THE BLOG
06/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Keeping the friends you make on your travels

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I wanted to ask you about travel friendships. I just returned home to the UK after a gap year in Australia. While abroad I made lots of new friends, but became very close with one of them in particular as we ended up traveling together for several months.

I would love your advice on how to make the transition from traveling with someone (navigating a foreign country together and sharing things on a daily basis) to being "long-distance" friends once one or both of you have returned home to your respective lives and countries.

Thanks,
Maggie

ANSWER

Hi Maggie,

One of the joys of traveling is making new friends. When I saw your question, I immediately thought of my friend and colleague, whom I knew could provide you with a better response than me ☺. Ellen Perlman is an experienced traveler and accomplished travel writer who blogs at www.BoldlyGoSolo.com.

This is Ellen's sage advice:

The best advice for maintaining a long-distance friends is to do your utmost to reach out to your friend by email, phone, Facebook - however you choose - to tell her news about yourself, ask her how she's doing, tell her that you heard or did something that reminded you of your time together, or just to check in.

The good news is you were lucky to find a special person to share what is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime, months-long travel adventure. The less good, but not bad news, is that, as you suspect, it can be tough to maintain the closeness and intensity of that in-person relationship over time. But it doesn't mean you have to give up on keeping your friend close, as best you can, and accepting that the friendship is likely to change somewhat.

I've experienced a similar friendship transition many times. For instance, when I was in my early 30's, I met someone at Club Med in the Caribbean who I clicked with. She and I and several others formed a "gang" that had dinner together every night and talked and laughed. A lot. When the week was over, we all flew off in different directions, but Nicole and I kept in touch. The adventure was just beginning. I visited her in Montreal for a weekend and she came to see me in Washington, DC. Within a year or so, she had moved to Budapest. Score! Of course I found a way to visit her there and she showed me all around. I'm not sure I ever would have gone to Budapest if I hadn't known someone there.

The last time we got together was in Charlottesville, Virginia, at her uncle's house for a Christmas dinner. I'm not sure what happened after that. Maybe we both got too busy, or found romantic relationships or simply found it too difficult to keep up a long-distance friendship. Or perhaps, after a few years of seeing someone for only a weekend or two a year, the friendship just faded. Not in a bad way. Not due to anger or based on any discussion about what to do next. It just faded.

On the other hand, I spent a year as a university student in England several decades ago and I'm still in touch with my friend Lindsay, who I met that year. I was close with all the girls on my dorm hall but didn't manage to stay in touch with the others for more than a few years. But Lindsay and I met up and traveled together in Thailand and Hawaii, among other places. We visited each other either in the U.S. or in England a few times. I just got an email from her the other day. It amazes me that we're still in touch. And likely will indulge our mutual love of travel together again some day again, by choosing some exotic vacation destination to meet up in. It doesn't matter how many years pass before seeing each other again. We just pick up where we left off.

So have hope that you can make the friendship last and be the one to reach out to her even if it feels like you're making more of the effort. But don't panic over the thought that maybe you can't make it last. Nothing can take away the fun times you've already had.

You can follow Ellen on Boldly Go Solo~

Best wishes,
Ellen and Irene

Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.