I’m a terrible communicator.
I can go days weeks without talking to family and not even realize how disconnected I’ve been. I hear it from family all the time.
“I wish you would be a little more responsive.”
It’s my nature.
When I bought a one way ticket to the other side of the world, I had no plan for where I would go. In the weeks leading up to the trip they were constantly asking me what my plan was. Every time I told them I didn’t know. It was the truth. I had no idea where I was going. I didn’t even have a place to stay picked out for the first night I arrived.
My parents big fear about me going abroad like this was if something happened to me and they had no idea where I was.
I was going to a strange land my family knew very little about.
Most of the information they had on where I was going stemmed from news on TV. Most of that world news is on the disasters and crimes occurring in those countries.
I knew this was a recipe for sleepless nights for my mom and dad as they worried about my well being while abroad.
If I didn’t do something, this was going to go one of two ways. Either they were going to drive me mad trying to contact me every day, or I was going to drive them mad by shutting them off for months while abroad.
I needed some simple ways to keep in touch with them passively and make sure they knew they could reach me at any time day or night.
Being able to see I was alive and kicking each day and knowing they could reach me whenever would actually decrease how often they tried to interrupt my travels.
So how’d I do that? Technology of course.
The first thing I ended up getting for my trip was a Garmin inReach device. This satellite assisted device allows me to send and receive messages anywhere in the world. As long as I can see the sky above, I can reach any human on the planet via SMS.
There are a number of other features the inReach has like an SOS feature. If I press the little red button, a global rescue team contacts me and helps me get out of whatever predicament I find myself in.
I’ve almost never used it.
In seven months of travel, I sent one SMS to my dad to let him know I was ok after a big storm in Thailand. Even then it was more just to see if it works. I could have drove to the other side of the island and sent a Facebook message. They still had cellular service over there.
Still it’s good to have this device as piece of mind.
In the rare situation I find myself captured by pirates, in the middle of an escalating war, marooned by a natural disaster, etc, I know I can get help and keep loved ones informed.
As great as this is for me, it was a huge relief for my parents to know I was reachable anywhere and everywhere.
Leaving a breadcrumb trail
One of the coolest features of Google Maps is the ability to share your location with others on a permanent / semi-permanent basis. While abroad, I shared my location with my parents. Anywhere I was connected to the internet, my phone would track where I was. My parents could see it. They admitted they really liked getting to see where I went each day.
This was probably the most effective way at letting my parents know I was ok without them having to constantly reach out to me.
Just seeing the little icon on google maps of me move around was enough to set their wandering minds at ease.
While I didn’t call home much, I was fairly active on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Sharing my experiences on these platforms allowed my parents to see how I was doing and follow along in my adventures.
While travelling and producing video content was a lot of work, it was a lot of fun. It gave my family and I a way to share what I had been up to with others.
What’s up? No Whatsapp.
Having Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and similar apps allowed me to stay in touch with family and friends for the occasional phone call. I did occasionally use these services to makes calls and best of all, these services are free to use.
It’s an amazing feeling to grab your phone, hit video call, and be face to face with someone on the other side of the planet. I didn’t use these services all that often. I needed strong internet speeds to use them and a lot of my travels did not include that sort of access.
While travelling I called home about once a month and sent a couple texts in between those calls. Primarily I was free to travel without having to worry about staying in touch, and my parents were able to enjoy following along in my adventures. I plan on using these exact same tactics on future trips.
I wouldn’t change a single way I kept in touch as it was the perfect balance of freedom and connection with family.