Feb 012015
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Yellow roses - friendship


How does a snowbird maintain friendships while away for the winter?


This is my third winter as a snowbird, someone who spends part or all of the winter away from home, escaping from the cold and snow to a warmer climate. A new online acquaintance of mine recently asked how I nurture friendships through the winter when I am far away from my friends. The question intrigued me and I have been thinking about it since.

This is an area where I am exceedingly grateful for the Internet and social media. My husband and I connect and interact with family and friends back home in ways that weren’t possible for snowbirds twenty years ago. Facebook allows us to keep up with the latest happenings. We also banter and tease almost as if we were in the same room. Email allows us to have more direct, one-on-one conversations.

I have free calling to Canada on the cell phone plan I am using while in the U.S. Periodic phone conversations help make the distance seem shorter. We use Skype to talk with our daughter (so she can avoid long distance charges on her cell phone plan). I’ve used Facetime with one of my friends.

Old communication methods

I’m thankful for more modern communications methods than this

During our first snowbird winter, we “attended” one of our dinner club’s parties via Skype. It was the first time the hosts had used Skype. We had some technical difficulties getting connected initially and we didn’t always catch the bits of conversation happening farther away from the computer. But people took turns moving closer to the computer. We caught up on each others’ news and shared a lot of laughs. After almost two hours, we felt as if we’d been part of the party.

We’ve been fortunate to see some family and friends in person, those who have come south for part of the winter themselves. And we’ve had the chance to spend more time with family living in the area we’re wintering in. We’ve made some new friends. But we still miss friends and family back home.

It’s great to see everybody and catch up when we go home in spring. As thankful as I am for the many ways we can stay in touch, nothing meets visiting in person. I am most grateful to have the kind of relationships where we can meet after being apart for a length of time and pick up where we left off as if we’d just seen each other yesterday, the time apart no longer relevant.

If you spend significant periods of time away from home or are a full-time traveller, how do you maintain your friendships?

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  45 Responses to “Long Distance Friendship”

  1. My in-laws were snowbirds. Funny thing, their friends were snowbirds too! And they had homes relatively close in their winter homes in Florida! I used to think it odd that they all traveled in a pack…but now I get it! LOL

    • It’s interesting to see clusters of people from the area in the retirement communities around us. Part of it is certainly the friendship and community. Another part is that you learn about good places to spend the winters from those you know.

  2. Hi Donna. Like you, I’ve used Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, email and more to keep connected with people when I’m travelling away from home. I absolutely LOVE how we can stay connected with people all around the world all at the same time. Attending a dinner party via Skype would be fun! Enjoy the rest of your time in AZ. It’s darn cold here in MB!!!

    • I sure appreciate the ways we can stay connected these days. And the way we can so easily make new friends halfway across the world. I hope you enjoyed your month in B.C. Stay warm. At least the MB winter so far has not been as brutal as last year’s.

  3. Hi Donna, it is so nice note that not only are phone calls cheap or free, but we can actually use Skype too. I remember way back when i was young thinking one day we will be able to call each other and SEE each other. And now it’s here. Makes it so much nicer and easier to stay in touch with family and friends when you want to, or have to, be away.

    • I don’t remember when I ever contemplated the idea of being able to call someone and see them when I was young. It is a great thing to help make the distance seem shorter. But there are times (when I am in my pyjamas, no make-up, and hair going in all kinds of odd directions) that the seeing thing isn’t quite so cool.

  4. I remember when I studied in Bogota one semester in 1974. In our house, long distance calls were a luxury back then. We only called after 11 pm when the rates went down and then, someone better be dying. Otherwise, it was all letters. When I was in Colombia, it was frustrating to have to stay in touch with letters because the mail system was unreliable at best, I wouldn’t receive any letters for two weeks and then a bunch would come at one time. Sometimes they came out of order. Our son, the travel blogger, is currently in the Philippines (I think). He calls more often than our son who lives here in Philadelphia, our hometown. He uses a Skype phone number, a Magic Jack phone number and does Facetime with my husband who also has an Iphone. I definitely don’t feel as out of touch as I used to thanks to social media. I just wish my 90 year old mother hadn’t decided that email is too “dangerous” for her to use anymore. She was pushed over the edge when someone hacked my gmail and she received an email asking her to wire money because I had been robbed in London and was stranded without money.

    • I think being a long distance away makes us value and need the communication more, which may explain why you get more calls from your far away son. There is no option to see each other face to face in the near term. Too bad your mother feels that way about email. I have an aunt nearing 80 with whom I online chat from time to time – usually late in the evening when we’re both up too late, not able to sleep.

  5. Hooray for technology! We’re never far out of the loop although we may be on the other side of the world. We use Skype, FaceTime and social media to stay in touch.

