While the life of a digital nomad is pretty spectacular, we do occasionally get homesick or miss the people we’ve left behind in previous places. Not only is it important for me to keep in touch with my family and friends at home, but we also meet many wonderful people with different stories to tell and the desire to stay in touch is always there.
Luckily for us, the digital age is well and truly underway. Gone are the days when those who went travelling on trains and buses were not likely to be heard from again until their return. We now hear people complain about being too connected and too contactable.
Making long-lasting connections while travelling has most certainly been made easier by the large amount of technological resources, and I myself could not be more grateful. Whether it’s to catch up with someone I bonded with over an 18-hour bus journey, or simply touch base with a hostel owner who I hit it off with, there are a billion and one reasons to be grateful for technology.
Staying in Contact via Phone
Given that I pass through countries so often, and most of the travellers I meet do so too, it’s generally very expensive to stay in touch using calls or texts unless you’re online. In my experience, most people use online apps.
Without my smartphone, I would struggle with my nomadic lifestyle. Smartphones really came to the fore around 2007 and since then have opened up a world of possibilities. While there are heaps of guides like this one explaining which apps are suitable for travelling and which aren’t, I have of course grown to know the ones I use the most very well.
Skype has always been my go-to for video calling – its clear video calls are hard to beat. Because everybody in the world does not have an iPhone, this does of course mean FaceTime is not always an option. For instant messaging, I’m most familiar with the likes of WhatsApp or Viber which I also find great for sending pictures. One of the best things about these two apps is the group chats which I find perfect for keeping in contact with a bunch of friends who all stayed at the same hostel, for example. I also use it occasionally for chats with a group of travellers that I may have begun talking business ideas with.
Keeping track of your photos is something we all struggle with, but Snapchat must be one of the funniest ways to share photos and videos with fellow travellers. I imagine the whole group doing one collective smile when photos from that infamous night out reappear on my Snapchat. It’s also one of the best ways to have brief conversations when you’re on the go.
To Travel with Your Laptop or Not
This is the eternal question of travelling (or maybe one of a few eternal questions) and many of us toss up the pros and cons of bringing your laptop. Some may need it for work reasons and others may generally prefer to travel light, but it definitely has its perks. Smartphones are notorious for running out of battery just at that moment when you really need them. Recently, when in the middle of an important WhatsApp chat, I was rudely cut off due to my no battery status but quickly realised that since May 2016 WhatsApp is now available from a desktop. A dual-functioning app like WhatsApp or Skype generally works best for me and allows me to enjoy the freedom of switching between laptop, phone, or tablet depending on which is easiest.
The Old School Way
It’s hard to imagine but before we all had our pockets bulging with smartphones, there was a whole world that used the physical act of writing to stay in touch. One of my favourite things about traveling is those serendipitous moments – leaving a letter in a hostel for a friend you know will be arriving shortly after you, or even a graffiti message in a bar where you and a group of friends pass through every now and then. It’s thoughtful moments like this that make me savour each friend I meet while travelling.