How to Keep in Touch With Home While Traveling
For many travelers (and for their families back home), it’s important to stay in touch with the people you care about during your time on the road.
The people back home will want to know that you’re safe, enjoying yourself and they’ll no doubt be interested in what you’re up to.
In this modern age, there are many ways that one can contact those back home.
You can call them on the phone (using a calling card, a cell phone or Skype) or you can send them email or message them via social networks (such as Facebook and Twitter).
But which is the best way of staying in touch, and which is the easiest and the cheapest? Let’s take a look…
Skype is a service that lets you make phone calls (and video calls using a webcam) over the internet from one computer to another for FREE. I’ve literally had 3 hour phone calls with my friends and not had to pay a dime!
As well as calling other computers, Skype also allows you to make phone calls to landlines or mobile phones for a small fee (usually between $0.02 and $0.20 a minute).
Most computers in internet cafés will have Skype installed and ready for use (as you’ll also need a headset).
The one downside of Skype is that you typically need a pretty fast internet connection to get a clear signal.
If you’re traveling with your laptop and you’re relying on free WiFi (which is usually fairly slow) you might not be able to use Skype very effectively.
Some people don’t like the idea of having a cell phone when they’re traveling, as in doing so they never really feel like they’re ‘getting off the grid’ and escaping the problems of home (as they can easily be contacted at any time).
One easy way of calling home from overseas (whilst remaining ‘off the grid’) is to use calling cards.
They’ll save you the effort of having to buy a cell phone/SIM card, and mean you won’t have to go scouting around for internet cafés (to use Skype or to send emails).
The benefits of calling cards are:
- You won’t need to buy a new number/SIM card in each country you go to.
- They’re Pay-as-you-go, meaning you’ll only buy what you need.
- Cell phones make you a target for thieves. No-one tries to steal a calling card.
- They’re easily replaceable.
The main problem with calling cards, however, is that once you’ve left the country they’re made for you probably won’t be able to use them again, even if you have unused money/time remaining on them.
Lots of backpackers these days carry cell phones with them as they travel. Either they bring their phone from home and buy a new SIM card, or they buy a cheap one when they’re abroad.
Cell phones and SIM cards can be bought pretty cheaply these days, and they make arranging get-togethers with other travelers a breeze.
The benefits of using a cell phone abroad are:
- You’ll have instant access to your friends and family back home.
- You’ll be able to easily keep in touch with other travelers you meet on the road.
- You’ll be able to call for help in an emergency.
If you’re planning on taking your cell phone abroad and buying a SIM card there, there are certain technical aspects that come into play. Unless your phone has been ‘unlocked’, it might have difficulty accepting a different SIM card from another network.
This is part of the reason why many travelers buy a cheap phone once they’re overseas (as well as the fact that they don’t want to risk losing their fancy iPhone abroad when a cheaper phone will do the job).
When it comes to calling back home, doing so from a cell phone is a very expensive way of doing so. I recommend using a cell phone for keeping in touch with other travelers (if you need to) and using Skype for calling those back home.
If you’re living abroad (or at least staying in one country for several months), it makes sense to get a cell phone so that you can keep in touch with your friends in that country.
Lastly, it is a good idea to always cell phone on-hand in case of emergencies as you travel (especially if you’re traveling solo).
Communicating by email is quick, easy and free (if you can find a free WiFi spot, otherwise you’ll have to pay to use a computer at an internet café).
There’s a strong chance everyone at home will have an email account (and even if they don’t, they’re free to sign up for).
The great things about email is that you can reach so many people at once, as you can write one quick email and send it out to everybody at home in one go, saving you a lot of time in the process.
The other great thing about email over phoning home is that you can read emails anytime. When you’re traveling half way around the world it can be difficult to coordinate a phone call (due to the different time zones) as they’ll probably be asleep when you’re up and vice versa.
When you send someone an email it’ll sit in their inbox for them to read at their leisure.
Almost everyone is on either Facebook or Twitter these days (and if they’re not it’s easy to join), so communicating via social networks is quick, easy and cheap (as all it’ll cost you is time in an internet café).
The one downside of communicating through social networks is that they’re a bit impersonal (similar to email). If you’ve been away for a while, it can be nice to hear the voices of the people back home instead of merely reading what they’ve typed.
By writing an online travel blog of your adventures, your friends and family back home will be able to read a diary-like description of what you’re up to on your trip.
Although this is a more indirect way of keeping in touch, they’ll be able to leave comments at the bottom of each blog entry and you’ll be able to relate back and forth in that way.
For more information on writing a blog when you go traveling, click here.
What are your ways of staying in touch with home while on the road? Share them in the comments section below!
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