Posts Tagged ‘skype’

I have this problem: I want to stay in touch with my friends when I travel. I get homesick and communicating with random strangers just isn’t enough sometimes.

I remember the days when I had these things called “pen-pals”. It’s a really old-skool thing where you would meet someone (or they would be assigned to you) and you would hand-write a physical letter to them. Then, because this wasn’t laborious enough you had to (also) write the address (perfectly and clearly) on the envelope, and place the letter (with a stamp that you magically found) in something called a “mailbox”.

Now we have email. But this isn’t enough, sometimes. I realize how much of a first-world-problem this sounds like. Stick with me for a minute.

We also have texting- but when you’re traveling internationally, this is also expensive (for me). Also, hearing my friend’s voice made such a difference on my own morale (there’s some sort of science behind this, I’m sure). So I’ve made it a mission to find/try every type of (free) communication device/app out there. Here is what I’ve found:

 

Skype: 

I’ve been using Skype since 2008 when I moved to Canada and wanted to call my (only) friends. The only thing I remember about Canada was how miserable I was and how I blame the whole entire nation for that (I’m mature!). Since then, I have stuck with Skype for a few friends and international calling.

  • SUPER EASY to figure out and use.
  • If you call skype-to-skype, it’s free.
  • If you call skype-to-phone number, the prices and quality (depending on your internet) is decent.
  • Depending on the hour/internet connection, the video can be really great or really crappy. (Compared against Google Hangout)
  • The “SMS” service (skype messenger) is reliable, fast and decent. It does auto-correct your crap, though.
  • The iphone app keeps getting better all the time.
  • No group calls (that I know of)

 

Google Hangout:

I started using Google Hangout because Skype was becoming increasingly more difficult and un-reliable. Especially through Central America. Few things to note: I’m not aware of an app-meaning that you have to log in on a tablet/computer to use GH. The learning curve is really steep, but once you have it, you got it. I should note that I’m not really a gmail user by default, so maybe that is the reason why.

  • Only allows GoogleHangout-to-GoogleHangout. (no phone support, that I know of).
  • They have a different video algorithm. Can’t say/decide if it’s better or worse. Sometimes it was great, others it was lousy.
  • The audio quality is ok. (not as good as a good-skype day, though)
  • You can give yourself funny hats/faces.
  • Allows group-chats – up to something redunk like 500 people or something- this makes live-chats/interviews possible.

 

FaceTime: 

I jumped on the apple bandwagon as soon as I heard that Siri could tell you where to hide the dead bodies.  Apple keeps improving their communication-devices/capabilities, and I’ll try that stuff, too. I have friends that use facetime all the time and told me to try it, but I just never did- until I was in the Philippines.

  • The facetime Audio is the best quality that I’ve found out of all voip (voice over IP) services.
  • Very easy to figure out. (only if you have an i-device)
  • You forget that someone can see you pick your nose.

 

Voxer: 

When I returned to the states, my friend’s phone kept going off like a walkie-talkie. The old kind from sprint. Remember those? I asked her what was going on and she exclaimed with glee: “Oh-em-gee! It’s this new app called Voxer! It’s great for when you are too drunk and can’t text anymore but you need to whisper-tell your girlfriends about the douche-canoe at the bar!”

I was sold-and downloaded it immediately. Not just for the drunk factor, but also when I’m taking a long-road trip and want to send a message- but it don’t necessarily need to call them, I can Vox them! Here are my favorite features:

  • Slight learning curve (to set up) but really easy after that.
  • a “push to record a message” function. Can’t get much easier than that.
  • You can tag your messages (location)
  • The app tells you when your message has been delivered and listened to.
  • You can “listen in real time” (basically, talking over Wifi)- except it forces you to listen actively because you can’t talk until they are done talking. (Good relationship practice!)
  • Downloading the message/sending/forwarding it onto your email/text is possible. (If I ever make a podcast, it’ll be full of Voxer stories). (Whatsapp doesn’t do this)
  • Ability to text, send pictures, videos, etc as well.
  • Forwarding messages is possible.
  • Group chats is possible.
  • Messages are stored on a cloud (forever….?)
  • It “connects” once and downloads all your messages in 1-go. If someone has sent you multiple messages it plays them right after the other automatically. (Whatsapp doesn’t do this)
  • “Notes to self” is also available- where you can, you guessed it! record notes for yourself! (Whatsapp doesn’t do this).
  • Finding users is dependent on them looking you up by a user name that is given to you. (Whatsapp uses a phone number).

