Keeping in touch with family and friends is important no matter what the season. But as someone who has been traveling for nearly four years, and as a recent expat, I know more than ever the importance of keeping these connections strong. This post is for anyone who travels a lot, those having a gap year, and for those who live far from their families, or who have even moved abroad. Christmas can be a tricky time, naturally your families and friends want you back home and you may feel torn between rushing back to celebrate with them and wanting to experience a different type of Christmas. I’ve never really been someone who suffers from feeling homesick, but I put that down to always making sure my family and friends are still a huge part of my life no matter where I am. Keeping in touch with the ones who matter this Christmas will make you feel like they are never far from your side.
It’s okay to be apart at Christmas
First of all, something I really want to stress is that it’s okay to not spend Christmas with your loved ones. There is such an emphasis and pressure put on people to be with their families and see all of their friends during this very short holiday. Of course we all want to spend Christmas with our families, but when you live abroad or far away, it may not always be possible. When I was living in Australia, there was no chance of me flying home for Christmas with the crazy two-days of travel and $1000s on flights. Last Christmas, after missing the last 3 Christmases due to travel, I was so excited to spend the festive period at home.
This year I’ve made the decision to stay in Germany for Christmas. Why? I’m really looking forward to experiencing German Christmas, in my first proper home in 5 years with my boyfriend. We’ve both been working flat out without a break for six months and we’re really just looking forward to a break. But for all my fellow travelers and expats, I want to reassure you that there is no reason to ever feel guilty or bad if you simply don’t have the money, the time, or the energy to go home for Christmas. It doesn’t mean you care any less, it simply means, you’re an adult and sometimes you have to make decisions for yourself.
My top 10 favourite ways of keeping in touch
Coffee or dinner catch-ups
There’s nothing I love more than catching up with friends and family over coffee and cake, or wine and dinner. When my parents came to visit me in Hamburg, our favourite thing to do was to go out for food and catch up over a glass of wine. When I go back to the UK, it’s lovely to catch up with my girls and we even squeezed in an afternoon tea. There’s something so lovely about relaxing over good food and drinks together after a long time apart, and I much prefer catching up one-to-one or in small groups rather than everyone at once. The lovely thing about keeping in touch this way is that these friends don’t mind if you go a long time in-between catch-ups because you dedicate a whole evening to them.
Top tip: Why not use this as a way to celebrate birthdays and special occasions? I love to take people out for dinner or an activity, or to book a trip with them as presents instead of exchanging stuff.
Face-to-face with Skype/Facetime
Of course, distance doesn’t always make meeting up for dinner possible, but when it doesn’t you can still be face-to-face. This was so important when I was living in Australia and Asia, it made such a big difference being able to see my family for Sunday chats and now to catch up with my friends who are still living over there. I love that technology has evolved from those Nokia 3310s to having smartphones in your back pocket which can instantly let you see the ones you love on the screen in front of you. Even better, if you really miss having dinner or wine with your loved ones, why not crack a bottle of wine when you start the call or eat dinner together and chat like you would at home.
Top tip: If you’re a backpacker living in a hostel, make sure you get some good earphones/headphones, also, try to avoid calling at the same time as others, the wi-fi is more likely to slow down and cut out.
Sending surprise cards and gifts
This is such a lovely idea, one of my besties living in Australia knew I was having a horrible week and hated she couldn’t cheer me up while I was in the UK, so she sent me a balloon with a puppy on it! Such a small thing, but it honestly brightened my day. Likewise, I love sending personalised cards and little gifts to people to remind them what they mean to me. From a thank-you card and some chocolates, to Christmas cards personalised with photo memories. There’s so many great options and ways to make someone feel special no matter how far apart you are.
Top tip: Start a calendar and input everyone’s birthdays in your friends and family, set reminders for a week before so you have time to send a card or you could even schedule a Skype call.
Give someone a call
Most of the time I try to schedule calls and chats with people, I know my friends and family are as busy as I am, so I like to make sure we choose a time when we’re both free to really talk. But sometimes, I just want to see how my parents’ day is going, or share a joke with my best friend. I love just randomly calling people up on the off chance they’re free, just to hear their voice and to remind them I’m always thinking of them. This works great if you’re in a different timezone like I was in Australia. Often I would call my mum while I was on my way home from work in a bar and she was just starting her day.
Top tip: If you don’t manage to get hold of the person, why not leave them a funny voicemail? That way they won’t worry that you were calling for anything bad, and it will give them a good laugh later on.
Start a Whatsapp chat
Is there anyone these days who isn’t in 100 Whatsapp chats? I have a group chat for my family, a group chat for my best friends from home and others for my close traveling friends. What I love about Whatsapp is that it’s more like ongoing conversation and a great way of keeping in touch. It’s that stream of consciousness of sending pics of where you are, or what you ate, or talking about how you tripped over in the car park at work. All the silly little things that you normally would tell someone at the end of the day if you still lived at home. It doesn’t matter if you’re not in the same country, or even the same timezone. If you have wi-fi, you have Whatsapp and you can always let people know what you’re up to.
Write letters or emails
If messaging and calls just won’t cut it, why not try something a bit more traditional and actually write to people? Whether it’s writing postcards from your travels, hand-writing letters, exchanging emails or even writing a blog for your friends and family. There are so many options for keeping in touch and if you’re a natural writer, it can be a lovely way to keep in contact. I have certain friends who I only ever email and I really enjoy getting fewer messages but longer, and more detail replies. I started this blog as an online diary for friends and family, I never dreamed it would be more than that, and at heart, it still remains my diary.
Top tip: If you want to start a blog, it doesn’t have to be public like this one, you can password protect and keep it just for those closest to you, but it’s a great thing to update everyone easily in one place.
Stay connected with broadband
Keeping in touch with the ones you love is so easy these days, it just comes down to having the right tools and making the effort. We’re all guilty of forgetting to message people back, or not Skyping often enough, but just remember, what you put into a relationship is what you get out of it. If you don’t remember to make the effort, people will forgive for a while but eventually you will drift apart. If you want to give a great gift this Christmas, give the gift of yourself, your time and your love. Invest in your friendships and give time to your family to show them what they mean to you. It doesn’t take much, just a smartphone, broadband deals and a spare 10 minutes. Compare broadband deals from just £18 a month across various providers. Stay connected with the ones you love this Christmas.
What’s your favourite way of keeping in touch with the ones you love? Are you spending this Christmas with family or away from home?