As digital nomad girls, we get to meet and make friends with amazing people from all over the world. It’s one of the biggest perks of this lifestyle and I love having friends spread across the globe.
But I’d also be lying if I said it’s not difficult to stay in touch with friends as a digital nomad, both new friends as well as old friends and family at home.
1. Take responsibility (even if it’s ‘unfair’)
I’m gonna start by dropping a little truth bomb. If you want to keep in touch with all your favourite people, you’ve gotta own it and take responsibility for it – particularly when it comes to stay in touch with the friends and family you ‘left behind’ at home.
I know what you’re thinking: “But it’s unfair, why do I have to be the one who makes the effort?” Sure, in a perfect world your friends would make just as much effort as you do, and some of them (the really special ones) will do exactly that.
But the truth is, you’re the one who left, so you’ll need to be the one that makes the effort. That old saying – out of sight, out of mind – is kinda true. Your friends have their own lives and are doing their own thing, just the same as you. That’s totally cool, but if you truly cherish these friendships, you gotta take responsibility for them.
What does that mean in real life? Well, don’t expect everyone to miraculously know when you’re home for a few weeks. Let them know.
And just how you don’t like it when people think you’re free for a coffee/chat/beer any time of the day just because you’re at home (hello, we are working actually), you can’t expect everyone to drop everything just because you’re in town. So let them know you’re visiting well in advance because they’ve got their own lives to fit you around too.
2. Prioritise (+ Grab Your Free Tracker)
Take a look at your Facebook friend count – you’ve probably plenty of friends. But as on Facebook, not all real-life friendships are created equal.
Whether you’re trying to spend more time with friends at home or with travel buddies on the road, you have got to prioritise. I know this might sound awful, but there’s only so much time in the day.
I know so many people who’ve been roped into having 3-hour coffee breaks with an old work colleague from 10 years ago. Or breakfast with a family friend’s accountant’s second cousin just because they live in the city you’re visiting this weekend.
If you want to meet that old colleague or cousin, then great, go for it. But if you’re doing it just out of a sense of duty or guilt, then think about who you’re taking that time away from.
Could you be spending an extra afternoon with your mum or dad? Or maybe an afternoon more with your bestie?
Prioritise the friendships and relationships that mean the most to you.
If you’re struggling to keep in contact with all your favourite people around the globe, why not use our Keep-In-Touch tracker to help you nurture those most important relationships. You can download it here for free!
3. Make time
Often we have limited time to see our friends. Maybe you’re just home for a week or passing through your friend’s town for a long weekend. There’s a tendency to try to fit as many ‘meetings’ into one day as possible or to meet everyone at once.
I’d really recommend not to do that, even if it means you don’t get to see everyone every time you pass through.
Because otherwise you can end up darting between a quick coffee with one friend here, then a rushed lunch with another friend there, then a cup of tea with a third, a quick dinner, a drink …you get the idea. So instead of having a proper chinwag and deeper conversation, like you could if you met one or two close friends over a leisurely few bottles of wine, you’ll find that you’ve only scratched the surface.
Equally, you might be tempted to get a group of 15 friends together for a night, but that can end up with you making small talk with 15 people and failing to catch up properly with anyone. You’ll probably also be answering the same questions 15 times over (where were you? How was it? Where are you going next? …you know the drill).
The same goes if you’re not physically in the same place. If you want to truly stay in touch with your besties, make some proper time. Instead of sending WhatsApp message 10 times a day, set a weekly or fortnightly Skype date. Schedule it into your calendar and treat it as you would any other important meeting.
4. Get creative
If you’re travelling for a long time and simply can’t meet up face-to-face for a long time, then make sure your virtual friendship dates are as fun as possible. There are some fun ways to stay in touch with friends as a digital nomad.
There’s no reason why you have to just sit face-to-face on Skype and just chat. Why not mix it up a little and organise a virtual pamper night with face masks and pizza, like you might at home? (In the Inner Circle, we have mixer parties where we just chat and hang out online!)
Sometimes I meet my friend for a glass of wine on Zoom. We both have a glass or two and catch up. Because it feels a little more like a real friend date, we get to have a more real conversation.
I even know a digital nomad couple who set board game dates with their friends at home. They meet virtually and play games together. A really fun one is Evil Apples, it’s like a rip off of Cards Against Humanity that you can play on your phone.
Think of little ways to make you virtual meetups more fun!
5. Make new memories
The above rule actually applies to in-person catch-ups too. Now that I’m in my 30s, I feel like meetups are getting a bit more boring, or at least predictable.
If you always do the same thing – brunch at the same place, dinner at the same friend’s house – it can get a little boring. It’s really important to make an effort and try to do something new together.
Organise a hiking trip, go to a new museum, take a cooking class together or simply catch up while going for a walk instead of meeting at a cafe.
Instead of reminiscing about the good old days, you’ll be making new memories together.
6. The little things count
I know you’re busy, and your friends and family are also busy. So it might not be feasible to plan hikes together or regular online wine and cheese nights.
But that doesn’t mean you should get lazy with your friendships.
If you know you’ve got a busy period with work or travel coming up, why not send your friend a little postcard in the meantime? Yes, those things still exist and you’d be surprised how much people love receiving them!
Or you could send them a little voice message or even video message via WhatsApp or messenger to keep them in the loop and show them you’re thinking of them, even if you’re busy.
Taking a couple of minutes to show up won’t eat into your schedule and can mean so much.
You can also use our Keep-In-Touch Tracker to make sure you don’t leave too long between catch ups!
7. Nothing beats meeting in-person
No matter how great you are at keeping in touch via Skype, if you organise virtual karaoke nights (hey, that’s a great idea actually!) and send your friends postcards and love notes regularly, nothing beats meeting in real life.
I know it’s super hard (almost impossible) to see all your friends regularly, especially if they’re as spread out over six continents as my friends, but it’s a matter of making sure your actions match your values.
I sat down this year and wrote down some of my personal values and I realised friendships are the most important things in life to me (right after noodle soup and freedom) so I should make spending time on them a bigger priority.
Hence, the summer of friendship was born! I challenged myself to be as open and available as possible. Instead of being lazy and hiding behind work, I made a commitment to meet up with one friend or family member every single day while I was home in Munich in July.
Ok, so I’m super extroverted and this actually gives me energy, but I understand this might not be for you. So think about ways you can really prioritise your friendships and meeting up in person.
For my nomad friendships, that means that I’ve committed to attending more nomad events, like the amazing 7in7 conference. Since I attended last year in Barcelona, I knew that these were my people.
That’s why I flew halfway across the world from London to Colombia to make sure I get to spend quality time with them. And instead of staying for just a week during the conference, we’re staying for over a month. Again, that’s to make more time for what matters most.
In August this year, we stayed in Sofia, Bulgaria with a bunch of other friends. We all had our own place, but were there together because we wanted to spend some quality time. It was one of my favourite months this year.
Attending regular retreats, conferences and other nomad events is a goal of mine for the coming years, too.
We’re currently planning our next DNG retreats, too! If you want to meet like-minded digital nomad girls in person, sign up to the waiting list here!
So, next time you plan your trips, think about how you can organise them to maximise your in-person time with friends.