When you are traveling for an extended time on a career break, communication is important. It can help ease any home sickness, provide peace of mind to your worrying mother, make you the envy of your co-workers and friends, and it can help you do travel planning while on the road.
It wasn’t that long ago the process of communication while on the road was difficult and expensive; wow how things have changed! We have highlighted a few of the ‘new modern’ ways to stay in touch while on the road – but keep in mind with new phone apps and programs constantly coming out – this stuff can be out of date quickly. Some of you may prefer to not be ‘plugged in’ – but I think you’ll find that at some time or another, you will need to find a way to communicate; so here are some ideas on how to make that happen.
Setting up your communication plan is an important thing to do BEFORE you leave. Make sure you have accounts/apps, make sure your friends/family have accounts/apps, make sure everyone knows how to use it all (give them test runs), make sure you have talked to your family about how often you will be checking in and what to do if they don’t hear from you for a while. Handling these things before you leave will allow you to get the most out of your time and ensure that people aren’t back home worrying about you!
This is pretty obvious, and nearly everyone has email already! It’s still the best way to stay in touch. You can find internet cafes and wifi connections all over the world to check your email and send messages.
Think business card, but more fun! I would consider making a cheap set of ‘travel cards’ before you leave. Just a card with your name and your email is great. You can create these really cheaply these days and even put some cool travel photos on it! You might want to include your Skype id, Twitter handle, and Google Voice number too if you use those applications to communicate. When you are traveling you’ll meet so many new people, and the easiest thing to do is to hand someone a card with information on how they can get in touch with you for the future. It’s less likely to be lost or misplaced!
This includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – or whatever else you may use. These are fabulous ways to stay in touch with family, friends, and co-workers. You can post pictures of your travels, link to blog posts or websites; it can really bring your travel experience alive for the people back home. Many people chose not to blog, and instead put all of their photography and short updates on Facebook. In addition, you will be adding so many new friends as you travel; this is also how you can stay in touch with them.
Or, if you’d like to remain more private, you can also create a private Facebook group and simply invite close family and friends to it and provide updates there regarding your whereabouts.
Skype is the holy grail of communication! If you don’t have Skype, I suggest you research it before you leave and set up a login. It is a free downloadable application you can log into on a computer and make phone calls (with video), chat, conference calls, or text message over the internet. However, if you don’t intend to take a laptop, please know that 99% of internet cafés have Skype loaded on their machines as well as headsets. In addition, Skype offers a smart phone application and you are able to take calls via your smart phone if you have a wireless internet connection available.
How does it work? If the person you are calling also has Skype, then the calls are free. If they don’t have Skype, then the cost of calls is minimal and you’ll need to add credit to your Skype account to make those calls. So – the lesson here is to get your family and friends to also get on Skype. Since my parents are older and some of my siblings aren’t really tech savvy, I always suggest to people to set this stuff up BEFORE you go. Help them download it on their computers or phones; then set up an account for them and make sure they know how to use it. You don’t want to be on the road trying to teach your parents how to use Skype; I’ve done that, and it’s not fun.
There are many options for cell phones but once again, research this before you go. If you are positive you want to keep your phone and current provider, then make sure you look into international roaming and texting plans. This is definitely the expensive option as American carriers used internationally are costly.
Barbara from Hole in the Donut created this useful post: “Using your iphone while traveling internationally without breaking the bank”
However, a cheaper option is to purchase a cheap, unlocked (not associated with any US carrier) phone and simply purchase an international SIM card that can be used everywhere. Or you can purchase a SIM card from a local provider in the country you are traveling in (good if you are going to be in that country for a while). Personally – I’ve done both and much prefer just getting a SIM when I enter a country and using the pay as you go plans. This means your phone number changes all of the time, but there are ways around that (see Google Voice below). However; if you have a Skype id to communicate with people back home, then the only reason you may need a cell phone is to call local places (hotels, hostels, tour companies, etc); so it’s not a big deal if your number changes in each country.
With a smart phone then this means that you can also pretty easily communicate with less tech savvy family/friends back home too via texting. You don’t even need a SIM card to text these days with smart phone apps like What’s App and Viber. These apps are a super solution for free international texting and sending photos while on the road. They both offer free texting via a wifi connection. Note that the person you are texting must also have the app on their phone, so make sure you tell your friends/family to get it set up on their devices before you go and test it out.
Download and learn more about What’s App
Downoad and learn more about Viber
A free service from Google where you to pick a new Google ‘phone’ number and when anyone calls this number, it will ring all of your phones, or specified phones.
- Use one number to manage all your phones; your Google Voice number is tied to you, not to a particular device or location.
- Voicemail is like email: Save voicemail messages for as long as you’d like, star important ones, and search through them.
- Voicemail transcription: Voicemail messages will be automatically transcribed to text and sent to you via email and/or SMS.
- Works with mobile phones, desk phones, and work phones. There’s nothing to download, upload, or install, and you don’t have to make or take calls using a computer.
- You can also text from Google Voice
- International calling: Make low priced international calls from the web or from your phone.
Definitely look into this option – it’s growing rapidly in popularity and a super option for travel. Additional info and videos on the functionality: Google Voice
The interesting thing is that you can make all of these communications work together for you at the same time to save money and stay in touch. It’s a bit complicated – but if you want to learn more – then check out this great article by A Chick With Baggage – it’s the best article I’ve found for how to integrate your smart phone, Skype, and Google Voice: 5 steps for using your iPhone while traveling for less than $7 a month
If you need to stay in touch with elderly parents/grandparents who just aren’t tech savvy at all – then send a postcard! Check out the smart phone postcard apps such as Postagram where you can create and send postcards right from your smartphone photo gallery! A physical post card with your message get’s mailed automatically!
More information on Postagram App
What other suggestions do you have for staying touch on the road?