Friendship and Travel
Updated: Mar 22
I consider myself to have strong staying in-touch skills. I enjoy phone calls, I love sending text messages when I’m thinking of someone, and I have multiple friends where we communicate largely by g-chat. These skills were well honed before the pandemic. I have close friends from high school and college that I haven’t lived in same place as since we were in school together. And, by the time the pandemic started many of my Boston friends had left the area. Thus, when the pandemic started, and especially with the arrival of Zoom and more FaceTime, the extended pause of in-person social interactions felt okay. But, by mid-winter 2021, I was starting to daydream about spending time in person with my friends, and in particular traveling around the country to visit friends who lived far away. Ever since my PhD ended in June, I have prioritized traveling to visit, and traveling with, my friends.
Since July I have taken thirteen trips aligned with this priority. They have ranged dramatically in geography (from Provincetown, MA to San Francisco, CA), length (18 hours in Provincetown to 10 days in the Bay Area), and activity (weddings in the fall to a cross-country ski trip in January). And despite this diversity, a few consistent themes or lessons have emerged.
Home and location. Visiting friends’ homes (or childhood home) provides a sense of intimacy and connection that surpasses that achievable by phone or image. Many of my friends moved since I had last seen them - either to an entirely new place or a different home in the same location. When I travelled to Plano, Texas for Sandra’s bachelorette party I stayed at her mom’s house, the house where Sandra grew up. I had heard many stories, but to actually be in the house, drive around the area, and go for a run along the small bayou system gives reference points I didn’t have before. Right now, I’m in the Bay Area in California. Previously I had only spent 24 hours here touring Stanford before college. Now a good cohort of my friends, and my cousin, live here. Even after a few days, I am forming a sense of the area and geography, and immediately appreciating the incredible weather and uniqueness of the city.
Friends’ partners and friends’ friends. Many, or maybe most, of my friends are married or in committed relationships. However, there is usually one member of the couple that I g-chat/text/call. My friends’ partners - and their relationships with them - are a huge part of their lives, and something that I often hear about when we communicate. It has been so nice to spend time with my friends’ partners, deepen my own connection with them, and observe, and learn from the dynamics of the different relationships. I have also spent time with my friends’ family members and friends' friends. When I was in Plano for Sandra’s bridal shower I got to meet and talk with her grandmother. When I visited Will and Eduardo in Colorado, I got to join Will and Will’s friend Kelsey for their weekly hill workout.
Variety. In January, I drove up just south of Lake Placid in New York State to go cross country skiing with Georgia and Elyse. This was our eighth trip as a trio, and all but one - including our trip in July - have been multi-day adventures with at least one night in a tent. For this trip we wanted to go cross-country skiing, but we were not that excited to spend a night in an open shelter in the middle of winter. [February 2019, we went on an overnight cross-country trip in northern Maine where we spent a night in a three-sided shelter. We got very lucky with the temperature, but it was still very cold.] We booked an AirBnb and visited different cross-country ski locations in the area each of our three days. The cross-country skiing was beautiful, thrilling, and challenging, but having evenings inside together where we made dinner, played games, and talked was even more special. On backpacking trips, we also cook together and have long talks in our tent, but there was something particularly relaxed and surprisingly intimate about this trip. In February, my cousin Gina and I visited our friend Katie in St. Petersburg, Florida. The three of us grew up spending our Augusts together in Connecticut running back and forth between our houses. We have also spent all of our adult time as a trio in this same Connecticut location. This trip meant that not only were we seeing Katie’s new home, we also got to spend time together in a totally different context.