The most difficult part of long-term travel

We partnered with Ding to bring you this post. They provide solid service, we provide solid stories about the most difficult part of long-term travel. Never fear, we’ve used it before, and would never recommend anything that wouldn’t benefit you!


What’s the most difficult part of long-term travel?

It’s not the endless hours in transit. It’s not the need to plan your next steps every other day. It’s not the perpetually dirty clothes, living out of a backpack, or rock solid beds. It’s not even the need to constantly sleep through the incessant snoring of the guy in the dorm bed next to yours (that’s second).

In fact, the most difficult part of long-term travel isn’t even the travel itself: it’s the struggle to keep up with those you left behind.


Alone at Sheosar Lake in Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Hey mom, check out this view! Oh wait… no signal.

The most difficult part of long-term travel

Initially, it doesn’t seem so difficult. We have Skype and Facetime to make video calls, Facebook and Instagram to creep on our friends, and Whatsapp and Viber and Telegram to send (too many) silly emoji-laden messages back and forth. It’s kind of like hanging out with each other, right?

It is… until the times that matter. In the past months, I had to console a close friend that had just broken up with her boyfriend through Facebook Messenger. I tried to Skype with my ailing grandfather, but he has yet to grasp the concept of video calling—he thinks he’s just looking at a photo of my face. My best friend’s mother was dying, and thanks to some terrible wifi, all I could do was send her consolatory Whatsapps. At least they were voice messsages. Showed extra sincerity, ya know?

And I’m privileged to have all of these (inadequate) options in the first place. I’m a backpacker on a tight budget, but I still have a smartphone and a budget big enough to afford sim cards with data in each country I travel to. Not everyone can afford data… or even a phone capable of doing anything but calling, texting, and playing Snake. Even if they can, there’s no guarantee they understand how to use it, or have the data signal to do so.

Goatherd with his flock in Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

As we traveled through Pakistan, we witnessed this firsthand. We met goatherds using old plastic phones so worn down you could hardly read the numbers on the keys. 8-bit Nokia ringtones of yore rang in our ears as buses rumbled down the road. People with smartphones only used them for calling and selfies, connecting to the internet only when wifi was available. Seeing the little “E” for Edge was actually exciting in the north. Mobile service stands were all over the cities, installing smartphone apps for users that didn’t understand how—or that didn’t have a bank account to link to an app store.

A mobile phone stand to help users download apps, music, and set up social media profiles - Lost With Purpose

A mobile stand for app downloads and phone help.

E.T. phone home?

Many of these people had family and friends working overseas. Upon hearing we’re from America and Europe, they’d tell us of their cousin running a shop in the Netherlands, or a brother raising a family in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin. I would smile and listen, all the time wondering: If I already struggle to stay in touch with all of my fancy smartphone apps, how could they possibly manage with their old school phones?

The answer is simple: calling!

… well, it’s theoretically simple. In practice, it’s complicated and time consuming.

International calling is expensive, and often paid for by those overseas. Many of you readers know the drill—you first wire money through a transfer service for a hefty fee, then your family has to pick up the transfer somewhere, head out to a local convenience store, and buy more phone credit to make a call. Not fun, not efficient… and it requires going out into the hot sun in many cases. Thanks, but no thanks.

So what’s the solution?

Luckily, there’s a service in town that eliminates all the struggle: Ding! You can use it to instantly send phone credit to your family and friends back home, no matter where they are.

Rather than waste money and time wiring money for calling (and selling your soul to Western Union in the process), all you have to do is enter a phone number, decide how much credit to send, and pay online with a card or PayPal. Done.

Using Ding to send credit to a phone in Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

We’ve used it to send phone credit to our homies in Pakistan, and it was a breeze. It takes less than five minutes, it’s brilliantly designed (all I actually care about) and it works in 130 countries globally—Pakistan included! Plus, they’re celebrating their 10th birthday this year, so they’ve had the time to figure out exactly what you need and how to provide it.

Thousands of kilometers isn’t so far when it’s this easy to say hey to your loved ones. Why not try topping up their phone and checking in on them right now?


