At the reunion last weekend, one of my (slightly drunk) friends sort of got in my face about not being a good friend because I'm never around. "We moved here for you!" he said (which is not true). I then pointed out that I used to call whenever I was in town, and that they never got back to me in time. Oh, and that they never call. But I do understand the frustration.
My schedule is not currently compatible with people who can't free specific dates to see me. It is also not compatible with those who are not spontaneous about social event planning. I feel bad about this, but my schedule is what it is, and friends who have stayed close through recent years have just accepted the fact that I am only around when I'm around.
I try to make it easy: I have a Google calendar that some folks subscribe to, and I try to keep friends informed about my whereabouts. For friends of mine who also travel a lot (but who do not have a calendar I can subscribe to), I actually write their in-town dates into my calendar, in case I forget. When I get home and look at my calendar, it is a clear reminder that if I don't see them now, it may be some time before I have another opportunity to do so.
Despite these efforts, I realize that it's *not* easy. It's probably easier to stop calling, to assume that I'm "never" around, and perhaps to wait for me to call, hoping that there is a free slot for hang-out time. But you'd never imagine how much I appreciate calls and invitations to events, even if I can't always go.
Or maybe all of this is totally natural, and the number of close friends one can keep shrinks -- and stabilizes -- as one gets older.
Also, I shouldn't marginalize what I've gained through all of my travels: friends all around the world. These friends are the kind that I don't *have* to see all the time. Our friendships have been sealed by sharing amazing experiences on and in the ocean. We have never been friends in daily life, and don't need to be. I enjoy the sort of friendships that can be centered around just one passion... and maybe having those relationships to balance the domestic ones out is enough. Or maybe not... I don't know. (confused, anyone? :).