• Resolving Problems

Visiting an out-of-town friend: Having second thoughts

Published: September 17, 2016 | By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
After booking a trip to visit an out-of-town friend, a woman has second thoughts.


Hi Dr. Irene,

A friend moved to Arizona seven years ago. At the time, I was caregiving for my mother. Since that time, my friend has married. At the time, she wanted me to come for her wedding. I was not able to because of my mother’s illness.

Our contact became less and less frequent over time. My mother died six years ago. My friend would ask me to visit but it was never the right time. She retired this spring and we reconnected at that time. I told her I would be able to visit in September. I finally booked the trip.

One of the reasons, we didn’t talk much was because whenever I called her or she called me she always seemed preoccupied. The cell would cut off and she would call back or when I called back, she would not be in the conversation. Yet I would hear from her by email when she was working.

Over the summer, I was busy with a new job but this trip was always on my mind. I booked the trip. I am staying in a hotel because I did not want to inconvenience her and her husband. I also like my independence.

I called her to let her know that I would be visiting and again, she was preoccupied and wanted me to change my hotel. She seemed annoyed by my hotel choice, saying she had the same hotel around the corner from her. She was on her way to concert with her choir. She said that she would get back to me the next day.

I am having second thoughts about this. My plan was to visit her for four days then go to another city to visit for four days. My plan was to keep things flexible and hope we could see each other at least a day or two while I’m there.
I realize that she may have to shift some of her plans for a day or two. I cannot back out. I am booked. Besides, I really need this vacay. Still, I am concerned about her attitude. I asked her if she were okay with me visiting but she was preoccupied on the phone. What are your thoughts about this?

Signed, Penny


Hi Penny,

It has been about seven years since you and your out-of-town friend have had regular contact. Over that time, communications have become less frequent (and also sound like they’ve been less satisfying). Also, you’ve both experienced major life changes. Your friend moved, got married and retired. You lost your mom and are no longer a caregiver. More recently, you changed jobs. It’s likely that you both have grown and changed as individuals.

Clearly, it’s frustrating to communicate with someone who seems inattentive and preoccupied. Yet, you don’t know exactly what’s going on at home for your friend (e.g., what else might be happening in her life or how busy she is). It may also be that she’s just not a “phone person.”

While you want to reconnect with this out-of-town friend, you say that your travel plans were also motivated by your need to get away and take a vacation. It is great that you booked a hotel for the reasons you stated–not wanting to intrude on your friend and her husband, and to maintain your own turf and independence.

However, what wasn’t clear from your letter was whether you and your friend has worked out the timing of your visit in advance, or whether she may have been taken by surprise that you actually were coming to visit after all this time.

My suggestion would be to call or write your out-of-town friend a note to see if you can firm up a time to get-together at the beginning of your trip. Also, would it make any sense for you to switch to the hotel closer to her home to make it more convenient for the two of you to see each other?

If the first get-together works out well, you may both want to see each other again before you leave. But to avoid disappointment, I would suggest you have a backup plan. Figure out ways you can spend the time you’ve scheduled in your friend’s city that would make for an enjoyable vacation for you as a solo traveler.

Are there places nearby you would like to see or visit as a tourist? Depending on your interests, would you like to explore the outdoors, visit museums, etc.? Would you enjoy using the services and facilities at your hotel (e.g. a spa or swimming pool)?

Given the time that has elapsed and changes that have taken place in your lives, it would be prudent to temper your expectations of the friendship. Your friend may turn out to be just as “preoccupied” in person as she’s been on the phone.

Yes, you’ve taken an emotional risk. The reconnection may turn out better than you expected. But your investment of time and money won’t be lost if you plan ahead and don’t make the reconnection with this out-of-town friend the only focus of your trip.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (4)

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  1. Sandra says:

    I agree with the Plan B idea. Maybe your friend would like to see you — but perhaps not for every day or night of your visit. Maybe, given her schedule, she’d rather just go out for dinner one or two nights and leave it at that?

    Speaking from the other side, I periodically hear from friends who come back home to our area to visit their families, and so on. They will call on short notice, sometimes, and ask me to book time with them. Sometimes they want to get away from the families they are visiting for a night, and want to come to my home and have me entertain them. Sometimes I’m already booked and cannot switch plans or my work schedule.

    I like to make a compromise and take these out-of-town friends out for dinner for one evening (especially if I don’t have time to clean my house or cook for them). That seems to work nicely, especially in the case of someone I haven’t seen in a few years and don’t want to commit to spending a whole week or weekend with them.

    One time, a woman I’d gone to college with — but wasn’t very close to — came back to town and asked if she could come to my home for an evening. I said ‘yes,” and after spending a full five hours and a bottle of wine, I realized we’d changed A LOT, and had very little in common besides our brief 6 months as room mates. She calls me and tries to pin me down every time she comes back home from the East Coast now, and I always end up finding an excuse to avoid her visits.

    So keep your exceptions in check — and maybe suggest to your friend that you realize she is busy, but you would love to have dinner with her one evening while you are in town. If she wants to spend more time with you, and is able to do that, she will extend the invitation. But do plan to have other activities and sightseeing that you can do on your own. You might really enjoy your time there!

  2. Michele says:

    This is a follow up to my question above. Thank you Dr. Irene for replying. Thank you Amy and Laura for your responses, also.

    I ended up going to see my friend. We talked before I left.
    She insisted that I stay with her. I asked her in our phone conversation before I left, was she ok with me visiting? She said yes
    that both she and her husband were ok with me visiting and staying with them. She incorporated me into her life, for example, visiting relatives while showing me around town, meeting her friends but also sightseeing with me as well. I cooked dinner for them as a thank you for their hospitality. I treated her and she treated me. I also brought gifts for them from a city I visited before visiting them. I was also going thru an emotional issue which she helped me with.
    All in all, it was a pretty good visit. We talked, laughed and cried. Ate and drank, too! We reconnected and while we will not be the call each other every day or every month kind of friends, the drift won’t be as wide. Most of all, I got to see that she found what her heart was searching for. I was glad to see that.

  3. LauraSL says:

    It sounds like your friendship has drifted over the years. The only way you’ll know for sure is by visiting. I was going to suggest backing out with a white lie, but since it sounds like you have non-refundable reservations and need the vacay, Irene’s suggestion to plan other activities is spot on. I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  4. Amy F says:

    Make a list of things you want to do, so you have a plan B if she’s not available, physically or emotionally. Be prepared to entertain yourself, just in case she’s not up to entertaining. Some people aren’t very assertive and don’t have the communication skills to set boundaries or say they aren’t up for a visit. I hope she’s not one of these folks. Keep your expectations low, on par with the amount you’ve gotten from the friendship recently. That way you won’t be disappointed and you can make the best of your time, without depending on her for your enjoyment. Good luck.

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