So long, farewell, Auf Weidersehen, goodbye…
December 11, 2008 8:27 AM   Subscribe

When moving away, how do you say goodbye? (And how do you keep up friendships after you're gone?)

After living in the Boston area for more than 4.5 years, I’ve decided it's time to leave and travel the world, which I've wanted to do since I was young. I will probably settle in a different city when I return to the US.

I'm going to miss a lot of people here, including a few who I'm somewhat close to. It takes me awhile to get close to people, so I really value these friendships (even the moderately-close or acquaintances, of which there are a lot.) So I don't want to just brush these friendships aside when I leave. I want to maintain a lot of them once I'm back in the US as well as during my trip, if possible. Keeping up email exchanges, or even better, real letters/packages or phone conversations. I just am not sure how to go about instigating that, and then maintaining it when I'm living across the country.

I'm also struggling with how to wrap things up in my last weeks here. This is my first time moving away from a place when everyone else is staying. (My other two moves were at the end of high school and college.) I want to make sure everyone knows how much they mean to me, especially my closer friends, that I'm quite bummed to leave them, that I really value them and our friendship, and that I hope we'll keep up our friendship across the distance.

How is this done? What should I make sure to do, or to not do? Any fun ideas for how to put a nice ending on my time here? I don't want to just slip away quietly and disappear. I want to stay connected to my friends.

Thanks for your advice. :)
posted by inatizzy to Human Relations (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Facebook, email and a smashing going-away party.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have lived on the shores of both the Atlantic and Pacific and a whole lot of places in between (and a few places on the other side of each), and my friends remain my friends. I don't think there is any reason that distance has to be a factor.

A few years ago, mindful of my parents growing older, I took a weekend-long trip with each of them to see the places where they had grown up. My mom in particular had moved around almost yearly in her childhood because of my grandfather's job. She said something interesting -- that in the forties and fifties, moving ten miles down the road meant a new school, new friends, new church, new doctor, new dentist, everything: a total reboot. Now, she said, people stay in touch with each other far more easily and you can quite readily have friends who live thousands of miles away, which was unthinkable when she was growing up. She was not wrong.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:48 AM on December 11, 2008

I asked a similar question on keeping up friendships at a distance here. I haven't marked it resolved because, well, it isn't, but there are some good answers.

On the going-away party-- in my case I ended up having more than one of these, and it made the whole leaving process sort of drawn out. Next time I do it, I'm definitley going for a quick leave (with party, sure, but still).

Also, I wish I'd talked in person to a few people individually and indicated I wanted to keep up the friendship. It's hard to start now; easier to do before you go.

If you're interested in writing or photography, a travel blog can also be a great way to keep in touch with people while you're out and about. Then you can keep up with people without having to maintain email contact (and let's face it, some people are just flaky).
posted by nat at 8:59 AM on December 11, 2008

e-mail and facebook. And make it very clear to these friends that you value them, and want to keep the friendship up.
posted by kalimac at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2008

Seconding facebook.
posted by pearlybob at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2008

I moved from Seattle to Atlanta almost four years ago.

Before I left, I emailed all my friends and told them I would be moving. Like nat, I had a few parties and dinners with various friends and groups.

I try to keep up with my friends mostly via email and phone. I don't use Facebook or Myspace at all, so those weren't really options for me.

A phrase that I have been saying lately (not sure if I coined it, or am paraphrasing something I heard once): "When you move away you find out who your real friends are."
posted by Fleebnork at 9:02 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you ever seen Cloverfield? Throw yourself a going away party and videotape it like they did, but leave out the giant monsters.

Okay, but seriously - a kickass goodbye party, make some little memory books for everyone with photos and stuff, and put your contact info - your online profiles, email addy, new physical addy and phone #, etc - in these books. And be proactive about keeping up with everyone, yourself.
posted by katillathehun at 9:05 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm in this very boat myself right now - for the second time in 2 years. I lived in/around NYC for 5 years, then in mid 2007 moved to Africa for about a year to do pro-bono work. I moved back August of this year, and now it looks like I'm leaving again to live over in Africa more long-term.

It can get very lonely out there in the big wide world, especially depending on where you go and what you're doing. It will also be beautiful, exciting, interesting, scary, desolate, lush, and a lot of other things, depending on the time and place. And as you take all these things in you'll experience the urge to share them and there won't be anyone there to share them with you, many times.

I'd suggest that you put all of your thoughts into a letter or two that you send to your friends (maybe one for your closest friends and a different version for the others). That's what I'm doing - kind of like a support letter, the kind people write when they need your support for some kind of charity work they're going to do, except I'm not asking for money, I'm asking for actual concerted effort at communication and keeping in touch with me. I'm not sending it to a lot of people, but I am sending it to the ones that I really value and who have touched my life and I would not like to lose touch with.

People don't write / send letters so much anymore and I think it would be a nice touch. Maybe even do the ones to your closer friends hand-written.

