Traveling Journal Keeps Long-Distance Friends Together
Old-fashioned Communication can Keep Friends Connected Across the miles
By Alison Storm
After college I didn’t have any close friends. At least not geographically speaking. I had five great ones strewn acrossstates and time zones. We met in our hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, attended college and started chasing our dreams—pursuits that landed us all over the U.S. Long before Facebook news feeds and hourly tweets I developed a way for us to stay connected. It’s a beat-up book with loose pages and worn edges that’s traveled further than Lewis and Clark ever did—45,000 miles and counting. That’s equal to more than a trip-and-a-half around the world and by the grace of God in 11 years the traveling journal has never gotten lost in the mail.
There’s something about that journal that makes the miles in between our stretched-out circle melt. We can hold the record of our friendships in our hands, flip its pages, review its ups and downs. In honor of National Friendship Week, which starts the first Sunday in August, I asked my friends why the journal has played such an important role in our friendship. “It’s a treasure for all of us so when you have it you have the one thing that’s a part of all of us,” says Dawn Eagle, 33, a stay-at-home mom in Tampa. “[Reading the journal is] like hanging out with you guys.”
We do try meet up at least once a year, although with the demands of adulthood that can be difficult. So the journal keeps us connected when we’re apart. “I’m just really glad we do the traveling journal,” says Melissa Lanzourakis, 32, a group sales manager for events in our hometown. “I think it’s the glue that keeps us all connected even though we live in five different states.” “It’s a way to look back on all of our memories,” says Tonya Christopher, 33, a police officer outside of LA. “Whether it’s nine years ago or two years ago, it reconnects what we’ve all been through.”
The traveling journal has three rules: When it shows up in your mailbox you must write something (no topic is off-limits), add a few photos (the sillier the better) and send it back on its voyage. We’ve nearly filled two journals with the story of 25 moves, a dozen boyfriends, five trips to Vegas, two babies, four weddings and even a funeral.
Our best friend Jessica died in a car accident a few months after we started the journal back in 2001. She never got to write in it, but memories of her sarcastic sense of humor, black curly hair and striking blue eyes fill many pages. At 21 years old we learned that friendships are precious gifts. “Twenty-one is a young age to lose someone that you felt was like a sister to you,” explains Morgenne Basye, 33, a school teacher near Phoenix. “I definitely think our friendship is much stronger because all of us make such an effort to stay close and keep in touch.”
Long distance friendships are increasingly common. According to Purdue University research, on average graduates move six times after college and the typical distance between friends is 895 miles. Because we realized how powerful the traveling journal has been in our own lives, we launched TheTravelingJournal.com to help other long distance friends start journal journeys. We sell handmade journals and accessories with hopes of encouraging others to stay connected in this powerful way.
Friends are gifts from God, but they do take work. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times (NIV). Even if you don’t share a zip code, you can still share everything else. And that sense of community and support is what makes a friendship such a treasure.