To Keep In Touch With Friends While Abroad

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Keeping in touch while abroad

How to Keep in Touch With Friends and Family While Abroad

Traveling, for all of its amazing adventures and possibilities, can sometimes mean creating more than just a physical distance between yourself and those you love. Going across the ocean can mean losing touch with certain friends, because who wants to walk down a one-way road of communication? Why are you always contacting them first? Shouldn’t they be more interested in what you’re up to, exploring the world? How can we keep in touch with friends abroad?

"Best friends prior to a trip, and upon returning, the person is a stranger."

Returning after a vacation is different than returning from traveling for months or even years, and as change is guaranteed in life, you may find yourself unable to relate to certain people anymore. This has happened to me and is still something I struggle with, as I tend to deeply overcare. Best friends prior to a trip, and upon returning, the person is a stranger.

People who want you in their life will make time for you.

Don’t be discouraged, fellow traveler, because the truth is that the people who want you in their life are going to make sure you know they do! They’ll make time for you, pester you to hang out, and listen to your travel stories with joy instead of jealousy. Even if they have a small interest in traveling, just seeing your excitement for it will make them excited, too. Remember, even if you don’t keep all the friends you had before, the ones you do keep will be that much closer to you.

 Facetiming with my boyfriend

Facetiming with my boyfriend

Whilst abroad, knowing how to keep in touch with family and friends can be tricky. You aren’t guaranteed cellular service or internet connection, and you have a slew of people wondering if you’re alive or dead. I lived abroad in Europe for one whole year and when first arrived I didn’t have a clue how best to keep the communication lines open with my family back home in California. It was trial and error, but I made it work.

1. Using Skype and Facetime or an international SIM to keep in touch

Skype/FaceTime are fantastic options if you have a device that supports it, along with reliable internet. This isn’t always as easy as you might anticipate, as some hostels have dodgy connections and privacy can be hard to come by. I did not have any international cellular service on my iPhone while I was abroad, as my phone was not “broken” and could not use another SIM card. If your mobile phone provider sets your phone so that it can accept an international SIM card, this is a cheap and proficient way to make phone calls without the stress of not being able to use your regular phone and phone number.

2. The App MagicJack lets you make actual phone calls through Wifi connection

 My mom and I in Times Square. I couldn't go a day without letting her know I was alright!

My mom and I in Times Square. I couldn't go a day without letting her know I was alright!

I relied upon Wi-Fi to send iMessages and texts through Facebook to keep in touch with my family. I also heard about a wonderful app called MagicJack, which allows you to make phone calls through Wifi connection. It rings as a random number on the receiver side, but I made sure to inform the people I was calling that if they saw a strange number ringing them, it was more than likely me and not a telemarketer. I also dabbled with using WhatsApp, but ultimately decided it was not as reliable as Facebook Messenger or MagicJack.

In the stressful moments that I could not find a Wi-Fi connection and I needed to contact my family, my first option was looking for a Starbucks. Starbucks is ubiquitous, and although their Wi-Fi may not always be lightning speed, it is a free connection. Not every Wifi connection is free, as some demand usernames and passwords. I appreciated how many free Wifi spots I found all over Europe, but sometimes I ran out of luck. If I couldn’t find a Starbucks, I tried a Costa Coffee or any other cafe or store with a Wi-Fi symbol in the window.

3. Finding an Internet Cafe

My last resort, after failing to connect at different hotels and hostels, was to find an Internet Cafe. More often than not those cost a couple euros but it was worth the relief of making sure my family knew I was alright. We are fortunate enough to be in an information age where the Internet makes keeping in touch so much easier than it used to be!

If you misplace or break your phone, remember also that kindness does exist in people’s hearts, and chances are they would be willing to loan you their phone for a moment so you could log in to your social media and contact your family. Just use discretion when deciding whom to ask, and make sure to log back out without saving the password on their phone.

4. Let your family know in advance that you will not be reachable

If you are traveling through a rural area that’s off the service map for Wi-Fi and/or cellular reception, let your friends and family know that you may not be able to contact them as often as you’d been able before. This sometimes happens, but planning a date and time for when you think you’ll next be able to get Wi-Fi, such as at your hostel or even the next airport, will give the people who are thinking about you a time frame and idea of your schedule.

Sometimes being away from your phone for a while can be a relief, but remember that there will always be somebody worrying about you. Video chatting is more personal because it feels like the person is there with you, but it’s not always a realistic option when you’re on the road. Keeping a communication plan and staying connected will make sure that nobody is missing you or worrying too much.

5. Postcards will mean a lot to those who miss you

Send postcards whenever you can! It is a simple gesture that will mean a lot to those who miss you dearly. It is easy to buy international stamps at post offices, newsstands, and other locations depending on each place, but you can always ask somebody for help. Keeping your friends and family involved with your travels is important if only because you love each other, but also because it keeps you from feeling too lonely, which can happen when you’re getting accustomed to the traveler’s life.

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