“Out of Sight Out of Mind” – Maintaining Friendships while Traveling

by Melissa on January 24, 2013 · 48 comments

Maybe I’m irritable because I’m back home in Toronto in the middle of winter and we’re experiencing a deep freeze.  Maybe it’s because I’m feeling a bit under the weather.  Whatever the reason… I have a little something I need to get off my chest.  Perhaps my travel friends can relate to this following rant I’d like to call “Out of Sight Out of Mind”.

Since returning home after my latest 17-month traveling stint there is something that has been on my mind, especially with the influx of friends wanting to catch up.  I found that while I was traveling the old adage “out of sight out of mind” rang true when it came to how I believe my friends thought of me.   While I realize that my perception of self-worth is not on the onus of my friends communicating with me, it’s nice to know that your friends will make the effort to try to be a part of your life no matter the distance.

office space

After my first 4months abroad in Australia, I discovered that few people even try to keep in touch.  At that time, I knew that I was planning on traveling around a lot and wasn’t sure what the internet situation would be like or if there was a possibility of having 3G (for my cell phone to use free-texting or calling apps like WhatsApp or Viber),  I started writing on my blog hoping that it would save me time in my communication with others and possibly reach people who may not be #1 on my communication priority list.

That being said, I always try to maintain communication with my family and best friends (via email or a free text service) and figure the rest can figure out what’s going on in my life via Facebook or my blog.  We have so many ways of keeping in touch – the world has become such a smaller place, thanks to the internet – yet nobody seems to make much of an effort to communicate.

I found myself sending off emails to people and never getting responses back.  I found myself sending text messages or making expensive phone calls to the other side of the world, only to have them unanswered.  Am I not that important?!  And let it be known – I never once received a long-distance phone call from anyone besides my parents.

Empty-Gmail-Inbox

We have this thing called “the internet” – it’s not really that NEW of a technology.  It’s an excellent forum for communication. So excellent, in fact that our lives rely so heavily on it.  We’ve got laptops, iPhones, iPads, tablets, e-readers with internet capabilities.  We’re Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, Skyping, networking, and surfing the web.  So, if this is the case, why did I never seem to get any replies?!  Was it really a case of “out of sight out of mind”?

The most ironic thing is that I’ve now come home after being away and suddenly EVERYONE has come out of the woodwork and they all want a piece of me – or so it seems.  Everyone wants to talk about my travels –which I do love talking about – but a small part of me wants to shake them and be like:

a)why do I bother writing on my blog if you don’t read it!?

or

b) where were you when I was on the other side of the world, lonely, and waiting for a response to an email or Facebook message I had sent you?! 

It truly seems that “out of sight out of mind” is a good way of putting it.  Some of my best friends and closest family members are even guilty of this.  It really makes you feel like crap.  Now all of a sudden, I can’t even keep up with the invites to catch up or go out.  It’s literally wearing me down.

keep in touch Here’s a piece of advice if you have a friend or family member who’s gone off traveling to avoid making them feel “out of sight out of mind”

Stop looking at stupid videos on YouTube, funny pictures with blunt and relatable sayings, or even at Facebook pictures of people you went to high school with yet haven’t talked to in about 12 years.  Stop tweeting, pinning, stumbling,  downloading and all other internet-related-words ending in ‘ing’ and take 5 f**king minutes to respond to that email from that person across the world.  You really don’t realize how much us travellers look forward to hearing from people back home.  It means you didn’t forget about us.  It means that we haven’t fallen victim to that “out of sight out of mind” saying.  Believe me, it could really end up making that person’s day.  So just think about it…

subscribe-banner
 

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne January 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Out of sight out of mind…. I remember telling you that.
Isn’t it the truth!!!

Reply

Melissa January 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm

very frustrating is what it is.

Reply

Kate -CanuckiwiKate January 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I know exactly where you’re coming from with one, Chica, a well deserved rant put quite eloquently!

PS I may or may not frequently wear a variety of your leftover clothes/accessories, so you’re never actually out of my sight ;)

<3
Kate -CanuckiwiKate recently posted..Looking back at 2012: Simply AmazingMy Profile

Reply

Melissa January 27, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hahaha I figured if anyone knew exactly how I felt, it would be you. HOW MANY TIMES did we have this conversation while I lived with you in NZ?