The most difficult part of long-term travel isn't living out of a backpack, constantly dirty clothes, or dealing with snoring people in dorms. Read on to find out what's the biggest struggle of all, and one way you can start to resolve it.


Have you struggled with staying in touch while traveling or living overseas? What was your solution?

Alex Reynolds profile picture

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

19 thoughts on “The most difficult part of long-term travel

    Leah Walker says:

    I’ve never heard of Ding, but it seems like it can be a very useful service for some. And so old fashioned…actually calling! It’s like writing a latter by hand these days. 🙂

    But hey, people still love to get letters and postcards, right? 😉

    Amanda Williams says:

    I totally agree that the hardest thing when you’re away long term is feeling so detached when something serious happens at home, like a death in the family or some other form of bad news. It can leave you feeling pretty helpless and out of the loop. I’ve never heard of Ding but will check it out.

    Yes and yes! It feels to useless to just sit there and text a response to something so serious as a death…

    Lily France says:

    First of all – well done on a fabulously written sponsored post! You can really tell that this company is relevant to you 🙂 I guess it’s easy to take for granted how sophisticated our iphones are sometimes, but when even they aren’t enough to be ‘there’ at important times, it throws it into perspective how tough it must be for those less fortunate.
    Lily Kate x

    Thanks for the compliment! It was our first time writing one, it’s good to hear it turned out well. We’ve had offers before, but we want to stay true to our readers 🙂

    Brigitte says:

    I’m totally with you on this, I’ve been away for a year now and I see contacts change from both sides. It’s part of life, but it makes me sad to think of what I left behind.. half of my closest friends don’t bother to talk to me anymore.. :/ And now I’m going check out your other posts on Pakistan and Iran, both have been on my to do list for a long time, and I admire your courage of going to Pakistan especially!!

    Ugh, we know the feels! It hurts sometimes to see how quickly your close friends get used to your absence.

    Glad we could inspire you to look more into Pakistan! It’s a brilliant place to travel to, and trust us—it doesn’t require any courage 😉 If you ever have any questions, you know where to find us!

    Happily Tanned says:

    I am totally with you on this one.The most difficult part of long term travel is staying connected with your loved ones….Never tried Ding before, hopefully will try it in my next trip 🙂

    It really feels like you’re dropping off the face of the earth sometimes, doesn’t it?

    Christina says:

    I have not done long-term travel but I can definitely see how keeping in touch would be a big struggle. Even with short-term travel I have run into this situation. I have never heard of Ding. Something that has been around for 10 years must be doing something right! Will check it out.

    Definitely do! It’s much easier than finding a top up shop in some places.

    I have never done long term travel. But even in the span of only a few short weeks, I feel completely out of touch when I get home. It always seems something major happens when I’m gone. Definitely feel you on this. I can’t imagine how tough it would be traveling long term.

    We know that well! It’s like the second you turn your back, disaster strikes…

    Brittany Hemming says:

    Thanks for sharing. I usually call over wifi but when you have a crappy connection it can be difficult and isolating. This sounds like a great solution.


    Yep, we have the same issue often. The fact that there’s wifi doesn’t mean you can actually do anything with it!

    Suzanne Spiegoski-Decamps says:

    Sometimes you’ll just miss having face-to-face conversations with your loved ones back home. It’s one thing to see, but it’s quite another to hold and embrace one another. At least you’ll never be ungrateful! 🙂

    Deepika Arora says:

    I was away from home for 3 months and would have been for more 9 months if my father didn’t expire!
    I lost my father when i was traveling! I left everything and came back now supporting my family..working 9 to 5 and traveling with annual leaves!
    It’s hard! As much as i love my family…I love traveling and i want to quit and get on the road again!
    Even I faced the same difficulty of communicating… I used Viber, Whatsapp and Skype but it was only when I got home after work so it was actually like I could talk only with Wi-fi because I couldn’t afford a data plan as i was an intern.
    But even with all these difficulties, I want to travel because that’s what I love and that’s what keeps me going!

    Ai, that sounds like a difficult situation indeed, It seems that you have a passion for travel, though, so we don’t think that’s something you should give up on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *