ET phone home-Keeping in touch
For any good old dysfunctional like myself it will be natural before leaving home to find yourself in periods of high and low level contact with family and friends. It is then safe to say that following leaving home, to have any contact with family and friends will take some initiation on your part. The good news is that there are many more available avenues of communication than were available to travellers past. Facebook is of course one way that people can not only follow your movements through status updates but view your photos and see you in your element. This said, I would never recommend this form of contact, or even chatting as a complete substitute for hearing a familiar voice. Skype as another available option is generally free and in ideal circumstances will provide both visual and audio communication.
What do I talk about when I am on the phone/skype/chat ?
Well one important thing to remember is that depending on who you’re talking to they may or may not know how to predict what may be different about your life overseas so you’ll have to tell them yourself. I have personally found communication with my mother more focused, affectionate, genuine and productive when I am forced to sum up a different lifestyle and make my conversations count.
How often should I call?
This can vary greatly depending on things like; internet access, being on the move or based in stable accommodation, and news of specific events amongst many others. A nice benchmark would be to aim for how often you feel you would like to talk to people when you’re at home and also when you feel you have significant news. As an idea I will talk to someone from home at the very least once a week but it may be a longer (or shorter) time between talking to specific family members. When taking shorter-term trips I will usually call less frequently as time and money are both of limited supply. Postcards are of course good for these occasions.
When else should I call?
This is where having a diary can come in handy. Depending on your situation, occasions like mother’s and father’s days along with birthdays and Christmas may be an idea to state the obvious. Slightly less obvious times may be graduations, promotions at work, purchase of new houses or the receiving of bad news.
How can I do this cheaply?
With many free online options such as skype, facebook and email, I was also lucky enough to find a phone company (talk mobile in the UK) that will provide me with a substantial number of free international calling minutes when I top up my credit. Wherever you are there may be dirt cheap options for calling cards (telco from my last usage years ago did very cheap phone cards), or phone plans etc. This may take some research but will be worth it when you find a deal that works for you.
How can keeping in touch help me?
This may sound like a simple and obvious question but one that I took a long time to ask myself. When I first lived away at times I found myself feeling down, lost and isolated. I was not so quick to relate it to minimal family contact but can now vouch for this strong correlation. The second time around I have felt more content, directed and connected and feel this is as a direct result of both frequent and high quality contact with my family and friends.
Many books will cover similar issues, one book i did find that covers this topic was Susan Griffith’s ‘Gap yeas for grown ups’ (2011) , vacation work publications in Surrey UK.