Staying in touch with family when you’re volunteering abroad has come a long way.
My cousin who traveled to India in the 1980’s stayed in touch with family and friends back home via handwritten letters, postcards and the occasional (and exorbitant!) landline phone call.
Even on my first trip abroad in 2000, I did not have a cell phone. I relied entirely on email and phone calls at the local Internet cafe (which was a 30 minute bicycle ride away).
How things have changed for the better.
These days most volunteers take a smart phone abroad of course.
There are many smart phone apps that let you message and talk easily with family and friends back home — and for free.
Our favorite communication app is WhatsApp Messenger.
WhatsApp Messenger is a FREE messaging app available for Android and IOS. WhatsApp uses your phone’s Internet connection (data or WIFI) to let you send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, documents, and voice messages.
WhatsApp works with your phone number, just like SMS, and integrates seamlessly with your phone’s existing address book.
With WhatsApp, you’re always logged in. You never have to remember a login name or password.
Even if you turn off your phone or have no connection, WhatsApp will save your messages until the next time you use the app. This is especially useful when volunteering abroad because WIFI and data connections can be spotty.
WhatsApp is also preparing to introduce payments to its messaging app, making it the latest service to let users transfer money to one another with a text.
The only catch is that the people you want to communicate with also have to install WhatsApp on their smart phone.
Oh — and WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, in case that bothers you.