Distance is only physical: How to make the most of your out-of-state family members

July 25 | Guest post by Jen Bettencourt
Long distance key chain by Etsy seller JulieElizabethCo

We are lucky to live in a time when families of all shapes and sizes are not only tolerated but are also celebrated. No matter who is a part of your valued clan, they are likely people who mean something to you and with whom you enjoy spending time in one way or another. So what do you do when they are spread out over the coast, country, or even world? I'm here to tell you how to make the most of this common situation.

I'm from Massachusetts and my family lives in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado, and California. What does this mean for me? A few things: I do a lot of iMessaging and FaceTiming, I have a JetBlue credit card, and I can pack an overnight bag faster than many people can pack their lunches. Is it always my preference for my family and I to be separated by a car, train, or plane ride away? Of course not. But over time, I have not only learned to live with my far-flung family, but have also learned to see the positives in this situation.

Know that distance is only physical

It can be difficult not to take distance personally, especially when family members have moved away from your mutual home state. The thing is, the choice to live somewhere else has nothing to do with you. People move to different places for so many reasons – work, retirement, change of pace, or even for fun – and you have to accept that. I can guarantee you that it is just as hard for your family to be away from you at times as it is for you to be away from them. Know that distance is what you make it. It can feel isolating or lonely but it doesn't have to. Try to rise to the occasion and let it change your relationships for the better.

Leverage the time you DO have

Since my family members and I don't have the luxury of seeing each other as often as we'd like, we squeeze in as much as humanly possible when we are together. I don't mean that we over-schedule ourselves to the point of exhaustion, but rather that we prioritize the things we enjoy the most and make time for them. We soak up each minute of our visits and appreciate each other's company.

This may sound excessive (or awesome), but my sister and I are known to go out for brunch each-and-every day of my visits to Philadelphia. My dad and I cook a four-course meal just for ourselves in his home in North Carolina because it's what we love to do. My mom and I spend quality time together treasure hunting at her local HomeGoods, even though we've been there dozens of times and it isn't Instagram worthy. My point is to do what you love with the ones you love, no matter how much (or how little) time you have.

The other cool thing? I am lucky enough to have couches on every coast with open invitations. While I have just as much fun hanging out as my family members' places as being a tourist in their cities, I do love tasting regional delicacies or seeing the local sites. I have the unique privilege of not only having to travel to see my family, but GETTING to.

"If you miss me" pillow by Etsy seller CreativePillowLV

Use your local network

There are many times that I think to myself "I wish [specific family member] were here with me to do [specific activity]." I have learned two things over time:

  1.  Sometimes even texting my cousin to let her know that I am doing something and wish she were with me gives me the warm fuzzies I would have gotten from experiencing it with her.
  2. There is often someone else in my own state who would be just as enthusiastic about the activity as I am.

I have had game nights with my in-laws, lunched with old friends, and crafted with work friends. I have come to appreciate the greatness of the people around me instead of solely focusing on the people I miss.

Not only do I value my local network for the fun stuff, but also for the hard stuff. I am lucky to have in-laws and several circles of friends who are always willing to support me during difficult times.

Just knowing that someone who cares about you is in your figurative and geographical corner can make all the difference. And for those times that I just need my mom, she is still always a phone call or visit away.

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  1. Hi In response to your email, my daughter moved 15 miles away 7 years ago. She moved out from the family home 19 years ago but only locally. Her second home was across the road from me which was great as she had their 2nd child. The next move was 10 minutes away so within walking distance and I'd see them every day, Following the birth of their 3rd child they moved to a larger house, over an hour away by direct public transport or up to 3 hours on a weekend. A 4th child arrived the following year, 4 moves, 4 children!!
    Strange to say, our relationship has improved because of the distance and not seeing each other every day.
    Other relatives are spread around the country and in Australia.

    Sent from Alto

  2. I love this. We moved from CA to TX last year and alllll of my family is in my hometown in CA, and my in-laws are in AR (closer, but still a solid 11 hour drive because Texas is ginormous). It's hard to be so far away from them, but we try to visit often (we've gone to CA three times since we moved, and my mom has been able to visit us at our vacation home in VT a few times as well for holidays) and text, and definitely the prioritizing time thing– our last trip to CA, I saw all but a couple of friends I really wanted to see, and spent almost every day hanging out with my sister (we were not close growing up but lately things have been a lot better) and ate at almost every one of my favorite restaurants (and wound up being bloated AF at the end of three weeks of this… oops). I miss them a lot, but it's way easier in this day and age to stay in touch.

    I also love that picture of a necklace, because I spend my time between Austin TX and Burlington VT and those hearts are exactly "my" places 🙂

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