As a traveling family, keeping in touch with family back home is important to help you feel connected to those you love. We received some sad news recently. A few days ago, my grandmother in Indonesia passed away. My mother in Spokane, WA broke the news to me via text message in the early hours of the morning.
Later that day, as my family members and I posted about the news on social media, messages of support came rolling in from friends and family around the world. My mother shared the news in a group text to my other siblings, who are scattered across the United States. And throughout the day, my siblings responded, showing their support and love to my mom.
As per Indonesian tradition, my grandmother was buried within 24 hours of her death. Since my mother wasn’t able to attend the burial, her brothers and sisters in Indonesia sent her a WhatsApp message with a video of the burial. She then shared the video with my siblings and me.
It amazes me how technology now makes staying in touch with family so much easier. I am thankful that as we are traveling around the world, we are able to maintain long-distance communication with relative ease. During a difficult time for my family, we were able to come together from all corners of the world.
This post was updated on May 23, 2020.
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Why keeping in touch with family is important when you travel
Humans are social animals. It’s a product of our species’ evolution. In the early days of humanity, we clustered in groups as a way to survive in a harsh environment. Now that we’ve developed advanced knowledge and technology, we theoretically have all the tools we need to survive on our own. Yet many of us still choose to be part of communities.
For most humans, the need to feel a sense of connection and belonging is strong. That’s why if you’re a traveling family, keeping in touch with family and friends while you travel is so important. It helps you keep a sense of community. And it helps remind us that we’re not alone, no matter how far apart we are.
For kids, staying in touch with family and friends can also help them create a better sense of self. Kids need social interaction as part of their emotional and social development. Through interaction with others, they learn what is socially and culturally acceptable, they learn how to communicate, and they learn about their family histories.
Keeping in touch with family while they’re traveling helps them establish a sense of place in the world. This is especially important if their physical location keeps changing periodically.
Our tips for keeping in touch with family and friends
For families who love to travel, keeping in touch with family and friends back home can be a challenge. But fortunately, with technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch. For our family, no matter where we travel in the world, we’re able to stay connected to our loved ones in some capacity. Here are our tips for staying in touch with family and friends while you travel.
Tip #1: Provide regular updates
One of the easiest things you can do for keeping in touch with family is to provide regular updates. You can do this by posting photos or status updates to your Instagram and Facebook profiles. So many people use these platforms today. It’s an easy way to get a message out to a large group of people.
If you’re concerned about privacy, you can set your Instagram profile to private, so that only your followers can follow you. And for Facebook, you can create a private group that only family members and close friends can join. This way, you’re not posting personal pictures to a profile that can potentially be seen by employers and acquaintances.
We’re currently using an app called Polar Steps. It lets us post pictures of our travels and connect it to an interactive map. So friends and family who have the link can see where in the world we have been. We love being able to share pictures when we’re keeping in touch with family.
Tip #2: Send messages to family and friends
Being able to send instant messages is another way that keeping in touch with family has become so much easier. Since we have an international phone plan through Google Fi, we can send a text message to our loved ones, no matter where we are in the world.
Besides text messages, there are other apps that make staying in touch with family fairly easy. Facebook has the Messenger app, which allows you to send messages to people via Facebook. And another popular app is WhatsApp, which allows you to create group threads. We like using the Marco Polo app when one of us has to travel for work. It lets us record and send video memos to each other.
Tip #3: Make a video call to someone back home
If you’re really needing face to face contact with someone, you can always set up a video call to your friends or family back home. Since many people in my family have iPhones, we like using FaceTime, which is built in to iPhones. We also like using it because we can show them what things look like where we are.
Other options for video calls include Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp. All of these can be available on your smart phone. Just make sure that you have data on your phone, or are able to connect to a WiFi network. Sometimes using a travel router can help boost the WiFi signal where you are, so that it’s stronger for video calls.
Tip #4: Set up virtual play dates
One of the things that our kids are missing as we’re traveling are having play dates with their friends. So sometimes we’ll set up virtual play dates. We recently signed our daughter up for Messenger Kids, which is tied to parents’ Facebook accounts. This allows our kids to connect to the kids of our friends.
Sometimes our kids will connect to a Minecraft game that one of their friends is playing, and that lets them “play” together, even if they’re not in the same city. Our kids like to do these Minecraft “play dates” with their big brother too!
Other times we’ve set up video calls with their friends, so our kids can have some time to chat and catch up. Staying in touch with family and friends is just as important to kids as it is to grown-ups.
Tip #5: Have a pen pal
One of the things I loved as a kid was having a pen pal. In fourth grade, everyone in my class was assigned a pen pal in another city, and to this day, I still keep in touch with mine. Over the years, Facebook makes it so easy for us to see what’s going on in each other’s lives!
For kids, having a pen pal makes keeping in touch with family and friends a bit more fun. But for a traveling family like us, with no actual address, the mailing part can be a bit of a challenge.
What I usually end up doing is having my kids write a letter to their friend, and then I’ll take a picture of it and send it to their friends’ parents. It’s not quite the full pen pal experience, but the kids still have a chance to send things to their friends!
Tip #6: Start a blog
If you love writing, like I do, you can always start a blog. I put this option last because it’s actually a lot more work than you think, even if it’s only going to be a personal blog.
Blogging takes a lot of time. Even before you post anything, you have to set up your website, register your domain and host the blog somewhere. Once you’ve done that, you can get to writing and posting your pictures. But sometimes if your internet connection is weak, the upload time can be extremely slow, especially if you have large photo files. I know some traveling families who gave up blogging because it took time away from actually experiencing their travels.
One thing that many people don’t realize is that the internet is already saturated with blogs. I read once that everyday, around 4 million blog posts are published around the world. Unless you’re providing something of value to others in your content, you’re really just contributing to the noise.
Keep this in mind if you’re considering blogging as a means of keeping in touch with family. You might have a better travel experience just posting your photos to Facebook and Instagram and writing longer captions or posts.
Keeping in touch with family back home to stay connected
No matter what method you choose for staying in touch with family, the ultimate goal is to maintain that connection with home. It doesn’t really matter where you travel in the world. As long as you have your connection to home, you’ll be fine.
We will be traveling to Indonesia later this year, so I’ll have a chance to visit my grandmother’s grave. I miss her dearly. But I know that she led a full life, and it was just her time to go. I’m thankful that I’m able to share my memories of her with my family all over the world.
These last nine and a half months of traveling have shown me how important keeping in touch with family can be. As far apart as we are physically, they will always be close to my heart.
Do you have other ways of keeping in touch with family when you travel? Share them in the comments!
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