Recently, I’ve been talking a lot about how technology makes it so easy to stay in touch across great distances. Feeling so deeply connected to home while being on the other side of the world is one of the most unexpected experiences of the adventure so far. It's like that Adele song... Hello from the other side...
While I was traveling in Africa in 2007, 22-years-old and 5,000 miles away from home, I desperately wished I could easily communicate with my friends and family. But there were only three options: novel-length letters, emails written from internet cafes with patchy service or POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) which often felt like we're using a tin-can phone. Mostly, my parents would get brief emails every couple of weeks letting them know I’m still alive and had not yet been eaten by a lion. Just kidding – it's hippos you have to be afraid of. Periodically, I’d write a few longer notes describing my adventures but would have to hold my breath and keep my fingers crossed, hoping that the internet connection wouldn’t crap out before I pressed send causing everything I'd written to disappear into the ether. NOOOOOOO!!!!!!
Ten years ago when I lived in London, NASA’s Stardust mission successfully brought back interstellar dust from a comet. That same year, Skype launched a new innovation – free video calling – which revolutionized the experience of living abroad. But it was only available on your computer so several email communiqués were required to set up your Skype date. Spontaneity didn’t really exist. It was also the early days of international text messaging and it cost a freakin’ fortune. Even for local SMS messages, you minimized the number of characters so it wouldn’t break across multiple texts eating away at your monthly message limit. Remember those days?
Fret not, young jetsetter. Fast forward to the 21st century and although we don’t have flying cars (yet), keeping in contact while abroad has become a breeze. My huge data package means that I can answer a video call from my dad while bagging avocados in the grocery store. Using the wonders of WhatsApp, Messenger and iMessage, I text with my friends and family as regularly as if we were living in the same city.
However, virtually celebrating milestones such as birthdays is a bit more challenging but, as of this year, I’ve found a way to make the most of that too. If I was at home, my friends would be dining at Café Medina, snorfing appetizers Belgium waffles with chocolate caramel or rose water white chocolate sauce before devouring a giant fricassee. Man, I love brunch. It’s the best of all the eating experiences because it's suitable for every occasion. Just put on your sunglasses, sit on a patio, and sip your mimosas. Plus smart people and science says our social networks as important as exercise and diet over a lifetime. Therefore, you could say our third mimosa over brunch with friends is ‘for your health.’ Logically.
Alas I digress... As my friends scatter around the globe like dandelion seeds, we need new ways of celebrating milestones that rises above sad mass-produced Facebook messages. And in this spirit, I hosted virtual brunch with my girlfriends across three very different time zones for my very special Danish 33rd birthday. I sipped wine while the eating chocolate and raspberry gelato at 7pm in Denmark; Shay made us envious with early afternoon lobster benedict in Halifax; and, Lottie, Stacy and Meagan huddled awkwardly around the laptop over 10am coffees and poached eggs in Vancouver. It was a roaring success. Next time, may we’ll try virtual happy hour for the next birthday!
I think the secret to a good life is staying in touch... And connecting with friends and family has been the most grounding experience during this time of uncertainty. Even know I’m miles away, I make a special effort to send that birthday card, email, or postcard to say hi, check-in or just because. If I miss a moment, I know friends will understand that international time zones are hard and postage is a hassle. I know they don’t expect this of me. But I’m stickler for building relationships and staying in touch – and I think more of us should be. But you’re busy, you say? Super-busy, in fact. Jobs. Kids. House cleaning. Night class. Game of Thrones. Hey, I get it. You have the best intentions, but let me stop you there. If relationships are important, you will make time for them.
Sometimes showing you care means using all six degrees of separation to get a surprise liquorice-laden birthday present home in time... or sending voice memo to a friend when she has to put down her beloved dog so she can actually hear how sad you are too... or actually writing on that precious card that normally would end up in a stack of unwritten cards that are too nice/funny/clever to actually use.
And sometimes that means drinking wine over Skype with your favourite people in the world to celebrate another trip around the sun!
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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