Staying in touch

Keeping in contact with your friends, other backpackers, and family is essential. Not only does it provide you with a support line in case anything happens, it is a way of keeping relationships going and a feeling that you are not completely cut off from home. There are many ways of doing this.

Internet: Before you leave, set up an e-mail account or a blog site. This is by far the easiest way to stay in touch with everyone.

Instant messaging: Instant messaging on the Internet is a popular and inexpensive method of interacting with someone or a group of people around the world. Nearly all of the Internet cafes around the world have one type of instant messaging program installed. Save yourself some trouble and sign yourself up for an account before you leave home.

Phone: This is definitely more direct and personal than email, but quite a bit more expensive and sometimes confusing to use. The cheapest way is to find a call box. This is a business with a bank of phones that offers long distance calls at a discount price. You walk into a booth and make all the calls you want, and when you are done, walk to the cashier and pay for all of your calls. You donít need a pocket full of change to use these phones. The cashiers will also show you how to correctly dial long distance in their country. It is always good to co-ordinate ahead of time when you are going to reach someone. On average I was plus or minus 9 time zones away from my home at any given time. If you phone in the afternoon for a little chat, you may be waking someone up really early in the morning. The only time I used the phone was to call ahead for a few hostels and phone my family (very rarely). I always preferred e-mail. If you are going to be using pay phones, it is a good idea to get a phone card. Many tobacconists and tourist centres sell phone cards. Each country has their own type of phone card and some may not work when you cross the border. If you do decide to get a phone card, make sure you are instructed on how to call long distance or overseas. Sometimes the phone cards help system is in that countryís language. Without someone there to interpret, you could have purchased a useless phone card.

Post: Snail-mail is something that my parents did, and I have never bothered to use extensively. I guess it is nice to receive a hand written letter a couple weeks after it has been written with a picture on it, but I have always been more of the type to use a digital picture and send it via the e-mail (my bias). I have seen many backpackers send mail such as postcards and souvenirs via the post office. Sometimes a shop owner will try to oversell you on stamps, capitalizing on the idea that you do not know and are unfamiliar with the currency. If you are at the post office, have them validate the stamps while you are there. Sometimes, they peal off the stamps when you are not looking and resell them to the next backpacker.