And PS – I think we do a fab job at keeping in touch ;) I love getting messages from you all the time – it makes me feel special and like an important part of your life. And I love that you wear my clothes :)

Reply

John January 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I’m not a world traveller but I can relate to your frustration when no reply comes from a communication. My preferred method of long-distance communication is by email, and it irritates me when I get no response. There’s really no excuse for it. Takes only a few minutes, costs nothing and is most appreciated by the original message sender.

Reply

Melissa January 27, 2013 at 10:39 am

I know that I’m sometimes guilty of not getting back right away – but i like to think for the most part I will make an effort to either a) initiate a conversation or b)reply eventually. There’s no excuse these days – it’s not like what it was like when people went traveling in the 70′s and 80′s and could only keep in touch via letters or postcards…

Reply

Angela January 24, 2013 at 5:37 pm

People are strange aren’t they? Having experienced this myself, I’m beginning to think it’s some kind of geographical radar that people have. If you’re out of their radar, i.e. not in the same city, they don’t want to know. Either that or they think you’re having such a marvelous time, why would you be interested in hearing from them, and their boring day to day lives? (this is what my sister said to me once – I reassured her I DID want hear about it, and it wasn’t boring). Anyway, whatever the reason, it does suck!

Reply

Melissa January 27, 2013 at 10:34 am

It definitely sucks – and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that they should think that we would be bored hearing about their “normal” lives. I find that because I sometimes live such a “different” lifestyle, just getting to hear about the normal is nice. I like the way you put it though re: the radar. :)

Reply

Erik January 24, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I gave up on this a long time ago. Half the people don’t care, the other half are jealous. I’ve never been away as long as you were, but I stopped trying to communicate with people while on the trip after some of my friends felt like it was ‘rubbing it in’.

Anyway, you certainly find out a lot about who your true friends are :-)
Erik recently posted..New Zealand-Chapter 23: Fleeing Rotorua and the Most Wonderful Surprise (pt.3)My Profile

Reply

Melissa January 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm

You’re completely right. I can’t believe some of your friends would say that they felt that you were “rubbing it in”- how insecure ARE they?!

And most definitely – you really do realize who your true friends are.

Reply

Megan January 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I can’t tell you how much this rings true for me. It’s actually something I’ve started to write about several times, but never found the guts to post. But you’ve said everything I want to say and I’m posting it loud and proud for every “oh so busy” friend of mine to read!
I haven’t returned yet to (hopefully) the influx of invites for coffee and dinner, but before I left Australia there were people who were so upset I couldn’t spend more time with them, yet never answer my emails.
I hope your friends get the message!
Megan recently posted..London’s best kept secret: The MousetrapMy Profile

Reply

Melissa January 27, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Sadly its those “busy” friends who likely won’t be able to find the time to read the post – even though they’re the ones who sorely need to read it.

Be prepared for when you return to get a huge number of people wanting to “catch up” – and be prepared to say NO sometimes because it can get terribly overwhelming.

Reply

Sofie January 25, 2013 at 7:09 am

It really sucks, people not replying or acting real interested up until the moment that they have to act on it.
I’d say: try to just categorize them. I think everyone has ‘coffee friends’, ‘party friends’, ‘study friends’, ‘temporary we happen to know the same people friends’ and then maybe one or two ‘friends friends’, people that are good in any situation, so to speak.
I know it doesn’t suck less if you don’t get a reply, but ‘categorizing’ helped me being less disappointed in some people with future events.
Sofie recently posted..5 steps to efficiently use the London undergroundMy Profile

Reply

Melissa January 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm

You know what? You’re not the first person who’s told me that – to “categorize” the people in my life. Actually I think the word the other person used was “compartmentalize” but both meant he same thing.

Thanks for the tip :)

Reply

Toni January 25, 2013 at 9:54 am

I think Erik made a good point – half the people don’t care and the others are jealous so it’s hard to get them to respond. Even if you try and not ‘rub things in’ and ask about their lives, they’re still not interested in talking to you which makes you feel like crap and that you never really meant much to them in the first place which is disappointment and saddening to say the least.
Thankfully I know that even if my family/friends ignore me, I have 2 friends that have always responded to me when I’ve been away :) they’re the important ones!
Toni recently posted..Falling in love with Tanzania and Stone TownMy Profile

Reply

Melissa January 28, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Everything you said is exactly the way I see it. And its definitely disappointing.

