2 May 2024

Keeping in touch with family overseas is a world away from snail mail and timed phone calls

| Jen White
Start the conversation
Woman holding up heart sign on top of mountain

It doesn’t matter where you travel in the world, sending love home is much easier thanks to today’s technology. Photo: kitzstocker.

One of my beautiful nieces has spread her wings and headed off on that traditional rite of passage, the overseas working holiday.

She reckons she’ll be OS for two years, although finances, love or family may change that time frame.

I am quite in awe of this bright and brave young chick, who’s flying the nest before she turns 21. To her credit, she’s saved her money, sold her belongings and lined up a job and hopefully a bed for when she arrives.

That she’ll be missed immensely by her parents, siblings and our extended family is a given, especially when her 21st rolls around followed by Christmas, but we are all excited for her and the adventures she has ahead.

While much has been (rightly) written and spoken about social media’s ills in recent weeks, for travellers and their families at home it’s a godsend (the channels other than X, obviously).

If I had been brave enough to leave the bosom of my family at Ms M’s age, my only contact with them would have been rare (an “aerogram” – Google it kids) or expensive.

READ ALSO From bolognese to bunny chow: How the Illawarra has expanded this Happy Little Vegemite’s culinary world

Those were the days long before the internet, emails and mobile phones.

Communication was tough enough when I moved from the country to the big smoke to find work (and follow love, much to Dad’s disappointment).

I’d exchange letters and cards with my parents – who separated after I left home, so one letter to the folks didn’t work – and my sister.

I’ve still got many of those letters, gossipy chats with my little sister about her farm animals, school and what was happening on A Country Practice, and more serious ones to Mum and Dad, often ending with requests for cash.

Birthdays were always a treat and I’d keep a close eye on the mailbox for gifts and cards, especially from the parents because they usually contained cash. It was a bonus chance to chat on the phone, as I didn’t have to wait for Sunday nights and cheap call rates to actually speak with them.

When I did make the Sunday night call, it was a rushed conversation because long-distance calls were charged by the minute. If I called home other than on Sunday nights after 7 o’clock – on the landline, of course – the first words I’d hear were: “What’s wrong?”

But in today’s world, I’d be much more likely to flick my parents a quick text saying “Can you lend me $900 ’cause I’m on holidays and forgot to pay my rent”, and they’d transfer the money electronically into my account via Osko so I’d have it immediately. Which reminds me, my favourite son still owes me $900.

READ ALSO What the bloody hell is ‘Australian’ cuisine?

My sister will be able to talk with her daughter practically any time and the family will keep in touch via the group chat that will get a workout.

Even nana can manage to use Facebook to check in on her granddaughter and make sure she’s wearing warm clothes when it starts snowing in Canada.

No doubt on Christmas Day we’ll jump on FaceTime or something similar that the younger folk will organise so we can exchange Christmas messages and probably a few tears.

Although I don’t know how Secret Santa will work this year ’cause the young folk do have difficulty with the concept of “mail” and I don’t think the techsperts have come up with a way of sending gifts around the world any other way. And yes, I do know about electronic gift cards, I’m not that old.

It will hurt when we can’t give MM a big hug when she is tired or just homesick, or celebrate with her when she has great news to share.

So I think Aunty Jen might stick with snail mail and start sending the odd card and letter, for no reason than to say I love you, I’m proud of you and have a wonderful adventure. At least I can afford the postage these days.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.