At certain points in our lives we may find ourselves separated from those that we love and care about. No matter where we go we can, and will always make new friends and connections, but nothing compares to ‘home’. The personal bonds we make with our family and friends as we grow up are some of the strongest connections we will have in our lives. “Family” today has many definitions, and may not be the old-fashioned ‘Nuclear Family’, but it is our family nonetheless.
So what happens when we grow wings and want to explore the world? What happens if we have the chance to study abroad or land the job of our dreams in a foreign country? How do we cope? How do we stay connected to those that we love?
Luckily today the world has an abundance of technological innovations. No matter where you turn there is a brand new device, new program, or a new app for ‘that’. When I moved to Germany I was concerned about how to stay in touch with my family, because I couldn’t just inexpensively ‘pop over for a visit’. Now that I am back in the States I am facing the same situation again. I have family and loved ones in Germany that I miss dearly, and new friends in different countries that I don’t want to miss a beat with. So….how do you survive?? These are the 5 things that keep me connected:
1. Calling Card– We all know that cell phones are a big no-no when traveling abroad. At least the cell phone that you use at home. Crazy international roaming charges will definitely break the bank. One way to stay connected is to buy a calling card from Costco or somewhere and use it wherever you can find a phone. They are usually pretty reasonably priced.
2. Prepaid Cell Phones- Cell phones can be found pretty inexpensively. I got mine for 20 euros or so and it came with 10 euros of talk time. The minutes are pretty simple to refill at most stores. The calls are relatively cheap within the country..so a good source of security and usefulness in the country you are in. A word to the wise–check the rates for international calls before you make them. I made the mistake of making a 5 minute nearly $50 euro call because I wasn’t thinking. Check for special plans and allowances for overseas calls.
3. Facebook and Twitter- Thank goodness for social media! You are able to share your new memories with your old friends, and your old memories with your new all on the same forum. Facebook is great because you don’t have to stay up until all hours to connect by phone with your family. You can simply leave a note..let them know you are alive and post some great pics. You can even secretly stalk your friends back home and keep tabs on all the happenings like you’re sitting in the same room. Never miss a beat.
4. Skype- A laptop, internet connection…or an internet cafe and Skype..can be your ticket to quality family time. Internet cafes are relatively cheap if you don’t have access to a computer or internet. If you are staying in a hostel with free wifi, with friends, or have your own internet than it’s simply a click away. Skype is great and free! You are able to have face time with your loved ones and hear their voice. That is as close as you can get with miles and time zones separating you.
5. Snail Mail- Nothing says “I am thinking of you” or “I love you” quite like a postcard, letter, or special care package from abroad. It may take weeks to months to arrive..but it’s the thought that counts. You can carefully choose the items or themes that remind you of them, and it helps you to feel connected despite the distance. This can be expensive, but sometimes….realistically…it’s priceless.
Those are just a few of the ways that I was able to stay connected. Obviously with schedules, time factors, finances, and just plain LIFE getting in the way it can be difficult to keep in touch. I remember the 2am Skype calls just because it was the only time that we could connect. You learn to think in multiple time zones….”ok, so I’m getting ready to eat dinner so that means they are just getting up….quick..get online.”
No matter where you are in the world there is a way to follow your dreams and still not lose your roots. You can stay grounded and connected even while you soar! I am sure that as you continue to explore your world you will see that the discoveries are endless…..
How do you stay connected to your loved ones? What has worked for you?