One of the biggest concerns for travelers, and especially their families and friends, is keeping in contact while abroad. Being in a new country, engaging in new experiences, and meeting new lifelong friends can make it easy to abandon your old life and relationships. Here’s how you can avoid that pitfall and stay more connected than ever.
Had I known that three months before leaving to complete an international internship I’d meet my significant other, I probably wouldn’t have committed to an eight-week program. However, I had already filled out the required forms for my university, and finalized payment for my program, so I stuck with my plan.
Like any normal person, I was nervous about juggling a long distance relationship, and missing out on major milestones (like my grandma’s 80th birthday party). However, these apps kept me connected more than ever.
Skype and Facebook messaging are common among friends all over the world, however, a Wi-Fi connection is needed to be able to use these apps. What happens when you’re in the middle of a country that doesn’t readily have internet connection available for your use?
Without Wi-Fi, most of the apps I use would be pointless. Therefore, it was helpful to find an app which finds Wi-Fi! Wi-Fi Finder (Android and Itunes) allows you to search for hotspots in over 144 countries, even when you aren’t connected to the internet. More useful than your standard Wi-Fi search, this app shows you the location, strength, and availability of connections.
In addition to being a great text messaging service, Viber works great to share your location. So, whether someone from home is visiting, or you’re meeting new friends while overseas, sharing your location is easier than ever. Viber works over Wi-Fi connection or 3G/4G service, and uses less battery than other, more popular messaging apps.
Without needing an internet connection or local calling card, this app lets you make calls around the world. The app lets you make international calls at some of the most affordable prices out there, and until 2018, the app is letting users make calls to other active members for free.
Another application that worked really well for me is Whatsapp. Whatsapp also offers messaging, audio, and video calls. However, I realized that more than my U.S friends and family, my new friends I met abroad all stayed connected over Whatsapp. Now that I’m back in the U.S, Whatsapp helps me to stay more connected with them.
Skype offers free video calling, audio calling, and messaging between Skype users, at no cost. I Skype’d a cousin of mine during my grandma’s birthday party and was able to surprise lots of my family “face-to-face”. Skype alleviated my stress of missing out on important events, however, I wasn’t able to stay connected with everyone with just this app, as most of my family and friends chose to stay connected utilizing different accounts.
Facebook messenger was the preferred app for my friends back home. Since most of my friends were on Facebook almost always, we were able to instantly message one another at any time. Facebook also provides an audio and video call option. Both worked well, but I preferred Facebook video as you can have some fun with filters while video chatting.
Stick to a Schedule
One thing I found to really work well was sticking to a schedule with your closest chat buddies. Schedules help to avoid time difference issues, or missed calls. When expecting a chat session, make sure to find a quiet space to prevent unnecessary distractions, and give your friend the attention and consideration they deserve. Remember that they, too, have a life they’ve been living while you’re away, so try not to get caught up talking just about your stories and experiences. Allow time to share, and remember to send photo updates regularly, as well.
Create a Mailing List
One day, during my hospitality internship, I was asked to create a mailing list to reach out to past guests with promotions. It was then that I realized, I could send out monthly mass emails to keep my friends and family in the loop.
In addition to keeping in touch regularly via apps, I created a mailing list of my closest friends and family and sent out emails with photos and a quick entry about my experience. This also helped me to curb my enthusiasm for rambling about what I was up to, as they’d already read my email.
Staying in touch digitally definitely doesn’t allow you to connect in the same way, but seeing someone’s face and hearing their voice via video chat greatly decreases the distance felt. With the options in technology and devices, internet connection, and the discipline to stick to a schedule, staying in contact while abroad is easier than ever.