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Staying in Touch While Traveling

Certainly there are lots of reasons people leave home with a few things packed in a suitcase or backpack and hit the road for awhile, but one of the things most of the travelers I know love about taking a trip is the people they’ll meet along the way. Many of my traveling friends prefer traveling solo, but even that doesn’t keep them from making loads of friends wherever they go and returning home with a new list of contacts around the world.

Thanks to the internet, keeping in touch with fellow travelers once you’ve parted company is much easier than it used to be. The romance of receiving an actual letter in the mail – complete with a pretty stamp from the other side of the globe – may be a thing of the past for most of us, but some would argue that email brought back the concept of letter writing from an early grave. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter may have taken some of the elegance out of communication, but they deliver a kind of immediacy that’s hard to beat – especially for those of us “instant gratification” types.

On the other hand, we’ve been hearing for some time now about how much hostel common rooms have changed since internet communication took over our world. The common room used to be the place where travelers would hang out and interact, where anyone traveling alone would go in the hopes of avoiding solo travel blues and making some new friends. These days you’re more likely to find that common room full of travelers all hunched over their laptops and iPhones as they update their Facebook status.

So are these technological advances a help or a hindrance?

Of course the answer lies somewhere in between, and has more to do with the person using the tool than it does with the tool itself. You can very easily use Facebook to stay in touch with people you’ve met actually talking in real time in a hostel common room, or you can use it to avoid talking to people in the hostel. It’s your choice. And while there’s no right or wrong way to go, just as there’s no right or wrong way to take a round the world trip, I know that I’m happy to talk to interesting people in real life whenever I can.

photo by Matt Biddulph