Hey y'all,

First and foremost, I'm giving a shoutout to you friendly local journalists who are truly on the front lines of our industry. The shooting in a newsroom in Maryland last week is rocking our profession, where being a local news reporter is sometimes the hardest, most thankless — but most important — job. Here's the GoFundMe for the Capital Gazette family, if you feel so inclined.

Alrighty. Last week Laurel talked about how she's building connections and continuing friendships as she drives, quite literally, all over the country. This week, Anneka shares how she manages to stay in touch and grow new friendships as she travels all over the WORLD. She's part of a program called Remote Year, where she (you guessed it) works remotely for a year and lives in a new city/country each month. Ten months in, Anneka has now spent time everywhere from Croatia to Japan to the Czech Republic to Mexico to Argentina to Malaysia to, now, Colombia! 

There's a few programs like this, but Anneka specifically picked this one because of its cohort experience. If that sounds like a lot of friendship at one time to you, you're probably right. Here's what she has to say about it. 

Your friend,

P.S. Remember, is the new home for all the archives, sign-up, and info about Sown. Sharing is caring! 🤗
Note: Our chat has been edited + condensed for clarity. 

Christine: I want to delve into how you’re making friends on this adventure but also staying in touch with your friends as you travel. You mentioned in one blog post that you were learning new things about friendship. How do you approach making friends in Remote Year to begin with? Was it part of the application process? 

Anneka: The concept in Remote Year is travel the world, work remotely. You tell that to people and then you say "there’s also a $2,000 per month price tag on that." People say you can definitely do that for cheaper, and yes you could but you don’t get the community if you don’t participate in a program like this. That was the biggest draw for me. I applied, I got accepted, I went into it expecting every person in that group to be my best friend. 

The first month I was there it was a bit of shellshock in a way. I realized these are not my friends. Friendship takes a while to build. We all are just meeting each other. Also I became very hyperaware, kind of like being back in high school, these different interactions that people were having that symbolized a closer friendship. I feel like the odd one out in high school again; I didn’t feel like I was making friends as quickly as I can. Some people in the group were really comfortable with touch. I feel like I’m a pretty touchy person, but to a point. I would watch people just hug each other and sit really close to each other. I was like “Oh my gosh these people feel comfortable enough to snuggle?? They have known each other for a WEEK! What’s wrong with me?” 
It’s funny 9 months in to reflect on that. Now I feel really close to almost everyone in the group. I realized despite my extroverted-ness and my openness to making friends quickly, everyone moves at different rates and you can’t force something that’s not natural. One girl in particular, Christina [left], she was someone I felt she was making friends really quickly. She felt like a cool girl to me, and I felt like a loser.

Months were passing and I still wasn’t connecting with her. I still felt threatened by her in a way. A month later, we’re going to Thailand the following month and she’s going to Vietnam. She planned this huge trip with 20 people from the group and I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t insulted — we weren’t that close yet. When the group was flying from Japan to Thailand, where the two of us had the funnest day of our lives, just laughing together and being goofy, we really hit it off. That culminated in us deciding to do a four-day side trip to Malaysia. And now she’s one of my closest friends. It went from a stark “Wow, I don’t think I’m connecting with this girl at all” to a gradual friendship which is not usually our style. We’re both people that click very quickly but it was the slow pace that actually worked so well for us. 

Christine: What was that interaction like? What happened that brought you guys closer?

Anneka: We had had enough interactions at that point. We’d been traveling the world for four months together. That day we had to be out of our apartment at 9 a.m. but our flight wasn’t until 6 p.m., so we all took our luggage to the workspace, and others split. The two of us ended up hanging out in the workspace, and we went to lunch together with some other girls. It was not until this day that we discovered we both love artificially flavored strawberry things. Japan has so much of it! We were like, “we finished lunch, let's go to 7/11 and buy all the strawberry flavored things." On a total sugar high we made a hilarious video of our friend Bob and it became our thing. Every travel day [going from one month’s destination to another] since we’ve done it, we’ve taken photos together with Bob in the background. It brought us together. For our little trip in Malaysia we went on a trip to a strawberry field! We call each other straw-bae-rries now. It’s really special. 

I think the cool thing about Remote Year is that everyone really respects the friendships between each other. We encourage that in each other, but I think that’s something I had to work on. At first I think going back, I felt a little threatened by these relationships that were closer than I felt like I was having. As the months wore on I became more comfortable in my own friendship skin. It was about recognizing that I’m going to have this experience with these people, they’re going to have these experiences with these people, and we’re all going to have experiences together. It doesn’t mean that they’re better friends than I’m friends with them or whatever combination you want, it just means we’re all being ourselves and we’re hanging out having a great time. 