I know that I at least have a few close friends that will always be there to chat with. (you included) <3

Reply

Chris January 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I’ve given up trying to keep in touch with people at home, it isn’t worth the hassle! In fact the people who I communicate the most on my travels are people I’ve met on the road – they’re heaps better at skyping and emails!
Maybe it’s because everyone at home doesn’t want to have our awesome adventures rubbed in their face while they deal with 9-5 life?!

Anyhow I’ve decided I’d much rather meet some interesting backpackers and enjoy lazing on the beach than to worry about what everyone at home is up too!

Reply

Melissa January 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm

It’s totally true – us travelers tend to be better communicators than non-travelers — I think it’s cause we “get it.”

And while I too would rather be lazing on the beach with interesting travelers, I do like to feel like I haven’t been completely forgotten about by those who are supposed to be closest to me (from back home). Ahhh well…

Reply

Jennifer January 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm

This is so incredibly true. It wasn’t my choice to move to Italy (hubby is in the military) and while people may see all the fun travel pictures, they have no idea what it’s actually like to live in a place where you don ‘t have a single friend. I do the same: send the emails, texts, calls. And I get nothing from friends and family back home. It’s hurtful and frustrating.
Jennifer recently posted..Ducks and Dolphins at Carnevale di ViareggioMy Profile

Reply

Melissa January 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Hurtful is definitely a good way of putting it. And especially frustrating.

And I know what you mean – when I was living in New Zealand, all my friends from home saw was that I lived on the beach. And once my couple friends (in New Zealand) went back to work after Xmas holidays, I often times found myself getting pretty lonely in my own company – just dying to hear from someone back home. Travel – and even expat life- isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, like those back home tend to think it is.

Reply

Mary-Anne January 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Well said. Out of sight out of mind is too common and people seem to come up with some really wacky excuses. Glad you wrote this post to air it all out! :)
Mary-Anne recently posted..Rave Review: Hungry for Change (Documentary)My Profile

Reply

Melissa January 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

It’s not even just when you’re traveling, I find all in all, people have become TERRIBLE communicators, and use the facade of Facebook to make them think they’re “AWESOME FRIENDS.”

Like I mentioned in another comment, I’m not perfect, and I’ve had my moments of being a bad communicator too, but I think on the whole we all need a swift kick in the ass to remind us to be a little better.

Reply

Lilian January 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

It’s so frustrating isn’t it? When someone is on facebook everyday and you decide to send them a facebook because you know they’ll see it and still they don’t reply – that’s annoying. It’s great with some friends though when you can just meet them after a long time and still carry on as you’ve always had. Others are just useless at communicating – so strange that I’ve read this post today because over the last week I’ve been a bit upset by this haha. At least I know other travellers experience it too.

Reply

Melissa January 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

That’s exactly it!! People sit on facebook all day long – yet can’t reply. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no valid excuse for it.

I’m glad that other travelers have found solace in knowing that they’re not alone, and that most of those who are ‘back home’ tend to not realize how lazy they are on the communicating front.

Reply

Adam January 27, 2013 at 7:12 am

Brilliant! I feel exactly the same way but have trouble communicating my feelings. I just published a how-to guide for friends & family to help them stay in touch:

http://travelsofadam.com/2013/01/how-to-stay-in-touch-when-traveling-abroad

I’ve tried enlightening them but sometimes it’s hard to express how important it is for that bit of communication when you’re alone on the other side of the world.
Adam recently posted..Do you know your travel rights?My Profile

Reply

Melissa January 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Haha – I liked our little bout of Traveler Telepathy we had! Great post on your blog!! I really liked it! :)

It’s definitely hard to get the point across to others that sometimes you just want to talk to people at home and that we can have all these wonderful and incredible adventures while traveling, but we DO get lonely at times.

Reply

Ryan January 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Melly, great rant and I have totally experienced this as well. Like you probably read, my brother and I barely ever spoke since he didn’t approve of my travels. And once I didn’t have him, it seemed as if I had nobody because I barely ever received messages or emails from people. I even gave out my “Voxer” app name to people I thought were close friends so we could leave quick voicemails but that didn’t seem to make a difference.

