Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you have to disconnect. These days it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with your loved ones when you travel.
Here’s some tips on how to stay in touch when you travel, so your family and friends can get back to supporting your decision instead of worrying.
How to Stay in Touch: Get Comfortable With Email
Everyone will have some kind of communication tool for traveling, the default they turn to get those messages home.
For me, it was email. Most of my travels have been through regions where internet access was readily available – hosts had wireless access in rooms or a computer lounge for volunteers with plenty of bandwidth.
This was a lifesaver.
Not only is email quick and easy, I liked having it as a fairly constant resource.
I simply kept up my usual contributions from abroad, though they started to appear a bit late thanks to lagging time zones or with strange new additions like what vegetable I’d harvested or what mountain I’d climbed that day.
Surprisingly, the familiarity made email a comfort while traveling. It was a wonderful way to keep up with their everyday lives.
Stay Connected via Facebook & Social Media
If you’re a social media maven, you may be surprised at how these networks can continue to fit into the traveling life.
The Facebook news-feed has the same sort of instant gratification when you just want a little window into life at home. But what was better than that, for me, was discovering that Facebook truly is a global phenomenon.
As I moved my way around the world, I was amazed to realize my list of Facebook friends grew.
Soon I was scanning my newsfeed to see updates in Czech, English, Italian, German, Japanese and Bulgarian.
Facebook let me stay in touch with the people I was meeting on the road. You’ll often find that people in other countries LOVE Facebook. I’ve met so many locals and travelers alike that use this platform to connect.
Keep a Journal or Blog
A lot of people begin blogs as a way of recording their travels and sharing their experiences with people at home, who can follow the tales of their favorite traveler.
Most of my first trips were recorded entirely in paper journal form.
On the road, I was more concerned about using the web to get updates from others, not to post my own (that came later).
One great idea is to be community-minded: try starting a group blog with friends or family before you take off.
That way, when you record your travel triumphs and travails, you can also read up about what they’re doing at home. Your posts can bounce off things that your friends are writing about, or be completely unrelated.
Call your family at least once a week
These days you can Facetime on an iPhone with another iPhone customer and it’s completely free.
If you have T-Mobile, you’ll also be able to text (and roam) for free with unlimited text and data. T-Mobile hands down has the best plan for travelers.
If you want to call friends in the new country you find yourself in, you can invest in unlocking your phone by calling your service provider, sending the phone in, or unlocking it yourself with software. You can also buy a pre-paid card that simply pops into your phone and turns it into a locally functioning cellphone.
Skype is probably synonymous with this.
You can download the Skype client to your computer, create a login and search for your friends’ Skype accounts and then video chit-chat to your hearts content for free. You can also call cell phones and landlines with Skype, for a small fee.
One exciting discovery I made on the road was Google Call Phone.
For American and Canadian Go! Girls, you can call cell phones or landlines at home for free from anywhere in the world! (Other countries can be called too, but there’s a charge.)
Nothing was as gratifying as typing in my parents’ home number, gasping as my laptop started to ring and then hearing my mom’s voice emanating over the speakers. And Google has video-chat too for when both parties have a camera set up.
You might want to bring a headset with a built-in microphone, for a feeling of a bit more privacy.
Send and Receive Snail Mail & Care Packages
Sometimes nothing beats the delight of picking out a postcard or quietly drafting a long, handwritten letter. I sent postcards as birthday cards, holiday wishes or just brief hellos.
And the tone of handwritten communication is utterly different – it’s worth giving yourself the task of drafting a few communiqués from a café table or the beach, capturing the details you can only get far away from the computer screen.
And your friends will be just as excited about getting hand-posted notes from you as you will be about receiving real mail while on the road! The more you send to them, the more you can encourage them to reply in kind.
I loved getting mail – real, paper, packaged mail – while away.
I got a few particularly thrilling care packages abroad, including one cardboard box packed with s’more ingredients that was shipped across the Atlantic just so I could give a few friends lessons in how I did campfires as a kid.
Don’t know exactly where you’re headed? No problem!
While you can usually give your address to folks at home as soon as you get where you’re going, there’s one fool proof way to make sure their letters get to you: ask them to give you their letters before you leave!
It sounds silly, but taking up hardly any room or weight in your pack, you can have a comforting, calming note from home on hand whenever you need a little pick-me-up.
Ask friends for a sealed letter you can stuff in your pack for later, and enjoy reading it days, weeks or months later. It’s a slightly counter-intuitive way to keep in touch.
Don’t Forget to Disconnect
Letting people know where you are and what you’re up to allows you more mobility and freedom because you have a greater safety net.
But one closing thought: though there are a million ways on how to stay in touch when you travel don’t forget the importance of disconnecting for a minute.
One of the most incredible parts about travel is letting yourself feel independent, free, and sometimes quiet and alone.
While you should definitely keep in touch, don’t forget to balance it with getting in touch – with your surroundings, your new circumstances and yourself.
When the last email is sent and your video call is done, step out into your new surroundings and connect with what’s right there in front of you.
Give everything and everyone their due while you’re there – these are the people and places that you’ll be wanting to keep in touch with upon your return.
What’s your style when it comes to how to stay in touch on the road? Constant contact or the bare minimum of messages?