9 Virtues You Gain When You Have More Friends Abroad Than At Home

by Lauren Martin

If there’s one requirement I have for my friendships, it’s that there must be an ocean between us.

There must be a flight, a customs and a time change. There must be different languages and a new currency. There must be a good amount we have to teach each other.

There also must be some stuff we will never fully understand. Yes, that’s how I like my friendships.

I like them long and far apart. I like to make them at airports, outside bars and in the middle of crowded streets. I like them to be random, exotic and, most importantly, full of unknowns.

Because those are the best friendships, aren’t they? The friendships made outside of your comfort zone.

The friendships with people who won’t be next to you day in and day out, but alongside a new day rise and daybreak. The friendships you’ll only reprise every few years but will last forever.

Foreign friendships are assets to the open-minded. They are for the wanderers, the travelers and the dreamers.

They are for those who know shared languages, customs and time zones do not make a friendship. They are for those thirsty for knowledge and a new perspective.

If that’s you, then you know what I’m talking about. You know that the best friendships are made more readily across borders than in them.

That the best people are usually in the most unlikely of places, and no matter how far apart you are, your souls never wander far.

They become living pieces of nostalgia

We find memories in songs, movies and places — why not people? People are traveling time capsules; they carry the past you two once shared in them.

Being with them reminds you of a specific time, place and feeling you had the last time you saw them. They are our connections to our past and the only things that can help us accept the future.

You learn how far you can stretch a good time

International friends are proof you can have a good time anywhere. You can keep friendships that span across oceans and mountains -- even if the party doesn’t.

Your good times aren’t confined to your hometown or your country codes. With them, the party never really ends, it just picks back up the moment you’re together again.

You learn the value of words because they're all you have

You can’t appreciate something until it’s taken away from you. Anyone who’s made friends while traveling knows the value words hold and how much they can get for their new ones.

They know what it feels like to lose their words — the kind of loss where you must reach down into the pit of your soul, scrambling for anything that will get your point across. This kind of sacrifice changes how you communicate for the rest of your life.

You question your absolute truths

People who have international friends have an international mindset. Unlike many who never leave their homes or countries, they’ve had their morals, ideals and truths tested and reevaluated.

They’ve watched their views shift, explode or deflate right in front of them. They’ve seen things from not just another angle, but another side entirely.

You accept people for their differences

International friendships are a sign of acceptance; they’re only made by people who see below surface-level judgments and societal norms.

They get down to the soul the moment they meet someone, only seeing what’s radiating from the inside. They don’t see clothes, colors or mannerisms — just the person inhabiting them.

You become more patriotic

The only way to love your country is to leave it. You’re only going to stop judging other cultures once you’ve had yours judged because you can’t defend something that’s never been challenged.

To have international friends is to accept, and willingly, that your customs and your country will be stereotyped and attacked in front of you. It’s your job to defend it, the same way they will defend theirs.

You learn to live without people

The most important part of having international friends is learning to live without them.

Once you’ve experienced a strong friendship that’s forced to be maintained across thousands of miles and different times zones, you learn that presence is not a requirement for company.

You also learn that no matter how much you come to depend on someone, you can and will learn to live without him or her. You must always be enough.

You learn there are worlds apart from your own

Your world is not the only world out there, and you are not the center of any of them. This is an important asset to having friends abroad.

For the first time, you are not the center of every country you visit. You are a tourist, a second-class citizen, an alien.

You are visiting someone else’s life in a world that’s just as important and valued as your own.

You're always learning something

Whether you want to or not, there’s never a moment you aren’t learning something. With friends from all over, you are constantly surrounded by new insights, thoughts and philosophies.

No matter how much you have in common, your different worlds alone keep the conversation flowing and full of intrigue. You are constantly sharing and exploring, happy to teach and to learn.