It’s a paradoxical inevitability that, while abroad to escape the confines of our hometowns, we are confronted with bouts of homesickness or desires to keep in touch with those we’ve (temporarily) left behind. Maybe you want to let family know you’re safe and sound while exploring the world. Perhaps you get a kick out of showing off photos of exotic adventures to friends. Or maybe, like me, you just can’t go very long without needing a hug from mom, even if it’s a virtual one. But getting in touch with loved ones can be tough while on the road, and making international calls home can be a brutal hit to the wallet. So unless you’re so rich you don’t need them, here are a few tricks to get you “home” while on the road that won’t break the bank.
Skype and Online Calling
Break out the laptops, because there is arguably no better way to keep in touch with friends and family at home than via Skype. (Unless of course you’re in a country where Skype isn’t allowed; make sure to confirm first.) Free for download on your computer or smart phone, Skype provides the unbeatable trifecta of communication options: chat, call or video call. More importantly, using Skype is free, meaning you don’t have to factor in a communication budget while going about your travels. Just make sure you confirm the person with whom you want to whisper sweet nothings (or complain about the crappy foreign food) has Skype and a webcam installed as well if you want to take advantage of the free video chat feature. There are also other free online calling services you can use to catch up with those at home if Skype isn’t for you.
If you’re traveling without internet, don’t have room in the ol’ rucksack for a laptop or just prefer to don your parachute pants and pretend we’re still in the 80s, making international calls home may be an inevitability. Fortunately, there are a variety of offers and deals on international calls to be found. Do some research before leaving home to figure out whether, depending on your destination(s) and the length of your travels, your best option is a prepaid international phone, a rechargeable international calling card, or an online account with an international calls service. Remember you have options!
Handwritten Postcards or Letters
Time to brush up on your penmanship, because the truth is that writing home (like literal, handwritten writing) is one of the most beloved ways to stay in touch. While mailing postcards or letters back home may not be the best way to keep loved ones informed of your most current location, it’s one of the most appreciated and treasured means of keeping up. It’s also a great way to set aside time now and again to take a break, indulge in a little personal time and reflect on the adventure you’re in the midst of. Consider buying blank note cards and a glue stick before hitting the road – from there, every train ticket, restaurant business card or monument receipt becomes part of a personal, handmade postcard sent with love.
If you’ve got a lot of people cheering you on from all the way back home, the best way to keep them informed may be to start a blog. Blogs are free, easy to use and provide an unbeatable platform for cataloguing your adventures (can you tell I’m a little biased?) Set one up with WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr or the myriad other blogging options out there on the web before you leave, share the link with friends and family, and voila – an all-in-one vehicle for updating loved ones and digesting the experiences of being on the road. It may not be one of the fanciest travel technologies, but blogging is a time-tested (in the last decade or so, at least) method of taking loved ones with you while you travel.