  6. A ditto to what Betsy wrote: “Hooray for technology!” I don’t use anything fancy at all. Just plain email. I have dear friends in China whom I don’t see often. Even if it’s a short email, it serves to keep the connection alive. I send photos, request photos and let them know I am thinking about them and miss them. Then, when I am in China, I see them and also talk on the phone. Long distance friendships mean a lot to me, and the internet can truly help me nurture those relationships.

  7. With our lifestyle as full-time travelers we actually feel more connected than we did in our previous lives where we took our friends and family for granted. Now we work hard to nurture friendships, both old and new and are so thankful for Skype, Facebook and email for making these connections possible.

  8. We’ve sure come a long way from an international phone call that once cost $75 for a couple of minutes! Facetime, or Skype, keep me in touch on the road, but of course, a quick email also maintains the connections.

  9. It makes me feel so much less homesick to know I can message family and friends while we are away. I remember our first big trip to Europe in the eighties, and without contact I was almost relieved to get home and see that everyone was fine.

  10. I so love that idea of a dinner party via SKYPE! After working with several expats I know that even a bit of face time does wonders for the heart. Keep going!

  11. We spend almost half the year away from home. A good portion of time within cell phone range to chat with friends (but find we seldom do) and I signed up for Skype only to have three friends (who whine the loudest about my being gone) tell me they’d never use it for fear of the way they look, other friends and family I simply tell to check the blog for what we’ve been up to (I can tell from their questions they haven’t bothered to check it). So we stay in touch reading FB and posting, responding and writing emails to those who take the time to write to us or respond and the others, I’ve finally decided have more intent on making me feel guilty for travel than for really wanting to stay in touch. (Can you tell I haven’t heard from many on this trip? 😉 snarl. . .)

    • I can relate a little bit to not always wanting to be seen on Skype – audio only is always an option, although it seems more of a connection with the video. Hope you have a lot of surprise, unexpected calls/messages from friends soon.

  12. It is so much easier to keep in touch these days. We use all of the above, as well as Facebook Messenger, which works on our phone. Other than sound quality that can vary, it is like having free phone calls anywhere in the world where there is internet. Love it.

  13. The same say as you…technology! But we also make sure we have reunions at a mutually convenient place. Nothing can replace warm hugs and animated face-to-face conversations!

  14. Using tools and technology to the best advantage is the way maximize your timeframe and other personal uses, bravo to you for making it work

  15. Even with all our communication options you still have to use them and you do!! I once “attended” a baby shower in France via Skype. Not the same as being there, but it was sure better than completely missing the event!!!

  16. Hi Donna, I use FaceTime, BBM Message, WhatsApp, Facebook to catch up with friends.
    With Blackberry and WhatsApp you can even call your contacts free as long as you have Wifi which is great x
    Wow Dinner party via Skype, interesting x

  17. It is so much easier now. Back in the 1990’s we travelled for nine months with our two young children. We had to stay in touch with home because our seven year old was enrolled in distance education. In those days post offices had a thing called ‘post restante’ a service where the main post office in a city or region would hold mail until the recipient came to pick it up. When we wrote to our friends we would always give them the address of the next post restante. Our son’s distance education teacher would send packets of lessons that way as well. It was always exciting to arrive at a new place and find mail waiting for us.

    • That post restante was a great service. These days I imagine lessons would be emailed or accessed online. But you bring up another issue I’ve been dealing with – regular mail and its forwarding. That hasn’t gone smoothly for me, although it appears to be sorted now.

  18. I think I left a comment, but maybe be totally distracted. If I did, just delete this one 😉

  19. I am never away for very long, so I don’t have that problem, but I do think your post also applies to those of us who simply live far away from our families. I love seeing my granddaughter on skype, texting loved ones, e-mailing many friends near and far, and Facebooking with high school friends and others from the past.

  20. Donna, I echo everyone’s comments. It is so much easier now to stay in touch. I would add one word: Priority You have to make people a priority in order to stay in touch. I use texting the most and I send photos to friends as well. Great post!

  21. We really are lucky to be able to stay connected to family and friends anywhere we are in the world. Skype has been a real comfort at times when a face-to-face talk is the thing you need the most, but are so far away from someone. Happy snowbirding!

  22. It’s mostly Facebook for me. Although Skype is great too – I use it to chat with my daughter in New Zealand.

  23. Donna, this is think is the best thing about the internet. I am in touch with so many more people than I would be regularly, and although many of those relationships are not deep friendships, it’s so nice to have the ability to keep up with others you might not normally be in touch with. I still use the good old telephone to chat with dear friends.

    • I’ve never been one to want to spend a lot of time on the telephone, but now that I am far away from many close friends (and as much as I love the Internet for staying in touch) I really appreciate a nice chat on the phone. A close friend back home called me yesterday morning and it was so nice to spend time chatting and catching up.

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