or matching bracelets that you can make vibrate at the touch of a button to let you know your other half you’re thinking of them… Maybe too cringe… But nevertheless, there are a lot of products out there now!

long-distance relationships
An online Zoom quiz with friends from all over the world!

Time Zones and Long-Distance Relationships

These are not your best friend and will likely get in the way of your long-distance relationships. It’s a good idea to be mindful of your friend/family’s time zone and make sure not to text them constantly at 3am and wake them up. They’re not going to like that. (Trust me.)

Be mindful and give them a call or text when you know they’re free.

Better still, why not go old-school with something that doesn’t get affected by time zones? Send a letter or some gifts in the post. Let them know you’re thinking of them!

Close Friends or Acquaintances?

Generally, I’m the kind of person that likes to have more “acquaintances” or “not so close friends” and a very small core group of “close friends” I can always rely on. This works well for someone who travels a lot and is probably why I’ve been able to maintain the lifestyle for so long.

I love meeting new people but don’t like getting so close to that many people. I have a core group of people I can always rely on, and then I have an expanded friendship network all over the world. This means if I get to a new country or city, I’ll probably know someone who knows someone there. This is handy in case you run into any issues or in case you get a bit lonely and want someone to hang out with!

Whatever type of person you are, it’s important to accept that close friendships are not ones that can be built up overnight and not ones that can be maintained if you have hundreds of them. Some people will just drop off – and that’s OK. If you feel like you’re someone that gets attached easily, it may be wise to take conscious distance from people you meet abroad if you know you are leaving soon. This can help with both your mental health and theirs!

Long-Distance Relationships Expectations

Communication. Communication is key because, well, that’s all you’ve got when you’re away. Before you go, chat about what expectations you both may have. Do you want to chat once a week? Once a month? Once a day? Make these expectations clear and also realistic. You don’t want a friend upset with you for not replying to your text within an hour, but you also don’t want to miss out on keeping up to date and only call once every few months (whoops, I’m guilty of this!).

Actually, as technology gets better and better, people expect more and more of us. When chatting on apps is so easy, what excuse do people have to not text us back?

It’s important to accept your new life. Don’t live on your phone and maybe let your friends and family know this, too. You didn’t go to London to spend your time in your room behind a laptop screen. Plus, you have some new friends now and need to work on relationships with them, too.

Letting People Go

Sometimes, you have to let loved ones move on. Of course, I’m not talking about a parent or spouse, but rather old friends and new friends. Sometimes, the distance is too much of a strain. And, no matter how hard it might be to accept, that’s OK.

Of course, if a spouse or family member can’t accept you being away that much, I’d say that’s a good opportunity to reflect on your lifestyle and perhaps make some changes. Whether it means making some of your own lifestyle changes or breaking off from the relationship for their own good, that’s of course up to you.

I’m talking more about friendships. I’ve had some really close friends over the years I’ve had to let fade away, and that has hurt me a lot. I’ve tried to keep in contact, tried sending things, etc., but, in the end, I can feel that my lack of physical presence has a big impact on them, and so, naturally, they move away from me and concentrate on other people who are there. And at that point, you need to make some choices and have some reflection. If you’re OK with that happening, then you accept the pain and let your loved ones do what they need to do. If not, then maybe it’s time to go home.

When it comes to traveling or being away, there are always sacrifices to be made.

GOALS In A Long-Distance Relationship!

I find this to be most important when discussing romantic long-distance relationships, but it is always so important to have an end goal. You’ll next see each other…when? Next week? Next month? Next year?

Going away without knowing when you’re coming back is hard and will put a massive strain on both you and your partner. Or indeed you and your friend or family.

Long-Distance Relationships Final Note

I’m forever grateful for my friends and family back home who accept my lifestyle. Some of my best friends are ones I catch up with once every few months, and I’ll see them as soon as I get back to the UK. These are also some of my oldest friends.

But there is a much bigger basket of people who have fallen through the net. Countless people I’ve once called friends, sometimes even close friends, and now I rarely even keep up to date with their social media–or they rarely keep up to date with mine. And, for me, this is OK. It may have taken a while to accept–when I first started traveling, it was very stressful for me to keep up all of these relationships–but I then learned that as people grow and change, so do relationships. And maybe even if I hadn’t been away all of the time, some of these relationships would’ve fallen apart, too.

My travel lifestyle is pretty selfish. I’m away more than I am back at home, but still, I have a group of family and friends who accept me for that. And those are the relationships that really matter in your life: people who accept you for who you are.

Zoe Stephens
Zoe is a freelance writer from Liverpool, UK. She spends her time traveling between China, where she is based, and North Korea, where she works as a tour guide for Koryo Tours. You can follow her journey and see her content from North Korea on Instagram (@zoediscovers) and YouTube. You can see more about her life stuck on Tonga on Instagram @tongadiaries.

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2 COMMENTS

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Honoured to have my photo feature! 😉
    But yes, keeping friendships alive can be tricky in the same city, let alone the same time difference! You’ve gotta put the work in if you want to keep the good ones (like yourself) around.
    Looking forward to being in even the same Hemisphere as you once again!

  2. Besides WhatsApp, there’s also LINE app. Japanese people use this but you don’t have to be Japanese to use it. It is also used in Taiwan (also called the Republic of China, not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China)

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