“Oh my goodness, I feel like I’m there with you!”, has been a remark that I’ve heard a lot since returning home after spending a few months in London.
It’s amazing the impact that technology has had on our ability to stay close to those who matter, even when we’re half way across the world. There are so many options available, I thought I’d provide a quick run through of those that I found beneficial when overseas;
#1 – Facebook
Recent improvements to Facebook (and Facebook Messenger) mean that you’re really very accessible to those back home (so long as they have friended you and you’re not hiding from them!).
I found that while status updates are great, I really valued the ability to just flick a quick ‘Hi, how are you?’ message when I spotted someone online at odd hours (generally, those with kids, enjoy an early morning workout or those who have maybe had a bit too much to drink).
It was also my favourite way of staying in touch with family. While a bit odd at first, it was very comforting to be able to click the little video chat icon and have my mum and dad on my screen with a friendly smile. It was also great to be able to share some of the locations that I was at with them by making a call when in a park, at the airport in the lounge or of course, when I was on the couch missing home.
#2 – Instagram
A picture tells a thousand words. Being able to snap some great photos and share them with a wide audience was great. I felt that I was able to satisfy the urge to shout “Oh, it’s Windsor Castle!” or “Oh, that’s where Sherlock Holmes lived!” by snapping a great shot and posting it to Instagram. I loved receiving comments from friends and family.
Of course, it was reciprocal, being able to see some really awesome shots from my friends back home and share the love.
#3 – Whatsapp / Viber / etc.
These platforms are great, although a little less straightforward to connect with family and friends. Of course, you need to be aware that they have signed up for these services and you also need to do a bit of convincing if they weren’t already signed up.
Functionality is pretty similar to that of Messenger, but it is a bit harder to know who’s online and it’s definitely not integrated to other social media very well.
#4 – Skype
Once upon a time, Skype was the go to standard for video calling. It’s still great, but similar to platforms such as Whatsapp and Viber, your family and friends need to have an account, be logged in and of course, have their phone / computer with them to receive the call.
I keep Skype in the realm of processional video calling – great for interviews and other processional calls, but a bit harder to keep in touch with people casually.
We did, however, use the Skype international phone-call functionality. We simply topped up our accounts using Paypal, and were able to make international phonecalls using our phone or computer brilliantly (and most importantly, on the cheap!).
#5 – Email
The modern-day equivalent of writing a long letter – this was a great way to add a bit more detail around what has been going on, your troubles and triumphs and of course share any photos or memories that were being made.
There’s a bit of trust that the person on the receiving end of the email was happy to receive something that they actually had to read (I know, we’re in the age of 3 second attention spans), but it did feel good to receive an equally long reply.
This method is also great if you’re not fussed when you receive a response, because let’s face it – people are busy and generally don’t have the time to sit down and read a long email, let alone write one. There was a good sense of excitement when there was an email in the inbox that wasn’t spam!
#6 – Good old fashion mail
There’s no replacement for old-fashioned snail mail. It’s the only way of shipping packages back and forth. A fond memory of opening up care packages from home with those treasures that we couldn’t buy in London.
It may be unreliable and slow, but there’s something to be said about receiving something that has physically travelled just as much as you have. It also speaks volumes about those who are willing to send something in the mail these days, as it requires quite a bit of effort (firstly, just remembering how to post something in the first place!).
The most important ingredient
By far, the most important aspect of feeling like you’re keeping in touch with everyone, is making the effort to keep in touch with everyone. No amount of technology is going to replace the need to remember and make the effort – well, I certainly hope we don’t see automated ‘How are you?’ messages in the future.
How do you do it?
Have you been overseas and tried to keep in touch with those back home? Have you been at home while someone you know travelled and you had a great way of keeping in touch? I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment in the reply section below.