I just went on a trip for two weeks through Italy and France. Yes, I know: Poor me. That said, such a trip can wreak havoc on a relationship if handled poorly. Leaning how to keep in touch when traveling abroad is essential. Different time zones, bad wifi connections and a general lack of sleep on the part of the traveler can result in miscommunication at best and no communication at all in some instances.
I'm pleased to report that this was not the case for me. Whether you're traveling for pleasure or business, there are a few things to keep in mind while hundreds of miles away from your partner to ease the sensation of homesickness and provide a cushy landing pad for your eventual return. Of course, most of these require wifi, but there are even little things you can do if you're bushwhacking for a month in the Australian outback or whatever. Above all, it's a mindset — remember that you will see your partner again, and that traveling is hard, and that it can also bring you closer together if you keep an open mind, stay positive, and enjoy yourself, since that's the point of traveling in the first place (even if it's for business). Try these tips for less "out of sight, out of mind" and more "absence makes the heart grow fonder" in your relationship.
1. Send photos
Since you can't see each other regularly, it's nice to see your partner's face in pixels from time to time. Send photos of yourself in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa or in Paris' Luxembourg Gardens or whatever, and ask your partner to respond in kind from his or her daily activities. It's also nice to fire off a quick selfie from bed in the morning or some such — not as good as waking up next to each other, but a sweet temporary stand-in.
If you don't opt for a global data plan, you'll only have wifi at night or when you stop at cafes and the like. When I had it, I would dash off a quick text or two. It's definitely catch-as-catch-can in these instances, but taking even 30 seconds a couple of times a day makes a big difference in staying in touch.
Keep things interesting and give yourself and your partner something to look forward to — win-win.
4. Video chat
If possible, open up FaceTime/Skype/Google Hangouts every other day or so and call each other. Sometimes this might only be for three minutes. If the wifi is spotty, video calls can be frustrating. But it's worth it. Years ago, when I first traveled through Europe, I had to call my then-boyfriend on pay phones with calling cards procured from STA Travel. These days, we can flip open our laptops or an app on our phones and see anyone's face three seconds later.
5. Talk on the phone
If wifi is particularly bad, audio calls use much less data than video. Try that. Point is, don't rely just on text messages for the duration of your trip. A lot is lost in written communication, and it's vital to see each other's faces or at least hear each other's voices regularly.
6. Send postcards
My boyfriend hasn't actually received the postcard I sent him from Florence on my second day in Italy, which was almost three weeks ago now, but hey — it's the thought that counts.
7. Use email to deal with anything difficult
If there's something serious to be said while you're gone, say it via email. Video chatting is a terrible place to have an important discussion or an argument. Ideally, save any long conversations about things that annoy or upset you for when you return, but if something really needs to be said, that's totally OK — send an email.
8. Buy little gifts that make you think of your partner
When you get home, it'll be really, really fun to get out all of the little things you bought on your trip and present them to your guy or gal. It's a great way for them to go on an abbreviated version of your trip with you.
9. Don't sweat the small stuff
Accept that timing is not going to be perfect while you're traveling. Sometimes you'll really want to talk to your partner and they will be at work. Or asleep. Or distracted. Sometimes you'll feel lonely or homesick and have terrible wifi service and barely be able to send a text. I spent a good amount of time late at night in the hallway of the apartment in which my friend and I stayed in Paris, because that's where the wifi came in. It's smart to consider the context of all of this, and not let yourself get angry or hurt over little things that probably wouldn't matter if you were face to face with your partner. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself: Does this matter? Which brings me to the most important tip of all . . .
10. Don't argue
Don't start fights. Don't nitpick. Don't take personally what has nothing to do with you. Above all: Don't struggle. Your partner misses you. You miss your partner. You'll be home soon. In the meantime, enjoy yourself. And if your relationship is strong, travel will only make it stronger, because you'll miss each other so much and realize how nice it is to live in the same city when you return.