Keeping in touch

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Keeping in touch during your travels has changed significantly. While communication back in the days meant sending a postcard or letter every now and then, you are approachable almost 24/7 nowadays. Only very remote areas will make it hard to keep in touch.

Unless you still prefer the old-fashioned ways, communication will most likely be free. There is no need to pay tremendous call charges anymore. A few free options are messenger services like Skype and WhatsApp, aswell as social media. Whenever you feel a little bit lonely or want to catch up on things one click will get you there. That sounds great but comes with a few downsides aswell.

Whether it is reasonable to always be appraochable or not has been a much discussed topic. Not just in terms of travelling, but also in general. On the one side you want to know what’s going on back home. You want to know if your best friend is getting a baby or your grandmother is in hospital. On the other side it pulls you out of the here and now. If you do know that your best friend is about to get a baby you will keep thinking about that. Even if you don’t think about it actively, those things will float around in your subconsciousness. Once you sit down in a quiet environment and start to think about life, they will strike again. Basically, the more time you spend with social media and thinking about home, the lesser your chance to completly get caught in your journey and the here and now. How much time you want to spend with keeping in touch should be carefully considered.

Whatever the outcome of your reflection, below are a few options to keep in touch. Maybe you’ll find a few you didn’t consider yet.

  • Post cards and letters. The old-fashioned way. Best to surprise family and friends since it’s not that common anymore. Also a more personal way to wish somebody happy birthday.
  • Social media and emails. Pretty self explanatory.
  • Skype. There are other options like FaceTime for Apple fans, I think Skype is the most established option though. It’s easy to use, all you need is a stable internet connection. Skype users often don’t know that you can make calls into the cellular network aswell. Especially if the person you want to call doesn’t have internet acces, that’s a considerable option. It probably saves you the need of getting a foreign SIM card aswell.
  • WhatsApp. Nowadays pretty much everybody should be familiar with WhatsApp or similar messenger services like Telegram. Also WhatsApp offers the option to call people for free.
  • Blog. A travel blog is another great possibility to keep “the abandoned” up to date. Especially if you have a large circle of friends, you don’t want to call every single one of them weekly. Also, telling the same stories over and over again can become quite annoying. It is a lot of work to set everything up though.
  • Online clouds. Dropbox, as an example, is a great way to share your pictures while you are travelling. It will also act as an extra backup, in case you lose your SD card. Pretty much everyone will be interested in your travel pictures. It’s also way nicer for them than a 10 hour picture presentation, once you are back home.
Internet access

There are different ways to get online while travelling the world. Having an own computer is not mandatory but probably the best way to go.

  • Public W-LAN hotspot. Most cafes, restaurants and hotels/hostels provide internet access via W-LAN hotspot. While it is most likely free if you are travelling regions like South East Asia, it can be quite expensive to use them in Australia or America. The quality differs extremly, sometimes you can watch HD videos without delay, sometimes loading the homepage of an embassy can take minutes.
  • Mobile internet. If you buy a SIM card it makes sense to buy a little bit of mobile internet data volume aswell. Usually it’s not expensive and can be very helpfull (e.g. getting directions from Google Maps). You can create a hotspot with your mobile phone to enable internet access for your computer aswell.
  • Internet cafes. If you don’t want to carry an own computer it is possible to use internet cafes as a substitute. Altough the only advantage this gives you is to be freed of carrying an own device with you. The disadvantages are more numerous. Using internet cafes is risky since you’ll never know what kinds of malicious software are installed on the computer. Especially if you want to check your online banking account you take a high risk. In regions like South East Asia it’s very common to share the internet cafe with a bunch of screaming kids aswell. Not the best environment to work or answer emails. Furthermore, you won’t be able to install any software. If the internet cafe doesn’t provide what you need, you are screwed. Depending on how much time you spend using the internet, it might be just as expensive as to buy an own computer.

As always you are very welcome to leave additions/suggestions/opinions in the comments!

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