Gone are the days of long-distance phone calls and writing letters; well, writing letters is still a sweet gesture if you have the time. But today, no matter where we live in the world, we’re surrounded by so many forms of communication that it can seem almost too easy to live abroad, away from your family, friends, and partner and still feel like you’re a part of their everyday life. In fact, you might feel so connected that it doesn’t even feel like you’re away.
Technology, in all its forms, can help you reach new heights and stay connected, even from across the world. And whether you’re backpacking across Europe and taking a few months off from work yet aiming to keep in touch with those at home or taking a workation and needing ways to jump into meetings from Mexico’s beaches, you need to know how to harness technology to work for you.
But we’re not just talking about working from abroad; lots of people are taking time off to travel, making up for lost time during the pandemic. Or some are switching to part-time so they can make enough to survive while seeing the world. When you leave the first time, it will be especially tough. How will you not see your dog everyday? What happens when you aren’t there for your niece’s First Communion? And god forbid--what if something terrible happens?
Staying connected while abroad is just as important as going abroad in the first place. From both a personal and professional point of view, your connections at home are still your strongest and learning to navigate and balance both will be quite the challenge at first. Luckily, however, we’ve outlined some of the best tricks and tips surrounding being abroad and technology to help you make the most of your time abroad.
BUTTON: REMOTE COURSES
Connecting with Home
Depending on where you’re from and your current cell phone and plan, it may be pretty pricey to turn on roaming while you’re abroad to stay in touch. And relying on cafes and hotels that offer free WiFi could work, but aren’t reliable enough to depend on in an urgent situation. Portable WiFi hotspots are a great example; let’s check out a few:
Skyroam Solis: for under $10 a day, you can connect five devices to WiFi through this handheld portable WiFi hotspot that provides 4G LTE coverage globally. It also boasts 16 hours of battery life and a portable charger and here’s the best part: you only pay for the days you use.
HippocketWiFi: this small WiFi hotspot provides 4G LTE coverage in 40 European nations and can connect to up to 10 devices. This product is only available for rent, meaning once you’re back from your trip, you can just send it back!
Phone calls and messaging
International calls are slow, costly, and just not a reliable option anymore. In fact, some carriers won’t even make international calls without a special option activated on your plan. Check out these options to make messaging and calls cheap (or free!) and fast:
WhatsApp: as one of the main messaging apps used worldwide, WhatsApp is known for its speed, security, and ease of use. Available on the majority of devices, you can also make phone or video calls through WiFi.
FaceTime: Apple users can use FaceTime through WiFi for both audio or video calls across iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
Skype: for those looking for a more official video call, Skype can host up to five users and offers both video and audio calls through the Internet.
Facebook Messenger: believe it or not, Facebook Messenger is a great option for both messaging and calls.
Use social media to your benefit! Today, we have an incredible amount of apps available to encourage connections from any part of the world. Staying active on apps like Instagram and Twitter where you can share updates on where you are and what you’re doing (while being safe, of course!) can also help you check in on what friends and family are doing.
If you’re interested in taking your abroad experiences and going even further, try starting a blog and writing about what you’ve learned while traveling. Once you’re home, it’ll be a great way to reflect on your travels and maybe even share your memories with others.
Connecting with Work/School
You’re lucky enough to get to travel and work, meaning you can keep your job/studies while you see the world. And while that truly is awesome, you need to make sure you’re able to properly do your job while abroad; you can do that through considering and reflecting on these points:
Money: your paycheck at home may go a lot farther - or shorter - than it does while abroad. Before making any move, check out the cost of living in your desired destination and calculate how much things like rent, groceries, a gym membership, public transportation, or utilities will cost you.
WiFi: not all WiFi speeds are the same and you might have a hard time tuning into meetings or classes if your connection is constantly being dropped. But in some countries, a rainy day can mean WiFi fails or files simply can’t be uploaded. Do some research and make sure you can do what you need to from abroad.
Safety: if you’re continuing at your job, you’ll probably have company materials with you, such as your laptop. And you need to ensure that your things will be safe at home, in public, and while traveling. If you’re planning on working in cafes or co-working spaces, make sure you’re headed somewhere that doesn’t have a reputation for pick pockets.
Use a calendar: even if you weren’t dependent on a calendar at home, it may help to lay everything out on a calendar while you’re abroad, especially if you’re in a different time zone. It can be easy to get confused about time zones and you want to show your colleagues and boss that you’re just as reliable while working away. If not, you may not be allowed to take a similar trip in the future.
Plan properly: some jobs will ask you to work the same hours as your colleagues at home, others will offer a bit more flexibility. Before you leave, ensure you have agreed upon a work schedule with your company to avoid any issues. The last thing you want is to be expected to work beginning at 3am every day because you didn’t confirm a different schedule with your boss.
Network: your networking ambitions don’t have to stop just because you’re away! In fact, this is a great way to meet new people, check out what’s happening in your industry in a different country, and build lifelong connections. You never know, you may fall in love with your new home and never look back!
BUTTON: REMOTE WORK
Connecting with Your Surroundings
There’s no point in going abroad if you’re just going to sit in your apartment and talk to people at home! And while it is important to maintain connections at home, especially with your company and family and friends, take full advantage of your time abroad.
There’s a lot of expats out there and you’re definitely not the only one who’s looking to make new friends or work on your language skills. Tandem is a great language exchange app, Eatwith offers you the chance to connect with new people over food, and Meetup helps connect you with people who share the same interests.
Looking for an apartment in Rome? Or want to understand a little bit more Spanish? How about visa help with your Brazilian visa? There are Facebook groups for everything and no matter what you need help with, there are other people in your shoes who are willing to help out.
Particularly if you’re living alone, try to get out and not spend all day inside working. You’re abroad, after all! Try working from a co-working space (a quick Google search will give you some to try out) and don’t be afraid to socialize, talk to others, and start forming your community abroad.
We know the first days abroad can be a challenge and even making that big decision can be quite the undertaking. But you can learn so much about both yourself and new cultures by spending time abroad and if you have the chance to work or study from abroad, you should strongly consider it. After all, with all the tech we’ve outlined above, what more could you want?