I have to say that I use Voxer as my most preferred device- because of the download feature. I use it for my podcast friend (Misti), my brother- who is now living in London, friends who live in Baltimore, Seattle, and down the street. I also use the “notes to self” religiously whenever I’m out/about and don’t feel like writing something down.

Whatsapp: 

Another “Walkie-talkie Messenger” app service that is the popular-version of Voxer. Here’s my beef with it:

  • Does everything above (unless stated)
  • You need to download each message before it plays (and hit “play” on the message).
  • Pictures that are sent via Whatsapp are saved in your PhotoLibrary. (kinda cool!)
  • Again, you find a friend on Whatsapp via a phone number, not an ID of some sort. (yay!)

Facebook Messenger:

So, I was late to the party, mostly out of annoyance to FB for shoving their app down my throat every 2 seconds, but my friend Craig finally convinced me of downloading FBMessenger. How? Because he sent me a voice-message- not just text. Just like Voxer/Whatsapp- except it goes off your facebook friends.

  • Only goes from Facebook-To-Facebook (that I know of)
  • It really wants you to have notifications!!! (Even though I don’t want to turn it on, the “reminder screen” pops up every time.)
  • Syncs to your contacts in your phone (not sure why).
  • You can’t save/forward messages.
  • Group chats are possible.
  • Tagging chats is possible. (don’t know why you would do this, but whatevs).
  • It’s a separate app from Facebook.

 

So, if you’re traveling, and you’re homesick, and you want some options on how to stay in contact with people- try some of these out. I’m still a fan of Voxer- but the others are good alternatives. Also- did I mention that they are all FREE? (cause they are!)

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I keep having really weird dreams as of late-. Back in the day I used to have lucid dreams, but then I quit my job at Microsoft and ever since I can’t control them. My dreams overtake me and I can’t tell what is fact or fiction anymore. These aren’t the run of the mill “this doesn’t make sense” dream, either… They are always super emotional ones that usually make me feel icky or sad. Nightmares, I suppose.

Last night I had a dream that I was talking to my friend Autumn on Skype. She told me that my grandparents sent her kids xmas cards with checks in them. They wrote a note saying “Hey girls, we know how much you meant to LN, but she’s gone and we don’t know when we’ll get to see her again– but you’re still in this country and we would love to start an exchange. Please accept this gift from us. We would love little hand-written notes from you telling us how you are and how your school is going. Love, Grammy and Grandad.”

I woke up (it was 4:somethingAM) with tears streaming down my face and my nose filled with snot. The overall feeling of guilt and grief of the fact that my grandparents (age 90 and 92) aren’t going to be around much longer and that I’m missing out on seeing them. On the fact that they felt like they had to/wanted to reach out to (no offense, Autumn) strangers because they can’t reach out/contact me. On the fact that all they want is hand-written letters.

Checking my email at that point also didn’t help at all. But that’s a different story.

I have woken up bawling twice since my travels. Both times I learned something just recently and my dream put that lesson to the test. The first time was in Nicaragua when I had that dream of “the sword of truth”. It’s definitely a hippy/spiritual-growth story, so if I didn’t write about here don’t get offended.

Last night I went to a crossfit gym and met this suuuper interesting person named Diego. Beautiful human being, fellow traveler, born/raised in Uruguay, a writer– the whole 9. While giving me a lift back home after class we had this conversation:
“What makes you feel better when you’re sad?”
“Grilled cheese, tomato soup, my big down comforter and my cat. All of which I can’t find here.”
“So- let me give you some advice. When you’re sad– be sad. Be the saddest you can be. Give yourself a time limit and try to see how utterly miserable you can get. Be sad. Be depressed. But don’t, how you say, half-ass it. Because that’ll just make the feeling stick around. We, humans, are supposed to go up and down. We are supposed to have moods. The more you emphasize/focus on those moods, the more you will feel better later. The more you will realize what you are actually sad about. The more you will realize that you can be happy and everything is ok.”

(I’m paraphrasing a little.)

Anyway— so I dreamt last night. I woke up and was sad. Really sad. Instantly (after achieving consciousness) I thought of this conversation. Thought “I need to just be sad! I need to ride this emotion out like the nauseous feeling of a really hard workout. I need to stay sad!

Did I? No. I’m in a hostel with a bunch of dorm beds and sleeping people all around me. HOWEVER! I do have some extra time today and access to one of the most beautiful parks in all of Costa Rica which I plan on spending a lot of time in today. I’ll probably unlock my achievement of “becoming a crazy random foreigner crying by herself in a park” today.

Something to look forward to!