Staying in Touch While Traveling
Staying in touch with those back home while you travel is important to many travelers. While e-mail and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace make it easier to stay in touch with those back home than in previous years, sometimes you wan to see someone’s face or hear their voice. For that, these services just won’t do. There are two options that work best for people on the road:
Skype is an Internet based phone service that lets you call people around the world for free. It allows users talk to other users using VOIP (essentially an Internet phone). The service also allows you to call land lines or mobile numbers for a small fee (.02 – .20 cents a minute depending on the country). The only problem is that you needed a computer and a reasonably fast internet connection otherwise the calls get dropped. Another problem is that most people do not use or know about the service though that keeps changing everyday as the word gets out. Convince people back home to use Skype and you won’t have to pay to call your friends and family again. You’ll find Skype in every internet cafe in the world so don’t worry if you do not have your own laptop.
Cellphones and SIM cards are cheap to buy. If you get a global cellphone, all you need to do is change SIM card when you travel to a new country. Buying a cellphone is a great way to stay in touch with other travelers and a way to get help in emergencies. Most backpackers now are carrying cell phones since SIM cards are affordable and it makes arranging meetings with other travelers very convenient.
For Americans, there is the technical hurdle of having a different cell network and limited access to “unlocked” phones (i.e. meaning you can easily swap SIM cards). This makes it harder to take your phone overseas and you’ll have to buy a new phone when you go abroad. For others, it’s much easier. Non-American model phones can have their SIM card removed; phones in Europe can connect to any country; and, in Asia, SIMs and phones are so cheap, its not a problem if you lose them.
Cellphones are best for keeping in touch with other travelers while Skype is great for video calls with your friends and family back home. As vagabonds, many of us would love to break free from the trappings of modern life. But sometimes it’s nice to be able to hear a familiar voice and see a familiar face. Convince your friends and family to get Skype and get a cell phone for emergencies and to help better organize meet-ups. With these two tools, you will never have a problem staying in touch.