When all your friends are on vacation or live somewhere else: Tips on maintaining friendships, making friends, and being alone

 Me in St. Petersburg, Florida, Visiting a Friend

Me in St. Petersburg, Florida, Visiting a Friend

Do you ever feel like all your friends are on vacation? Or, do all your friends live somewhere else?

I’ve often felt like this, especially when I wasn’t making much money and was stuck at home. I’ve also moved a lot and my friends move a lot, resulting in my having very close friends in many different time zones.

You’ve probably experienced this, too. You make a new best friend and then bam! She’s moving somewhere else. You’re moving somewhere else. You both keep going out of town for work or pleasure or both. Or, you have drastically different incomes and you don’t want to continue to charge your credit card for another bar tab.

My friends and I are lucky to have the freedom to move and travel, but it does make maintaining friendships a lot harder. I’ve felt extremely lonely even while knowing that I have some really great friends out-of-town.

And, as I’ve gotten older, making new friends has started to feel like a chore. I have to psych myself up and schedule time to put myself out there. It’s like dating, but without the romance. And no one is going to buy me dinner. 

Over the years I’ve come up with a few tactics that help me deal with bouts of loneliness and keep up with my close friends. These tactics also help me be someone I’d actually want to be friends with and make space for new relationships.

How I Maintain Friends

Being a good friend takes work. When your friends live far away, it takes a little bit more work, but it is worth it. Plus, your friends will hopefully be doing the same things, so it will feel extra special. Here are a few things I do to maintain my far-away friendships:

Virtual Hangouts

I have scheduled hangouts with my close friends. I LOVE this because it guarantees a regular catch up and it gives me something to look forward to if I’m feeling lonely. It’s nice to share big news or get advice over video chat instead of just via email or over the phone, or Facebook/Instagram.

Phone A Friend

I usually make phone calls to my friends when I’m walking around. It’s usually a quick catch-up, but it does the job of staying in touch. I also try to call my friends when I’m feeling sad because it’s much better than spiraling and feeling alone. Even if they don’t pick up, they usually text back or schedule a time to chat, which makes me feel better.

Send A Letter Or Small Gift

I really enjoy receiving mail and so I’m trying to send more mail to my friends. This is a great way to surprise someone and just let them know you are thinking of them. 

Visit Your Friends

The best part of having friends who don’t live near you is being able to visit them! I’ll be visiting one of my best friends soon in Madrid and while I’m sad we don’t live near each other (due to me moving away), I’m more than happy to visit her. In our over-planned lives, visiting a friend for a weekend can feel like a huge luxury because you get to spend so much time together. Also, invite your friends to visit you!

How I Make Friends

I’m pretty good at making friends and I’ve always loved meeting new people, but I’m gonna be honest and tell you it’s exhausting to constantly be introducing yourself, seeking out events, and actively social. What was fun in my early twenties is annoying now. So, I stick to things the excite me and that I know I’ll enjoy even if I meet zero potential new friends. 

Go To Things That Inspire You

My Go Tos include: So Far Sounds, Creative Mornings, Little Salon (in DC), Art Gallery openings in the LES, and my own Distill Creative Workshops. 

The best way to meet people at an event is to go in with a plan, but not to have any expectations. For example, plan on talking to three people, but if you end up hitting it off with someone and they invite you somewhere else, go with them if you feel like it. 

If you have a list of who’s attending an event ahead of time, like with Creative Mornings talks, you can browse through the list beforehand and see if anyone stands out as friend material for you. Then, message them! Let them know you want to meet them in-person and make it happen. It’s less creepy then it sounds. 

Reach Out To Internet ‘Friends’ 

I’ve met a lot of my friends in new places by finding them and reaching out to them via the internet. This is how I’ve met and created a network of really inspiring people. It wasn’t an accident — I sought them out. If you are swiping through photos thinking ‘this person seems really cool, I wish I were their friend,’ you should message them and say ‘Hi, I’m XXX and I really enjoy your feed! Would you be interested in grabbing coffee sometime? I’d love to hear more about your work and how you XXX.’ The worst that will happen is they don’t answer you or say no.

Host Your Own Get-Together

My sister and I started hosting themed-craft workshops at my house partially because we wanted something to invite our new friends to. It was fun to invite people over and create together. If you need help planning, check out our guides. Or email me! I’d be happy to give tips. 
 

How To Be Someone Other People Want To Be Friends With And Feel Less Alone

Now, you may be thinking, everyone I want to be friends with is really cool and I’m not. Not true! I’m sure you are interesting (to at least someone!), but you might need to work on yourself in order to attract the kind of people you want to be friends with. Again, it’s like dating. 

Do Activities You Enjoy By Yourself 

If you aren’t happy alone, then you probably aren’t going to make anyone else happy to be around you. Learn to enjoy being alone and you’ll turn yourself into a cool magnet. I promise.

My go-to alone activity is to take myself out to a boozy brunch (Bar Pilar in DC or Veselka in NYC), read a book, then walk over to a local bookstore and buy another book. It’s fun, it’s educational, and if I spend a lot of money because I’m buzzed, I’m at least supporting a local business and giving myself another reason to be happy next time I find myself with no plans on a three-day weekend. I also really love going to dinner by myself, and reading, especially at places with bar seating (Donburi in DC or Russ & Daughters in NYC). 

Other ideas: go to an art museum/gallery, coffeeshop, movie, hike, live music show, or just walk. If I’m every lonely, taking a walk outside cures it almost instantly and when I’m lucky I run into someone or stumble upon something that takes my mind off being solo. I also like going to music shows alone, especially for new acts, because you can leave whenever you want and stand wherever you want.

Volunteer

Pick a cause and donate your time. You’ll probably meet other people who have similar interests and you’ll feel better about yourself. It’s also a good way to hone new skills, for example if you want to work on writing you can volunteer at 826 and teach kids. You’ll get inspired and maybe develop a new passion. 

Work On A Project

If you think you aren’t interesting, make yourself interesting by working on something that you are interested in. It’s as easy as a google search (to start). And before you know it you’ll be creating something you can’t wait to tell other people about. Whenever I find myself with zero social plans, I think, YES I can finally work on XYZ that I’ve been putting off. Or, at least that’s what I wish I would do! 

Adopt A Cat

I’m kind of kidding, but I do think that having a low-maintenance animal can really help you feel less alone. I don’t suggest getting a dog unless you actually have time to take care of it and are ready to say bye to half your friends because a dog usually means you have to leave your friends to go take your dog on a walk. Unless all your friends have dogs. Actually, dog parks are another great place to meet friends. So maybe get a dog.

Do you have lots of friends in other places? Do you feel like all your friends are on vacation? Do you want more tips or have more questions? Email me!

Check out our upcoming block printing, millinery, and macramé workshops. 
Take our macramé plant hanger course — a productive and meditative solo activity to get you through the three-day weekend. 

-Stephanie

 Best Friend, New Friends, and Me in New Orleans, on vacation

Best Friend, New Friends, and Me in New Orleans, on vacation