Keeping in Touch While Traveling

With all the excitement and preparations of traveling it’s easy to (initially) forget the family and friends you’re leaving behind. But we’re interested, honest; and most of us (for the time being anyway) are living vicariously through you, so don’t forget about us. We want to know about the interesting guy you sat beside on the plane who invited you to dinner afterward. Or the hidden cave you explored while swimming in the Mediterranean. So please, fill us in.

With the internet and advances in modern technology it’s easier now more than ever before to keep in touch, especially when you know your options. Of course, it needs to be cost effective as you’re on a budget – every penny counts. I’m familiar with this as I’m currently living in the UK, my parents are in Canada, sister in Australia and friends scattered across the globe! Yet I still manage to fill them in on a regular basis without breaking the bank and I know that when we all meet up again it’ll feel like no time has passed. Here are some suggestions that I’ve come across that helped me over the years.

Stories

Instead of sending personal emails, usually outlining the same information to individuals, try posting your stories/news to one location thus allowing your followers to access the information at their leisure. For longer trips I’d recommend starting a blog. Have Pack, Will Travel has already discussed your options for this, check them out here . For shorter trips you can use Facebook and either set up a group, invite selected family and friends, or simply post a note to the news feed through your account.

Photos

There’s no better way to share an experience then through a collection of photos. There are several great options here and it’s just a matter of picking one that suits you best. If you’re going down the Facebook route for your stories then uploading pictures to the same account would be easiest. But if not, check out these popular options that can all easily be linked up to your blog or shared with friends and family in other ways.

Flickr

An online community built around photo sharing that’s accessed through the web. You can upload photos, edit them, organize and share them. You have full control over your privacy settings and your friends don’t need to be members to view your albums. Basic accounts are free.

Picasa/ Picasa Web Account

Owned by Google and can be accessed via a G-mail account. It has all the same benefits as Flickr but without the community. The web version allows for 1 gigabyte of free storage equating to roughly 4,000 wallpaper-size photos.

My Photo Album

Similar to the above where you can upload, edit and organize the photos but you can also upload videos and the original file stays intact (no downsizing), great for when you want to offload your memory stick. Users receive their own web address where the space can be personalized. No storage limit and you can order prints (and printed accessories) through the site.

Chatting

For a more personal touch or when you just need a friend/mom/dad/sister/brother; like when you’re in France with a cold and pink eye (sadly my true story) and only the sound of your mom’s voice will do the trick. These options will get you through just about any ‘down’ you might be going through and bring you closer for any joys that need sharing.

Skype is a great way to make free (video) calls from user to user through the internet. Before you leave make sure everyone you want to stay in touch with has an account. It currently runs off of software that needs to be downloaded (again free) which is a bit tricky when you’re travelling without a computer/advanced phone (both of which support the software). There is, however, a (legal) solution: transferring the software to a USB stick, which can then be used in any internet cafe. Directions, more elegantly described than I ever could, can be found here – now all you need is a headset with a microphone which can be found cheaply.

A mobile/cell phone is obviously the more expensive route but it’s always good (not necessary) to have one, just in case. Quad-band phones can be used in most parts of the world. ‘Quad’ refers to the number of frequency bands (4 in this case) the phone supports, which is useful for roaming between countries. One way to cut down costs is to use SIM cards and purchasing (nominal fee), switching and topping (credit-wise) them up as you travel from country to country (more cost effective if you’re in one area for a while). This way you’re paying local charges for any calls or text messages. Now a days there are various service providers who offer cheap international calling services. Some of them also offer free international calls between many countries. So you can consider this as well as one of the option and enjoy the convenience of calling internationally using your regular phone.

An Apple iPhone or iPod Touch is also a great way to have a small, portable phone or mobile internet device handy at all times.  With the increase in free public WiFi and hostels that realize their customers needs, a quick email with a few photos or a Skype session is never far away.

Now that you know your options there’s no excuse for not staying in touch. Have a great trip and stay connected!

About the author:

Jessica La GrassaJessica La Grassa has taken St. Augustine’s famous quote “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” to heart, making her way through the (very large) ‘book’, one page at a time. Domesticated traveler most of the time, rugged and adventurous at others, she is always up for a challenge and loves exploring and learning new things.

Check out her blog, Provoke, or follower her on Twitter.

35 Replies to “Keeping in Touch While Traveling”

  1. Great post Jessica, but I was wondering what your tip would be for staying in touch in a place with minimal internet connectivity. You’ve mentioned a lot of great websites, but what if you can’t hop online? How do you stay in touch then? Are there tools you use to get connectivity when there doesn’t seem to be any available?

  2. Hi JoAnne, thanks for checking out the post and your comment. Unfortunately, if you’re in a place where there’s no internet or cellular connection you’ll have to keep in touch the old fashioned way: by post. Sending letters about your experiences or postcards are a great way. Plus (as it’s so rare nowadays) it’ll be an enjoyable surprise for the recipient.

  3. Sadly with the Internet, I’ve gotten away from sending postcards. When I was away for 6 months in Australia & New Zealand in 1995, I sent my family a postcard from every stop. I wrote very detailed accounts and even had fellow travelers write messages home to my family. They saved them for me and now they live in my scrapbook. Looking back on them brings back great memories, and the comments other people wrote brings a huge smile to my face. It’s a great way to relive that amazing journey.

  4. You guys should see me and my iPhone when I travel. It’s sickening. And thanks to twitter, I don’t think any of my friends even realized I was gone during my last trip.

  5. Keeping in touch is important, especially for longer trips. But Jeffery makes a point, too much and you kind of lose the point of getting away. I have a blog where I post photos and tell the important stories. I try to make regular posts, so as the year slips by my family and friends know what I’m up to, and I have a reminder of it all at the end. Of course, I can’t curl up with my blog in 5 years time, but all my photos and entries will be printed in a real book when I get back!

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