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Lockdown is upon us. Here in the UK, we’re facing at least three weeks of “lockdown” measures; limiting time outside, and avoiding social meetups. For most of us, that means only seeing the people we live with.
As a long-term solo traveller, I’m good at spending time alone. I was solo for almost the whole month of my epic Signapore to Hanoi rail trip, for example. But I’m also very good at staying in touch with the folks back home. So much so that for me a lot of this stuff seems obvious, but after chatting to friends and family I’m realising that a lot of people don’t know about the myriad of options for keeping in touch with the people you miss.
This is my list of all the best ways to stay in touch online. You’ll notice I’ve not put phonecalls on the list, and it’s not (just) because I’m a Millenial who hates the phone. It’s because I just feel like it should be obvious! These are some fab, fun, alternative ways to get connected – some which you might not have thought of…
WhatsApp Voice Notes
My sisters always tease me about how much I use voice notes, but they are a brilliant way to keep up a long-distance conversation without just texting. And it’s so much more personal.
On WhatsApp, you can hold down the mic button and record yourself chatting, then send the voice note. My friends and I use it to chat throughout the day, just like you would via text, but we get to hear each other so it feels more personal. If you’re apart from a partner, voice notes are also a really nice way to say goodnight to one another.
You can also send voice notes on Facebook Messenger but it limits you to 60 seconds, so it’s not as good.
This one is probably a little obvious, since everyone knows about video chats by now. If you haven’t really used them much, now is the time to embrace video calls. Here are some of the best apps/platforms to use:
- Skype (phone or computer)
- Facebook Messenger
- Google Hangouts (phone or computer)
- iPhone FaceTime
Group Video Chats
What you might not know is that video calls don’t have to be one on one. You can call a few people at once for a nice group catch up.
WhatsApp allows for up to 4 people in a group video chat, although the connection isn’t always great.
With a large group, it’s probably easier to use an online platform on your computer or laptop. Order a webcam if you don’t already have one and try one of these free platforms, all of which work on both phone or computer:
- Google Hangouts can support up to 10 people at once on a video chat.
- On Skype you can call up to 50 people at once. Perfect if you need to have a meeting, or just want to catch up with the family.
- And on Zoom, you can host up to 100 participants in one go on the free plan (even MORE on the paid plans). This programme was designed for work-from-home conference calls etc, so it’s probably the best one out there for big group video chats.
This week, I discovered the Houseparty App and it’s awesome! It’s like the video version of a chat room. You can call up to 8 people at once for a group video chat, and the app has loads of games you can play with each other. There are trivia quizzes (I won the Harry Potter round, naturally), and various other games. Great fun if you want to have some face to face time with people but you don’t have much in the way of new conversation (like if you’re stuck inside not doing very much).
Throw a Virtual Pub Quiz
Last week, the team behind Traverse put together a virtual pub quiz for a big group of travel bloggers. They ran it on Zoom, so we could all join in from home.
How to do it: get into teams beforehand, and use a separate device to privately video chat your team members if you aren’t all together. Make sure everyone except the quiz master is on mute – so that people can’t hear the other teams discussing answers. It’s fun to have some unmute time between rounds though, so everyone can banter and catch up. Use a Google Document to send out an answer sheet, and have one person from each team fill in the answers and send them over for marking between rounds.
READ MORE: Don’t miss my full guide on how to organise an online pub quiz for loads more info.
Side note – you kind of have to trust everyone not to cheat, since they’ll all be online the whole time. But you could use some “trick” questions to catch out Googl-ers, or get creative with things like music rounds. But, of course, don’t cheat.
Have “Dinner” Together
Fellow solo traveller Dan Flying Solo gave me this great suggestion. He said that when he’s away longterm, sometimes he and his parents would schedule a mealtime that coincided, and Skype each other whilst they were eating.
Mealtimes are always when I feel most lonely when travelling solo. I’d often call or text friends and family whilst eating alone, but the idea of video chatting whilst dining never crossed my mind, and I love it!
If you’re working from home, schedule a video chat tea break with a friend, book in to eat lunch “together”, or call over after-work drinks.
You could even Skype each other whilst watching TV.
If you’ve got someone in your family who doesn’t own a smartphone or can’t easily get online, it can be tough. Neither of my grandmothers has internet access, so I’m trying to pick up the phone and call them more often. But one thing you could also do is send them some post.
There are lots of services which let you send cards and postcards online. Funky Pigeon and Touchnote are two, and both allow you to use your own photos to customise the front od the postcard. In fact, I just sent one to my Nan to show her the photos of the book I recently contributed to!
Obviously, this won’t help you feel less lonely, but it’s a nice way to surprise a loved one – and maybe help THEM feel less lonely. And since it’s all done digitally, it shouldn’t involve any contact at all.
This is a tough time, not just in the UK but worldwide. A few months ago, I was having a really tough time, and especially struggled with feelings of loneliness. At the time, I felt afraid to reach out to people, because I was worried about bothering them. Which was stupid because I’m sure if I’d asked, any of my friends would have been up for a phone call. But I felt weird about asking.
Right now we are all in this together. If you’re missing your friends or family, chances are they’re missing you too. So reach out, get in touch with people, get on video chats. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Let’s stick together, stay inside, keep each other safe – and look forward to (hopefully) kicking COVID-19’s butt by summertime.
One last thing – let’s try NOT to spend the whole of the next few weeks behind a screen! Here are some simple tips for cutting down your phone usage; super important right now!
If you’ve got any other fun ways to beat the loneliness while we’re on lockdown, leave a comment!