I remember when friends were made in neighborhoods, at school, at church and eventually at work. It was so simple. Some friendships were short term, some long term. Some came and went while others never strayed. A good friend was one you could be apart from for years, meet up with again and chat like you had never been apart.
The Internet has changed the dynamics and definition of friendship. I was dumped into the online relationship life early on. What is now About.com was originally The Mining Company. I was in the first group of guides, guiding the topic of "Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia", then later adding the topic of "RV Travel".
I learned about web sites, I learned about chat rooms, I learned about forums, I wrote articles, I searched and found the best links, I started a newsletter that grew to over 1000 readers including doctors and researchers. This was my second job...done evenings and weekends and I loved it.
I learned about online relationships, forming a close bond with several dozen other women guides. We struggled together, we grew together both personally and professionally. To this day I maintain an online friendship with at least a half dozen of them...several now on Facebook.
When I decided to learn to ride a motorcycle, I turned to the forums for guidance and input. Women learn to ride very differently from men, I soon realized. So a women's only motorcycle forum was a good place to start. That grew into my co-hosting a forum and eventually turned into an online sisterhood of women riders, Rumble Sisters Biker Sisterhood. Seven years later and I have met over 100 sisters in states across the US. We have been through births, deaths, marriages, divorces, medical issues, job crises, problems with kids and grandkids. We've laughed, cried, ranted, raved, hugged and more. Many of us have never met but we are friends for life.
Once I decided to go full-time RVing, I headed back into the RV forums that had been a staple in my previous RV life with my husband. Once again, the friendships formed. People like Nick Russell came into my life, becoming a friend for life. My blog brought more friends. Strangers would walk up to me, introduce themselves and say the magic words, "I read your blog".
Once I went full-time I became a member of the Escapees Class of 2007. Once again I had a new group of friends...found online and eventually met in person. We all still stay in touch via blogs, Facebook and email. We try to meet up whenever we can.
What defines a friend? I think each of us has their own definition. But I do know what defines a good friend...someone with whom I can share my thoughts without judgment, someone who will be there when I need a shoulder, someone who will offer constructive help when needed (and when not). Someone I can count on in some way at any time.
I have been fortunate to find most of my good friends via my online connections. Online connections that have turned into real life connections. Life is good!
Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna and Stu