One of the toughest parts about traveling around the world is keeping in contact with your family & friends back home. This is actually one of the many reason why people don’t travel; because they are afraid of getting homesick or losing that connection with their best friends.
Luckily with the plethora of technological gadgets nowadays, it’s much easier to stay connected with the world back home than you would think. Even in third world countries there always seem to be a cafe right around the corner of your every location offering free wifi. At the same time, most guesthouses and hostels are adapting this western trait as backpackers refuse to stay anywhere for a long period of time without it.
As more and more people join the travel community, it becomes increasingly unclear as to what gadgets & apps you should carry with you while on the road. That’s why I’m writing this post because after 5 years of steady life on the road, I’ve figured out what you do (and don’t) need to stay connected.
Staying connected while traveling
Laptops are notorious among travelers everywhere you go. It’s sometimes difficult to walk into nearly any hostel without seeing at least 4-5 of them displayed out on the kitchen table with their owners faces peering at the glowing screen. While I see how this could take away from the traveler’s experience if not regulated, you can’t deny that having a computer with you wherever you go can come quite handy.
Not only would it be great for booking hostels and researching destinations, laptops are perfect for keeping in contact with those back home waiting to hear about your crazy travel stories. Having one gives you access to many of the various social networks out there and that alone can give you just enough to stay connected; not to mention it’s a great way to keep your photos organized amongst various other things. Just a few things to consider before you begin your trip:
If it gets stolen, broken, lost in a flood or has fallen in between the cracks to the center of the earth because of an earthquake, don’t spend more than you’re willing to lose and/or could ever replace.
Keep in mind how heavy you want the laptop to be. You don’t want to be carrying a brick around in your backpack while you’re hiking a few kilometers outside the city to catch the next bus.
Purchasing something that can take a beating is essential. As a backpacker naturally your things are going to get thrown around, dropped and shaken to bits. If you get a computer, get something more durable and at the very least get protection for it to help minimize scratches. I personally use a fitted padded cover with an extra layer of foam inside just to be safe.
Going hand in hand with weight, you want to keep in mind the size of your computer before taking it on the road. In general, the smaller the better. You want something that could easily fit inside your backpack and that you can sort of “fold” your clothes around it which will offer even more protection against the everyday beatings of traveling.
Note: This will also help reduce the risk of the computer being stolen. The smaller the computer, the less it stands out from your daypack ultimately drawing less attention to you. The last thing you want to do is draw the attention of people with “sticky fingers”.
Storage is another consideration to think about when you get a computer. Don’t skip out on this because all of those photos and videos you take while on the road easily add up and at an extremely fast rate. If you’re a little concerned about not having enough space, consider purchasing an external hard drive.
I personally won’t get a computer if it doesn’t have an SD Slot. It just makes transferring files from the camera to the computer much easier not to mention when your friends have photos of you on their cameras, they can simply hand you their SD Card and within 5 minutes you can have whatever you want on your computer. Simple, fast and easy.
This is super important especially for those long trips in transit. I always recommend having a battery on your computer that will last at least 6-8 hours. This comes in super handy for those 8-hour bus trips up the countryside. With this, you can write journal entries, edit photos, sort documents or (if you gather the attention of local children) simply put on a movie and you’ll entertain them for hours.
Having a smartphone is yet another great way for keeping connected while traveling. With all of the upcoming wifi calling apps for cell phones, it’s very easy to keep in contact with nearly anyone around the world and for free! Here are a few of my favorites that I use personally:
Available on all smartphones, Viber is a calling app where you can connect freely. Send text messages, call or send photos and videos to anyone worldwide with the same app for FREE over wifi or a 3G network. I use this personally to keep in contact with family and friends all around the world. The clarity is unlike any other app I’ve used and it sends me push notifications as soon as someone is trying to contact me.
Probably the most popular of apps, Skype is yet another free network that allows you to chat over video with your friends and family. I’ve also used this while having business meetings and leaving video messages instead of texts. It’s great because it’s available on both a laptop and a smartphone. The only downside is that it doesn’t seem to work the best all the time.
Facetime and iMessage
Although it’s only available with Apple products, if you do happen to have that glowing symbol on your phone, then Facetime is the way to go. I’ve never had any problems with the quality of live video chatting and/or iMessages. It either works, or it doesn’t. There’s no middle ground or frustrating issues trying to connect or understand what the other end of the line is saying. As always, I love my Apple.
Not really great for holding a conversation (unless you can be pretty creative) but Snapchat is perfect for trying to stay in touch with anyone who happens to download this free app to their phone. You can send short video clips of whatever you’re doing at the time. It could be eating a biscuit & drinking tea while admiring the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a clip of you hiking in the jungles of Costa Rica or your favorite lyrics from when you went on a road trip to California. Just place your finger on the screen, record and send.
If you want something as useful as a computer but as light weight as a smartphone with owning multiple devices, why not try picking up a tablet? They have various shapes and sizes, all within different price ranges from many different companies.
I don’t really recommend one if you’re trying to run a business while on the road but if you are looking to just stay in touch, do a little research of a destination or kill some time on the web a tablet could be the best choice for you. Not to mention it’s super sleek and lightweight design. It’s an easy carry-on for planes anywhere you may go.
On all of the previous gadgets I mentioned earlier, it’s super easy to stay in touch with your friends and family members back home and there really is no excuse at to why you can’t keep connected while on the road.
And with the access to so much modern technology, it really comes down to personal preference about what you would like to take with you while traveling. Just keep in mind a few of these tips and you’ll still remain close to home, your friends and your family even when you’re 1,000 miles away in some foreign land.
How do you stay connected while traveling with family and friends?