You’re jetting overseas! Congratulations! This is going to be a wonderful experience for your family.
It’s probably a little bittersweet, too, because you’re likely leaving loved ones behind. Parents, siblings, friends, coworkers… traveling and/or moving abroad means cutting some of those connections.
Naturally, you’ll want to stay in touch.
Regarding that, the most important thing to remember is this: It’s gonna be up to you, the traveler, to stay in touch with family and friends back home. If you don’t want to lose touch with old friends; if you want to ensure that you hear about the funny things your nieces and nephews have been up to; plan to be the one to initiate the communication.
When we first started our life of traveling, it was easy to assume that because we were embarking on such an exotic adventure, everyone we knew would be checking our blog, stopping by our Instagram account or emailing us frequently to set up video chats.
Maybe that was true for the first month or two, but it ends. They have lives to live just like you do, and while you’re away traveling, life goes on for them, too. They’re busy with dinner parties and church events and baseball games and school and whatever else.
Staying connected with loved ones is on you, my friend. It’s not so very tough, though. Here are some methods that make it easier to stay in touch:
Share emails, and fill them with details
Sharing your story should be about more than just writing, “We went to Angkor Wat, and it was incredible.” Share details. What were the smells? Were you jostled by crowds, or was it surprisingly empty? A friend of ours has spent a lot of time in Bangladesh, and one of the most captivating things he’s shared from that experience was a video and written description of him crossing a busy intersection packed with donkey carts, honking buses, wandering animals and pedestrians like him trying to safely navigate it all. In a driving rainstorm, no less. In reading and watching, we were transported there, mesmerized, and were eager to hear more. Bob Bales, who blogs over at The Traveling Fool, writes that the personal touches from your story are what make the difference for readers.
To streamline and automate the process of email updates, consider making yourself a form email. You’ll remember each time to include a few details about your location, updates about your work, what’s new with each of your children, a bit about your upcoming plans.
When one person asks you how you’ve been lately, use that as an opportunity to update everyone you keep in touch with. Not all your loved ones will be as persistent at checking on you, but they’d all welcome an email from you just the same. If you hold out until you have time to craft a unique message to each person, communication will be few and far between. Settle for a blanket update now, and you can always catch up specifically with your old friend on his new business plans or compare notes on parenting with your sister when (and if) you ever get around to it.
Use photo stories
Our friend in Bangladesh would use Google Photos to create albums interspersed with explanatory text. He’d then craft a short email including a link to those images, which were worth, as they say, a thousand words.
We’ve since taken to using that same tactic, crafting emails to family and including links at the end to albums we’ve created from the past few months or so, or however long it’s been since we’ve written an update.
Make use of mailed-direct card services
Did you know some photo printers, like Shutterfly, will print your cards and then also stuff them in envelopes and mail them for you? No need to pay international shipping costs; no need to trust your possibly iffy local postal system to get them on their way.
For us, Christmas cards were always something we’d eschewed as an extravagance when we lived near family, but now that we’re overseas, we make sending them a priority. (And when you consider that we don’t buy much in the way of Christmas gifts anymore, being away, suddenly they seem like a bargain solution.)
Shutterfly’s charge for domestic postage and handling is $0.99. They’ll also send your card to recipients internationally for a bit more, in case you have loved one’s in other countries or want to receive a copy for yourself.
Skype, Facebook, Hangouts, Whatsapp — Great way to involve young children, who otherwise won’t be privy to what information is swapped in emails and text chats. Remember to prepare them: Remind them they should say hi and take turns speaking; perhaps help them think of a few details about their life they want to talk about or an treasured object to show.
Facebook group messages
A family situation came up while we were in Croatia, and my parents and siblings set up a Facebook chat group so we could all share messages. It was a convenient solution that allowed us to be privy to the conversations that were taking place without having to rely on someone to purposefully update us.