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On my way to South Africa, I was glad to have a 12-hour layover in the same country as a former musical theater cast member from a few years back. My friend Deb, originally from Canada, had been living in Wisconsin when we were in a production of the musical Bye Bye Birdie, and had since moved to Switzerland. When I realized that my flight to Cape Town would stop over in her country, I was excited to be able to spend the day together and sightsee.
Going above and beyond the role of friendly tour guide, Deb met me at the airport with a massive picnic for the two of us to share on the train ride into the city. With a full stomach to distract me from the jet lag, we wandered around the city on a chilly fall morning, gazing at the snow-covered alps in the distance and admiring the swans we passed on the lake.
After a couple of hours in Zurich, we took the train to Zug, Deb’s hometown. In this quaint German-speaking part of the country, we walked down tiny cobblestone roads, passing a few of Deb’s neighbors, as Deb filled me in on their peaceful but active life in Switzerland, in many ways so far removed from a lot of the chaotic aspects of North America.
Before sending me back on the train to the airport that evening (arriving early–after learning that trains in Switzerland leave exactly on the second they are scheduled to depart), Deb had another feast of a meal prepared. We enjoyed more good conversation together, sharing travel stories and our future creative goals. Spending time with Deb was another reminder to me that that traveling far away or living on opposite sides of the world doesn’t have to interfere with maintaining friendships–and that pursuing your ambitions can actually strengthen those bonds. Because if you’re being authentic to what you want out of life, it will only make you a more well-rounded person, more capable of maintaining solid friendships.
This is something I thought about when spending time with Deb back then, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about now that I’ve been out of the U.S. for a year and a half. It’s easy to feel guilty being so far away from friends and family, but I’ve learned that the strongest friendships don’t rely on physical distance for feeling connected. And that no matter the time difference, if my friends and I make it a priority to stay updated with each other’s lives, we can remain so close that it can almost feel like we’re still in the same time zone.