Sure, have a going away party. But here's what happened at mine...I met a few friends out, we had a great time, I walked one of them home, and then I walked home alone. And that was it. My friends had said goodbye and had moved on with their lives. It is sad but it is also just the way things have to be. Cities like NYC and Boston are extremely transient by their nature - most of the people you know are like you - younger up and comers who are on the bleeding edge of society and culture. Most of them didn't come from the city and most of them aren't going to be there very long. If you really stop to think about it - you've been a part of that same group that has kind of been just shrugging it off when one of your friends moves on and leaves the city behind. I have been that person here in NYC. You have to be, because sooner or later, that person that you never thought was going to disappear suddenly announces that they are shoving off. And then they are gone.

You are that person now. You have to deal with the bittersweet sting of your city and your friends moving on with their lives without you, in a sense, because you will no longer be there. You can't hold it against them, its just the way things are. Write letters, poke on facebook, talk on Skype, blog, send emails. They will all help but even the summation of them pales in comparison to the actual presence of you.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I actually did this last year: left the city I was living in and traveled for a year, then came back to the US and settled in a different city. The suggestions above are right on:

Throw a going away party just before you leave, the closer to the actual departure date the better. Just be sure to let everyone know about in advance to make sure everyone can make it, or can meet up with you before you leave. And yes, its ok to throw yourself a party.

While traveling, I kept a travel blog to keep everyone updated on my whereabouts, and kept in touch with email. Facebook/MySpace announcements are great for telling people about the blog.

Since settling, I keep in touch mostly with Facebook, email, and phone; with occasional visits to/from the old stomping grounds. And Facebook is pretty much the new standard for keeping in touch with travel buddies around the globe.

Good luck, and have fun. You're going to love it.
posted by nbSean at 9:15 AM on December 11, 2008

To add to the excellent suggestions of Email & Facebook, I'll throw Twitter out there as well. Some very good friends of mine moved from the Midwest to the East Coast, but every day I get to know that they're stuck in traffic, having soup for dinner, or lying on the couch sick. We'll riff off of each others Tweets, and keep up our injoking and merriment like they were still here. I'm a big fan of ambient intimacy.
posted by ekstasis23 at 9:46 AM on December 11, 2008

The thing I'm pretty sure I have learned about this, after a series of reboots (small town -> small town -> big town -> city in another state after a couple months in another country -> different big town in that other state) is that nearly all relationships, even very important ones, are transient. People I used to see on a daily basis (and shared a lot of important time with) are now people I'm pretty unlikely to ever see again. I used to be kind of torn up about this, but I think I've realized that it is, essentially, Just What Happens.

That said, I think it's important not to write things off completely. You never know who you'll see again, and I've been amazed at the relationships that seem to pick up right where they left off despite drastically changed circumstances, and the passing acquaintances who have unexpectedly become important later on in other places.
posted by brennen at 10:19 AM on December 11, 2008

In my personal opinion, there are only so many long-distance relationships you can really be invested in at a time. When I moved to California from the East Coast I chose two friendships that I wanted to be invested in, no matter where I lived. I make sure to contact those women about one every two weeks. I call, e-mail, send cards, etc. I treasure those two relationships and I'm so glad that I've put the work into maintaining them.

For the rest of my friends and acquaintances I maintain a facebook page and a blog, that way they can read about my life if they're interested. They have a general sense of what's going on with me and when I visit my old home we can hang out and have plenty to talk about.

My advice is to make sure you aren't putting so much effort into maintaining old friendships that you aren't able to make new ones. Pick a few that a worth your time and effort, and let the rest stay on the back-burner.
posted by shesbookish at 10:21 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I moved from home to college, then stayed in that area for a few years afterwards. Subsequently moving to a totally new city turned out to be a little harder at first I expected, as this time I didn't have a situation (like college) that put me in direct contact with lots of people about my age with plenty of default smalltalk.

Don't be alarmed when, upon settling in your new place, you have some sad/self-pitying moments when you miss living in a place where people already know you and you already have close friends. It seems like everyone's got a group and they have all kinds of history together and you're still on the fringes. But you'll be fine, it takes some time to get settled.

With my close friends we always at least exchanged Xmas cards and the occasional "was thinking of you" postcard.

Some of the old friends from my previous home I kept in close touch with. Some, well, we tried, but drifted away. The ones with whom I'm still in touch, well, there was effort involved on both sides.

Some we just ping each other via e-mail once a year to say hi, and that's enough. Some I knew were not close enough that we would bother with an attempt, and that's okay too. Facebook didn't exist yet, though, and wow, it makes keeping at least a thread of connection so much easier.
posted by desuetude at 10:46 AM on December 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone. It's nice to read what you've done in similar situations.

allkindsoftime especially hit the nail on the head:

Cities like NYC and Boston are extremely transient by their nature - most of the people you know are like you...Most of them didn't come from the city and most of them aren't going to be there very long. If you really stop to think about it - you've been a part of that same group that has kind of been just shrugging it off when one of your friends moves on and leaves the city behind.

It's totally true; when people have left, I'm bummed to see them go, but it's just a part of life here. At least a few people leave each year. It's how it goes. But, it's also never been anyone I'm extremely close to. I'm looking forward to reading more responses. I think the 'transient nature' has kept me from allowing myself to get really close to my friends, since either I will leave or they will leave, anyway. I'm now regretting that so I'm hoping that in my departure I can solidify these relationships somehow.

Would also be great to hear if there's anything I should be sure *not* to do, if you've had a bad experience...
posted by inatizzy at 7:43 AM on December 12, 2008

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