I think you bring up an amazing point and I too need to get better at communication a well. Thanks!
Ryan recently posted..Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful Street Art of Wellington.My Profile

Reply

Melissa January 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I’m really sorry that your brother doesn’t approve of your travels and I’m really sorry that it made you feel really alone while traveling. I think most travelers have experienced the feeling and I think all people, even us travelers sometimes need a reminder that we could be better at communicating. I’m not trying to profess that I was perfect at responding, but I think the number of emails I sent that went unanswered far exceeded the emails that I never got a response to.

Just giving everyone a swift kick in the ass ;)

Reply

Ada January 28, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Very good points raised Melissa. It’s a shame that blogs are not nearly as popular as they should be in our 140 character attention-span society, for those who are super busy/space-cases/ it’s the perfect form of one-way communication sometimes… A simple “like” on FB or short comment (ie. “great blog, keep em coming”) is a little thing but gives encouragement that someone’s reading, someone cares…

However it is good that your friends are anxious to see you now that you’re home. I’m not familiar with the term… but I’ve had friends experience kind of the opposite of what you’re going through after having been abroad for a few years… that is, while they were away many people inquired when they would be visiting, how they were missed, etc. But when they did finally return, those same friends had fallen into new routines, different stages in life, and those desires to get together etc. never materialized into real meetings. They felt very left out of loop and felt like they’d been forgotten or left behind. To the point that some of these folks have just moved back abroad because they felt the ex-pat circle was more inclusive. Have you ever met anyone like that?

Anyway, if I haven’t said it lately… Great blog! Keep em’ comin’! ;)

Reply

Melissa January 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm

It is a damn shame that we’ve lost a lot of our attention span – and you put it great “140-character attention-span society.” There’s always an excuse from everyone, and as far as I’m concerned most of them are bullshit.

It does feel nice that people want to see me now… but it’s almost overkill. I feel in some ways I’ve completely changed as a person – some of my values completely contradict those of my long-time friends. After living in a small town that wasn’t as well off as my hometown of Unionville and traveling to very poor areas of Africa… I find it very difficult to be surrounded by so much excess and wealth and waste. I find myself getting angry with ‘the way things are’ here.

Thanks for the encouragement :) xoxo

Reply

Pernilla January 28, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Well said. And sadly so true…

Reply

Melissa January 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Thank you… and yeah… hopefully people who need to get a clue will read this article (wishful thinking, I know).

Reply

Arianwen April 8, 2013 at 6:56 am

It’s funny. I was kind of the opposite when I was away. I wanted to dedicate as much time as I could to seeing the sights or mingling with new people, and hoped that my friends back home would understand that I didn’t have much time to keep in touch. Having said that, there were definitely lonely times when I really wanted to talk to someone back home. It’s good when they’re there when you need them, and just not responding to emails is pretty harsh! Perhaps they were jealous of all your awesome experiences…
Arianwen recently posted..Christ’s redeeming featuresMy Profile

Reply

Melissa December 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I had a few people suggest that perhaps they were just jealous – and maybe they were. But it gets lonely and sometimes you just want to talk to this person or that one. I never let it keep me from seeing sights or making new friends, but at the time it kind of sucked.

Reply

Modern Day Nomads May 7, 2013 at 12:05 am

Great post! I think I might send this one to a few choice friends & family of mine to remind them that it would be nice to hear from them a little more often when we’re traveling too. (HINT HINT)
Modern Day Nomads recently posted..IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship for Female Journalists, Sept 2013 – March 2014My Profile

Reply

Melissa December 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Hahaha! It’s just nice to feel as if your friends and family back home haven’t forgotten about you, despite being on the other side of the world.

Reply

Alex Sheehan May 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Oooh, I can SO relate. Especially in regards to the blogging – not a SINGLE one of my friends has EVER commented or shared any of my posts. Not one! My family has, and so have my fellow travelers. It saddens me, but now I’ve just accepted it and realize that quality of relationships is important.
Alex Sheehan recently posted..Automated Posts vs Scheduled Posts: How to Tell the Difference and What to AvoidMy Profile

Reply

Melissa December 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm

It’s just so frustrating when you feel like you aren’t being supported by those who you consider to be your friends. It’s taken a while, and a few people do share – but its mostly my mom and people I’ve travelled with. Oh well… c’est la vie.

