I’m not promising that moving to the other side of the world is easy. Leaving behind people you love is tough. And it’s not something you come to terms with in a day or a month or a year. Homesickness can creep up on you and smack you in the face at any time. For me, it can be something simple like a song takes me back to a moment, seeing on Facebook that my best friends are getting together for a party or unwrapping presents without my parents around on Christmas morning. But the best news is that the world has never been this small.
Imagine if you’d moved to Australia as a ‘ten pound pom’. Then you’d have been saying goodbye to your family with the possibility of never seeing them again. If you wanted to come back to the UK within two years, you’d have had to pay back a huge fee (to cover the subsidised passage) on top of your journey home which most families couldn’t afford. And communication wasn’t what is it today – you had expensive phone calls and handwritten letters. It must have been so hard. Not to mention having to endure weeks at sea to get to your new home.
This post contains compensated links.
Now we can travel between countries in less than 24 hours. We have cheap phone packages that cost just a few dollars for unlimited international calls. We have apps that help us stay in touch for free. We have online shopping that means we can still buy cards and presents for each other easily. There is video calling so you can see each other. So for this post I wanted to round up some of the best ways you can stay in touch with your loved ones on the other side of the world. Remember to bookmark this post and to share it with the family and friends who you’re leaving behind because they’ll also find it useful.
An app can’t stop you from feeling homesick, but a great app can definitely make your life abroad easier.
Apps to help you stay in touch
Don’t have time to read to the end? Download the app list in a handy pdf.
Video calls and messaging
Most people know about Skype already. It works via WiFi or 3G on your smartphone, tablet or computer, and you can call anyone else’s smart phone, tablet, computer, home phone or mobile. Skype to Skype calling is free or you can buy credit and use it to make low cost calls to landlines or mobiles that aren’t on Skype. It’s really flexible and easy to use – even my non-techy parents found it easy once we set it up for them.
If you and your family have Apple products, then you can use video calling for free via Facetime. So whether you use your iPad or iPhone or Mac, you can chat easily for free. On the iPhone it is bundled into the phone app, and on other devices there’s a separate app for it. You can connect to any Apple registered phone number or email address.
An instant messaging services for Apple users where you can send texts, photos and video for free.
Did you know you can ring somebody through Facebook for free? You need to have the Messenger app installed to make use of this service. Once you’ve downloaded it, you go into messages either in Facebook or in the Messenger app directly, and you can use the phone icon to call. It’s free and also means that you can call through WiFi even if you don’t have a phone signal (which can be very useful when you’re travelling). You can use it to send photos and videos, send maps and post voice messages.
This instant messaging service for sending texts, photos and video is free to download and free for the first year (it costs $0.99USD every year after that if you’re a new subscriber – existing subscribers who paid to download the app will have a lifetime subscription for free). It works across different devices and you can also use it to create groups and send unlimited video and image messages.
A free app for making calls, sending texts and pictures over WiFi or 3G. To make the free calls, both parties must have the app, and like with Skype there’s also the option to use the app to contact someone on a landline or mobile at a low rate using ViberOut. There’s no need to register – all you need is your friend’s phone number to get started and to have downloaded and activated the app.
This image and video sharing app is gaining in popularity as a way to share your life with your followers. You can select to send Snaps to specific friends, or make them public.
Offering voice, text, video and photo sharing via WiFi. Your contacts can either listen to your message as you’re saying it live or listen later and respond when it’s convenient. You can also speak to large groups at a time.
Line offers free video and voice calling, and you can send messages for free to individuals and groups who have the Line app. You can also buy credit and make low cost calls to non-Line customers. With lots of stickers and games, it’s an app that my kids would probably love if I showed it to them.
OK, this is usually an app for remote working teams to communicate (I’ve used it for that and it’s awesome), but it still has all the functionality to keep families connected on opposite sides of the world. Create subject streams so you can see the history of a discussion, send URLs and images and you can private message through it too. The basic version is free which should be all you need.
Not a communication tool as such, but this app (currently only on iPhone but coming soon to Google Play) reminds you to stay in touch with important people when life gets busy. And when you move to Australia, life will be busy for quite a while, with job hunting, viewing houses, buying cars – it’s easy to let communication slip. Bond integrates with email, text, your phone, What’s App, LinkedIn and Facebook and it sends you reminders to make contact with important people.
A simple, private social network where you can share music, check-ins, movies, books, trips, workouts, photos, and more. It’s ad-free and you can use it for messaging, group chats or to send voice messages.
Bored of taking the time to tap out a text or message? Hey Tell allows you to leave voice messages for other Hey Tell users as a fast way to communicate.
Keep in touch with all of the groups in your life such as your family, old workmates, uni friends etc. via this group messaging app. Anyone can be added with their phone number or their email address.
I love the idea of this live video messenger so you can share moments with people on the other side of the world. You can choose who to share your content with so you can keep things private. I imagine it working well to send videos of everything from a wedding or concert through to your baby’s first steps.
Share images and short videos with your followers via this free app. You can make your account private so people have to request to follow you (so you can limit it to friends and family if you wish) or make it public. I’m on Instagram as SmartStepstoAus so come and give me a follow.
Share a collection of images with your family and friends online for free – it’s like your own private social network. It’s great for parents wanting to safely share images of their kids with family abroad without having to worry about security, and it’s even easy for non-techy family members to use.
I only discovered this after doing research for this post, and now I’m hooked. It’s like a personal record of your child’s life – you can store images, videos, art work and voice messages on here and share them with family who can then respond. The free version allows you to add up to five different uploads per month, with unlimited kids. You can take a picture of your child’s artwork, enhance it so that you have a clear image and then your child can explain what the picture is in a message that is stored with the picture. Family and friends can become ‘fans’ so they can follow your kids’ uploads – then they can respond and leave messages. Your content is organised per year so you can look back on your child’s life to see what they created when they were two, three, four etc. I love it!
An online baby journal to track and record information with your family and friends. Record special moments and share them with selected family and friends. I love that it sends updates to family via email, so it doesn’t matter if grandma doesn’t have a smart phone.
Sending cards by post
When we first moved over to Australia, I used Moonpig a few times to send cards and gifts to the UK because they were the main brand I’d heard of. I’ve also received Moonpig cards from UK family members wanting an easy way to send cards over here too. You can upload images and personalise your messages – the site is straight forward to use and has a great selection of gifts too.
Send a personalised postcard or greeting card internationally in a matter of seconds and show someone you’re thinking about them. Upload an image, add your message and address and voila – easy peasy, your card is printed and sent for as little as $2.99, with postage included.
Send personalised cards using designs that have been uploaded by creators around the world, or upload your own designs and earn when anyone else goes on to buy your design. Cards are priced at £2.99 with postage costs to a UK address is 64p, and to an Australian address £1.30.
I know app lists are great, but you read them with good intentions and then forget all about them. Grab my quick and easy app list here as a free download to remind you to give them a try.
Share this link with your friends and family so they have no excuse not to keep in touch with you too.
Got any more great apps to add to the list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.