3 Ways to Keep in Touch With Your Parents While Backpacking

3 Ways to Keep in Touch With Your Parents While Backpacking

Traveling the world during our younger years is liberating, to say the least. It helps us expand our psyche and learn about our surrounding environment more thoroughly – although, it often comes at a price. We’ve previously written about  how difficult it can be telling your parents about moving abroad and the same goes for backpacking.So, what are the main things we should consider when we are traveling abroad to help ease the pain of being away from our loved ones?

#1 Constant communication

Operating on a different time zone shouldn’t be an excuse for not keeping in touch with your parents or family, in general. With innovations such as Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Viber it opens up endless opportunities to keep lines of communication open between both parties. The best part is that you don’t even need to take a laptop with you while traveling, many travelers run these apps through their mobile devices. The only thing you’ll need to rely on is a solid WiFi connection, which most hostels, hotels, coffee shops and restaurants will readily provide you as long as you purchase something from their establishment.

#2 Play online games with them

The beauty of mobile is that is provides a lot of mediums where people can connect. A fun way to engage with your parents is to play mobile games with them, while chatting with them along the way. Having fun with them while playing something that you’re both interested in can be very heartwarming and help both parties get over the fact that you aren’t seeing each other on a regular basis.

Although, this is a wonderful way to keep in contact with your family members it probably won’t be as unbelievable as a pair of sisters who were reunited after being separated at birth. The sisters were reunited after 60-years of being apart, after their 9-year love affair with an online bingo game helped them discover they were actually long lost sisters. This goes to show that playing games online can in fact bridge the gap between you and your family, even with the most incredible results.

#3 Update your social media accounts regularly

Updating your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts regularly will give your parents the ability to see what you are experiencing on a daily basis. This will help them see what a life-changing experience you are having, and put their minds to rest. Giving them a first-hand account of the places you are visiting will also give them a medium to reply to and engage in conversations with you regarding the many wonderful landmarks you have experienced along your journey across the world.

If you have any tips for our readership of the best ways to keep in touch with your parents while traveling, please leave your comments below.

-Ashley

That Time I Think I Snuck Into Cambodia

That Time I Think I Snuck Into Cambodia

When traveling through South East Asia you’ll quickly find that there is a more or less established backpacker’s route—while you and your fellow travelers may be hitting the same spots, it’s likely you’ll be going in various directions and orders. Usually this makes it fairly simple to learn how to get from place to place—wherever you’re going next, chances are someone in your hostel just came from there. This is why I was so surprised to find it insanely difficult to get information on the best way to get into Cambodia from Laos by land.

Basically the only piece of advice I could get was “Take the best deal you can,” which was always inevitably followed by some horror story of scams, theft, and abandonment. Nevertheless, I figured if they survived I could certainly do better…right?

After having spent a good deal of time in Laos, I’d decided that Angkor Wat was next on my list, so early one morning my traveling buddies and I headed to the bus station in Vientiane to book tickets to Siem Reap, a journey that takes roughly 24 hours if all goes smoothly. Getting the right tickets was simple enough, but information on the visa process was both scarce and confusing. Luckily, a friendly stranger at a picnic table said he could get us through process cheaply and painlessly. All we had to do was drop our passports in his duffel bag, give him $22, and fill out the visa application which he had run out of. Not to worry, my new pal assured us, he’d have more soon. He then left us, saying he’d meet up with us again at the border.

Yeah, I know, handing over your documents to a sketchy stranger who is clearly conning you probably isn’t the best decision, but we’d definitely all heard worse beginnings that ended alright, so I figured there’s a chance it would be worth the risk.

As we boarded our bus, the driver exchanged our tickets for those we’d need at the next stop. While we knew we needed to switch buses at the border, we were told our next set of tickets weren’t actually for Siem Reap, but for a town I’d never heard of with a train to Siem Reap. At any rate I knew that if it turned out to be a lie, at least I’d be stranded with an entire bus worth of people and not alone.

Thirteen uncomfortable hours later, the driver ordered us off the bus and told us to walk across the border, and when we got to the border patrol & customs check not to stop at the window, just walk around them and take the ladder or ramp up a wall. Leery about leaving my luggage behind but seeing no other option, I followed the small crowd into no-man’s land when everyone suddenly stopped dead. An officer had come out yelling “HEALTH CHECK” in English, while about 30 feet ahead of us stood a man roughly 3 feet tall with a hump and a googly eye, waiting.

