The first time I moved thousands of miles away from my family was really tough. I overpacked, but was underprepared for the emotional toll traveling was going to take on my soul. Being an ocean away from everyone I had ever known, taught me that traveling and living abroad teaches you a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of your relationships.
Relationships with friends and family were separated between those who got it and those who don’t. Those who understood why I was living abroad made the extra effort to keep in touch despite the fact that their own lives kept moving at an unstoppable pace.
A cousin who had been abroad in Spain for a semester bought me the travel adapter that I still use today; and every time I use it, I think of her with gratitude. It was a small gesture, but it symbolized a massive amount of support and camaraderie. It marked the beginning of a new phase in our relationship and our friendship. No matter how far we are, I know that even though life brought us together as cousins, we’ll also always be friends.
Yet for every cousin and friend that I grew closer with through traveling, there’s a handful that I’ve grown further apart from. Traveling made me realize that at the end of the day, in order to support a long-distance friendship, a friendship needs to be unbreakable to begin with. If the foundation is strong, traveling will only make the relationship stronger.
Through Snapchat I’ve been able to follow my cousins’ and my friends’ day-to-day lives and I’m forever grateful for that small glimpse into their everyday lives. I’ve witnessed first steps and first words from nieces and nephews, I’ve been to school recitals and even weddings through FaceTime- all whilst being thousands of miles away.
While the most difficult part of traveling is not being able to be there for significant moments with friends and family, every time I go back to visit, I have a newfound appreciation for the time we get to spend together. I make a point of contacting as many people as I can and having as many lunch and dinner dates as possible. When I’m around those I love, I’m mindful about putting my phone away and mindfully enjoying every moment.
When I visit my parents’ house, I cherish the meals around our kitchen table and the evening walks with my parents and our dogs. Every time I see my abuelita, I make a point to kiss her and on any given day, I’d rather spend time at my grandparents’ house than anywhere else.
Yes, living abroad can be difficult, but it can also be a wonderful path towards appreciating friends and family in a whole new way.