Reply

VacayGirl May 30, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Most travelers have felt the sting of this red-headed stepchild treatment. I wasn’t even out the country and I dealt with it for the past 13 years. I’m from Tx and moved to KY. I had a few “friends” say they would come visit. When they didn’t I made excuses that they either were busy or some had new babies and had to take care of them. Life, plain and simply, “happened” to most. However, the ones I expected to keep in touch didn’t. And as I embark on moving to another country I can only imagine that, that friend list will continue to shrink. Only thing to stay afloat about is the fact that you will always make new ones. People come and go out of your life and even though you make an effort to keep a connection going, sometimes you have to face it and move on out of their lives . Yes, there is a feeling of unwantedness but what d’ya do? You definitely can’t blame yourself for wanting to live your life to the fullest just because they have decided to cut you out of their life.
VacayGirl recently posted..Positively WorriedMy Profile

Reply

Melissa December 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I like the way you put it – “the sting of this red-headed stepchild treatment”… cause that’s the way it feels sometimes! And it’s not fair. But you’re right, life does go on and you certainly shouldn’t blame yourself for living your own life and doing what’s best for you.

Reply

Jake November 8, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Hola Melissa, thanks for your post. I was just skimming google for something related to ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and your blog was one of the things that popped up. I’m in the Netherlands now for grad school, did Peace Corps in Panama and have traveled extensively in Latin America and unfortunately by now I know EXACTLY which of my friends won’t bother getting in touch while I’m away. Before I left the Seattle area this time I tried to remind these people that it doesn’t take long and it would be great to hear from them while in Europe. I’ve sent emails, even started writing updates on facebook and still….nada. Usually I call my friends out on things I’m frustrated with but now that I see a pattern I just feel like it’s not worth it. Have you called any friends out? How did you go about it (or anyone else reading this, for that matter)? I’ve been friends with some of these people for many years so it’s difficult to just say f*#& it all. Entiendes? Thanks for reading and hope you’re doing well.

Reply

Melissa December 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hi Jake – I’m glad to know I’m not alone in this. And I definitely know what it’s like to just give up on trying to make the effort. You can only do so much and not get anything back in return. Hopefully your friends will start to make an effort! Fingers crossed for you, my friend!

Reply

B.Choudhury April 29, 2014 at 3:26 am

Yes. Its true. its not just when you travel or is out of the city, it happens all the time. even when you are in the same city, friends take you for granted or just don’t care enough to call, visit or respond to text messages. I have experienced this so much that I think this is how people, most of them function. it doesn’t mean a dislike, it just means I-will-call-u-if -I- need-u.

Reply

Sally July 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm

I just stumbled across this while looking at ‘out of mind out of sight’ our family moved overseas from Australia to Vietnam 16 months ago. We have a great life but I feel so disappointed by family and friends as so many others have said, I ring, send messages and texts with often no reply or if it is a reply I will have written a newsy note and I will get a one line reply. I feel so cut of and excluded from our old life. We recently made a trip home and everyone was wanting to catch up and carrying on about how much they had missed us but after being back in Vietnam its back to unanswered phone calls emails, messages and texts. It really gets me down I recently had my birthday and some close family just sent a “happy birthday’ message on facebook, not even in a private message. We always make sure to ring people at home on their birthday. My mother in law hasn’t even acknowledged our birthdays since being here and then there is the cousins weekend my husbands family has every year. For the last two we haven’t even received an invitation though we have attended every years while we were in Australia, but the cousins that have NEVER been still always get an invite when I enquired about it the response was ‘oh you wouldn’t come anyway, would you?’ I rang my brother over the weekend and he went into this conversation about what he had been doing the only time I spoke was when I asked him questions when he had finished telling me his news he says ‘I’ll let you go now as this must be costing you a fortune” he asked me nothing not even how I was or the rest of the family, I wanted to telling him about my exciting new job, our trip in 3 days to Cambodia, about my children, a funny story. Thanks for the article it helps to know its not personal and excuse the negative rant feeling the distance today.

My theory is people subconsciously or sometimes consciously feel abandoned, unloved when you leave and think it is up to you to come to them. There’s definitely some jealousy from some people and I’m very conscious of what I post on Facebook so people don’t thinking I’m bragging about our great life. I love the conversations I have with friends and family that do stay in touch it’s so important.

Happy travels everyone, we are certainly blessed to have these opportunities.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 4 trackbacks }