Seeing as how my friends were clearly a bit freaked out (and rightfully so) I figured I may as well go first and see what they’d actually do—turns out the little dude just takes your temperature and sends you along. At least I was first to use the public thermometer.

After passing through we easily spotted the wall we’d been told about and over we climbed to find a handful of stalls with people hocking bus and van tickets of their own. It was here were learned that—big surprise—the train station we were headed for didn’t exist and our tickets were worthless from that point on.

So here’s the rundown: We’re stranded on the side of the road in the blistering heat of Cambodia with no luggage, no passports, and no transport.

Pooling what little cash we had (and paying in multiple currencies) we were able to secure van tickets to Siem Reap, with the promise that they’d be air-conditioned and wifi-capable.

After standing around for another lifetime, a motorbike eventually showed up and the driver dropped off a plastic shopping bag full of passports, which other passengers and I began reading out names from and passing around. We did indeed find new visa stickers inside, with our information hand-written on top, not looking anything close to legit, and signed by “Jeff”.

Eventually, a caravan of passenger vans showed up, some carrying our luggage and others waiting to take us to our next destination. Turns out “air conditioning & wifi” is often code for “overcrowded and full of live chickens”.

At my next hostel I met a guy who had done the visa process by the book on his own, and while he saved $2 on his visa, the trip also took him 12 hours longer.

I would be no means recommend taking the route I took, and I’m sure there are plenty of options out there. I’ve heard that while the visa prices have increased in recent years, so have transport options and the border itself has become more streamlined and less corrupt.

My advice?

Take the best deal you can.

– Ashley

Top Packing Mistakes of Rookie Travellers

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Many rookie backpackers believe they need to invest in a whole new wardrobe before leaving home, but think again. That sweat-wicking insect-repelling ultra-lightweight quick-drying performance enhancing v-neck you got for *only* 55 bucks at REI? It’s still a $55 t-shirt. Remember that wherever you go chances are millions of people spend their entire lives there—local clothing will not only be cheaper, but culture- and climate-appropriate as well. Sure, if you’re traveling to the Antarctic invest in good gear, but wandering around a city *slightly* warmer than you’re used to? Forget it.

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This friggin’ thing:

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It’s called a travel belt and it was on every single packing list I saw when I first started traveling. The idea is simple: store your money & passport under your clothes close to your body to avoid being robbed/pickpocketed. The logistics? You practically have to undress to get your money, either lifting up your shirt or reaching into your pants to struggle with a zipper you can’t even see. Hot weather and it’s a giant sweat patch; Cold and it’s under 8 billion layers. Believe me, that merchant is going to feel a bit uneasy after watching you fiddle inside your pants for 6 minutes to pull out a sweaty wad of money for that $2 t-shirt.

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Know where you’re going—off grid in Burma take your antimalarial; rural Africa have your own sterile needles; plan on eating any time during your trip, HAVE IMODIUM. But there’s no need to lug around a sling, finger splints, and 500 tongue depressors. It’s great to feel prepared but you don’t need to be ready for every outlandish circumstance—it only weighs you down. It’s all about the essentials—you won’t need hypothermia blankets in a tropical summer nor an avalanche beacon in the big cities of Europe.

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It’s true that you’ll face a lot of unexpected downtime and reading can be a great way to entertain yourself & stay busy on that 30+ hour bus ride between destinations. However, unless you have a light-weight e-reader, leave the anthology at home. At most, bring one book you enjoy and be prepared to leave it behind—books are heavy, bulky, and easily ruined. Remember that you’re not the only one in the world who enjoys reading—many hostels and internet cafes have free book exchange featuring a plethora of interests and languages collected from travelers from around the globe. Take advantage of it.

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Take a second and google “Christmas gifts for backpackers”. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

What did you come up with? Chances are you saw list upon list of redundant gadgets for taking pictures, storing music & photos, and filtering water nine hundred different ways. While some of these gadgets may sound appealing, remember that they quickly add up. There is no need to be travelling with thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics. You may not be able to imagine life without your phone, camera, laptop, tablet, mp3, e-reader, translator, external hard drive, and backup batteries, but the hassle of keeping all of these things dry, safe & charged while on the road is a struggle you really don’t need. Learn to simplify and take the essentials.

While some gadgets are innovative and could be useful at some point, learning to survive without them has a greater payout in self-reliance and creativity. You’ll eventually learn to jerryrig nearly enough random things to fancy yourself an international MacGyver, and there’s no greater confidence than that.

-Ashley