Christine: In the Remote Year application process, was social compatibility a factor? 

Anneka: Nope! They don’t really think that much about compatibility in terms of the group. There is some when you go through the process, they want to make sure you’re a sane human, but it comes down to luck. We’ve heard about a lot of other groups in Remote Year and I think some can become really cliquey really easily which is what I was worried about. Others have a lot of couples that have partnered up with each other. But our group just clicked.

Christine: On the other side of the coin, as you have been moving to all these different places, how have you stayed in touch with the friends you’ve made along the way or the friends from home?

Anneka: Every friendship has a different form of communication. My best friend Jessie and I communicate most via instagram by sending each other posts that remind us of each other or just sending each other something weird. I think that’s really funny and at the same time it has caused some anxieties for the both of us, because we’re supposed to be best friends but we’re not having heart to heart conversations frequently. She’s actually going to come visit me in Colombia so I’m going to see her really soon which I’m excited about. 

For my family I talk to my parents a lot. I talk to them maybe three times a week on the phone. I don’t talk to my sister as much as I wish I did. We’ve been busy on both sides, but we probably talk once a month on the phone and text a bunch. Other friends I won’t talk to as much, other friends I haven’t talked to at all. Part of them are those friendships that when you see them it’s great and nothing’s changed, but others — I left D.C. because I wanted to leave them behind. I had grown out of friendship with them. Well, one in particular.

It was a very toxic relationship toward the end. It’s one of the friendships where you’re having imaginary arguments with them in your head every day. I left for Remote Year and I left her behind and I stopped communicating with her. I feel bad about that because we have mutual friends and they’ve told me she’s very confused about what went wrong, but I’m healthier without this person in my life. They were really shitty to me and I don’t owe them an explanation. It’s really hard. It’s something I think about frequently, because it’s not something I do, but I think that’s one of the hardest part of friendships is unhealthy friendships and figuring out how to address them for your own health.

Christine: What else do you think Remote Year has taught you about friendship? 

Anneka: Remote Year has taught me to really think critically about my friendships from back home. Not necessarily in a bad way, but how I was messaging with Jessie. We have this weird dialogue lately where where we don’t talk like we used to. It’s all very short and goofy. I think I’m realizing that’s not a healthy relationship for me, or more so not how I want to communicate in a relationship. I think when she comes to Colombia it will be good to see her and chat about that. 

But I do think friendship needs to be sustained and nurtured. To do that it involves communication, and not just shallow communication, but real "how are you doing, how are you feeling, how's you're life." You do have to schedule time for that. I can’t say enough of how much Remote Year has helped me feel in the context of a friend. It's been such a journey. I didn’t expect to second guess myself so much at the beginning because I thought was confident in who I am as a person, but it was watching friendships form that threw me for a loop. Now that I’ve been around these people for nine months and I can call them all my friends, it’s made me comfortable being myself.

You don’t have to approach a situation and expect everyone to be best friends in a week. The thing that attracts people to you is just being yourself. If you’re hyper aware and nervous about how friendships are being formed around you, it’s off-putting in a way. That’s the cool thing about Remote Year where it throws you in with a bunch of people. It’s like a giant life lesson in a year.

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

"What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." — Jane Goodall
Take stock of yourself. Are you being yourself around others? Are you being open to friendship, if you want it? 

If not, what do you think you can do about it?
Write back and let me know how it goes! And add these to your friendship toolkit:
  • How to master the art of group travel: Choosing a good companion, establishing expectations, and allowing for alone time can help.
  • Feel like you're getting side-eye for moving back home with student debt or just crazy housing prices? Empathize with this article, then share it with your parents to prove it to them.
  • "A component of true friendship is you don't feel insecure": 10 women on how to be a good friend, decades in the making. (Side note: This is from The Lily, a part of the Washington Post and a really cool Instagram account to have in your feed.)
  • Sometimes you just need a good pair of socks to express your friendship — even when you lost the presidency to that friend. Check out George H.W. Bush's sock-signal of friendship for Bill Clinton.
  • Do you need to sweat to make a friend? Here's how a running group bonds over recurring exercise in sweltering Texas summers: "I had so much fun running with someone who has become a friend through this program, helping keep her motivated to keep going and to cross the finish line. We laughed through the whole race, talked about struggles in our lives, and sang along with the band at Mile 2."

Grow the Sow.

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