How to Stay in Touch While Living in the Moment

June 3, 2015
How to Stay in Touch While Living in the Moment

After living abroad for eight months, I’ve had some experience with juggling between being immersed in my host culture and staying connected with my loved ones back home. When I was studying abroad in Spain, I had too close of a relationship with Skype, and looking back, I feel like it restricted me from going out and trying new things after class. This time, I have purposefully intended to not define my time abroad by always being available via Skype or my iPhone. However, I’m still human, and of course I still need to stay in touch with the friends and family that have always been in my life – as well make time for the new relationships I’ve forged while living abroad.

Here’s my advice for keeping in touch while living abroad, without missing out on all of the opportunities around you.

Start a blog!

This is one of the best decisions I have made while living abroad. All I have to do is sit down for an hour and channel all of my amazing experiences into written fruition, and voila – my family and friends instantly know all about my life here. Then when a Skype opportunity does come along, I don’t have to answer the same questions over and over again, and can take advantage of that precious time to connect more deeply. Bonus – a blog is a great way to keep track of and look back on your experiences.

Be intentional.

These days, it’s difficult to have a human interaction without the interruption of a technological device, and it’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing an iPhone. Let me tell you, this is not just the case in the U.S. – I have gone out to dinner with all Nicaraguans while everyone but me was glued to their phones. In a world where we are so connected, sometimes we don’t realize how often we rely on our devices. I like to purposefully disconnect every once in a while and turn off my phone(s). Even if I’m not hanging out with friends here, I can go for a walk and people watch in the park, or stay home and paint or journal and reflect on my experiences abroad.

Find creative ways to stay in touch.

Write emails or send letters. Despite the frustrating nature of the Nicaraguan mail system, which constitutes the absence of mailing addresses and the possibility of receiving letters five months after they were sent, I have had success sending and receiving mail. It is so refreshing to see my best friend’s handwriting after constantly using technology, and my friends and family back home appreciate that I took the time to send a postcard.

Don’t change your plans for Skype.

Live in the moment! The last thing I want is to miss out on an experience while I’m abroad because I have to rush home for a Skype date. A roommate of mine once declined an invitation to hang out with a local friend because she had to talk to her boyfriend for what seemed like the fifth time that day, and I felt she wasn’t truly appreciating the experience. That’s fine for her, but I always try to make a priority of connecting with where I am first – my computer will be waiting for me when I get home.

Dedicate a specific time to connecting.

Sunday afternoon is my time to check in with my parents every week, and I feel it makes things easier because we can both rely on that time. If I purposefully set aside a few hours, maybe I can squeeze in a “date” with a friend, too. Of course, if I’m invited to ride horses at Selva Negra, a beautiful nearby mountain resort, I won’t pass that up for hearing my dad’s weekly weather report from home, and our check-in can be pushed back.

Ask your loved ones for support.

My friend who lives in Thailand publicly apologized for not being better in touch with everyone because she was working a lot and the time difference is huge. Another friend here in Nicaragua lives in a rural area and doesn’t have continual access to the internet, and she feels a lot of pressure for not contacting her family more often. I haven’t experienced this issue personally, but I would imagine that friends and family respect that we all have busy lives – no matter where we are – and will understand once they know where you are coming from.

Reach out, but don’t pressure.

Although some may feel guilty for not being in touch, I have had trouble reaching someone on the other side of FaceTime.  I find it ironic that many of us are too busy to stay in touch when we, paradoxically, have so many avenues for connection at our disposal. But we can also choose whether we want to tap into that connection or not, which is maybe why Skype dates are often forgotten. What I’ve learned from this is to reach out and let my friends know that I’d like to be in touch soon, without pressuring them or becoming frustrated when it doesn’t work out. All communication is two-sided!

Don’t give up.

My previous roommate from Switzerland gave up on sending emails when she realized that everyone back home had their own busy lives to deal with.  This makes sense to me, but even despite my wanting to live in the moment, I couldn’t imagine just cutting off communication and letting things go. With my friends scattered across different countries and different states, who knows how long it will be until I see them next! This means resorting to long-distance communication. And I trust that when we do end up back in each other’s physical presence, if we are truly friends, we will pick up exactly where we left off – whether that be the last physical embrace or the last sign-off.

About Chelsea Johnson

Chelsea is a Colorado native who loves discovering new corners of the world. Her quest to conquer the Spanish language has taken her throughout Spain and Latin America and she currently resides in Nicaragua. When she is not exploring, you can find her reading, writing, creating art, listening to music, doing yoga, or eating chocolate. Follow her adventures on her blog.

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