One of the most formidable challenges of backpacking is staying in touch with loved ones you’ve left behind at home. Going backpacking is truly a positive life changing experience for most, but finding ways to share your travels, experiences and life altering events with friends and family makes it even more meaningful. Modern technology has made it possible to keep in touch in a variety of different ways. Mere decades ago, travellers would send mail home and by the time it reached significant others weeks/months would have expired. The option of conversing on-line or over the phone wasn’t even a consideration given the lack of internet technology and the outrageous prices of overseas calls; however, that has all changed for the better and these are five of the most popular methods one can consider to stay connected irrespective of being thousands of miles apart.
It only makes sense that I would mention blogging as the number one preferred method of communicating and keeping in touch with others. You are reading a travel blog right now. Blogging is a medium that can be used not only for friends and family but also to connect with an audience that you’ve never met before face to face. Whenever you press the publish button your writing, photos and/or videos are potentially viewed by just about anyone who is surfing on-line. One can share just about anything on their personal blog. For those just starting out I recommend using the free service offered by WordPress.com. For those taking their hobby a little more seriously they can upgrade to WordPress.org and become self-hosted. The true benefits of blogging is the ability to share your travels in a more meaningful way than just a photo or Dear Mom letter.
Facebook has emerged as the most popular service for keeping connected with friends, family and acquaintances. One can upload travel photos, write personal or public messages, join groups and/or even create a personal fan page others can like. Aside from all of these features it’s also a way to stay connected with fellow travellers/mates you encounter on the dusty trail. Moreover, facebook is entirely free. Just visit facebook.com and sign up for a profile if you don’t already have one.
Calling cards are simply invaluable. There are many instances when travelling in both the developed and developing world where internet access is not available. For those backpacking without a personal computer the cost of going to Internet cafes really adds up over time. I’ve always carried a calling card with me and I’ve used it in many instances where I otherwise would not have been able to make an important call. Once when I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia the internet service at my guest house was down for several days. I was fortunate enough to have my calling card with me when I lost my credit card and had to get it replaced.
Skype is the most popular instant messaging and conversation method for those with an internet connection readily available. The service is free when you make calls or texts between two computers. One has to pay for calls made from computer to land-line or cell phone. I’ve used it frequently to keep in touch with my parents when I’m based overseas as a teacher or backpacker. Sign up for free and add credit to your account by visiting Skype.com.
Email is quickly being replaced by facebook and other social media sites but still remains a viable option for many travellers. There are still a number of people who are not on facebook but use email. My suggestion is to create an email list specific to your travels that you can send general updates, photos and breaking news. For more direct and personal messages just emailing the recipient directly is the most common method. I personally use the free email service offered by Gmail.com.