Distance. Hercules can go it; you can too.

If you're reading this, you know about distance. You know about the distance to the nearest coffee shop, or the distance to your favorite castle in the Loire Valley. As a traveler, distance is not something that concerns you. All you need is a will and a way. But you also know that distance is not just measured in miles (or kilometers). Distance is also the measure of heart-miles: the emotional breadth between one person and another, across borders, across continents.

But you're human. When you meet someone who lives in a different country, your first instinct might be to keep your distance. You know that, at the end of your vacation, or study abroad, or humanitarian trip, you'll have to say goodbye for an indeterminable amount of time until your next visit. Just thinking about the word "distance" is enough to prompt the pain of wanting and failing to hug, to hold. It's a word charged with melancholy, evoking images of jacked up phone bills, broken skype connections.

Why did you do this in the first place?

What was the point of getting so close to someone, only to have them be so far away?

But, as in life, you know that the difficult things are often the most rewarding. Friendships and relationships that cross cultures, languages, and customs are of a rare species. And in order to be successful, both people must be willing to go the distance.

An international friendship, while a risky pursuit, offers a world of benefits. Besides the physical and surface differences of your friend, your lack of common culture gives you a lifelong supply of conversation topics. How cool is it that your friend doesn't know what peanut butter tastes like, or has never seen snow? It's your chance to share things that your friends of the same culture might not even care about.

A friend that you see and talk to everyday from a common background, though familiar, can quickly turn dry and boring. You embrace the unfamiliar, and find a comfort in foreignness. You know that a long-distance, international friendship offers unique challenges. How do you communicate when there's a time difference or wonky Wi-Fi? (That is, if you can speak each other's languages fluently.) How do you know they still care about you, even if they haven't gotten around to your Facebook message yet? Distance requires trust and intuition.

The strength of any relationship will be able to speak for itself.

It's an invisible emotion that plays out in the little things. A letter, a care package. Those small moments at night when you know they're there, 6 or 11 or 19 hours into the past or future, thinking about you. It's the things that aren't said or seen that make international friendships so special. The distance is always worth it.

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