Surrounding ourselves with family and friends is important for happiness and overall wellbeing. Studies even show that strengthening your relationships can help you live a longer life. But for those of us who live far away from loved ones, keeping in touch can feel challenging, if not downright impossible at times. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can hear, see, and speak to those near and dear to you, even when they’re not physically close.
From virtual happy hours to exploring outer space, here are 20 ways to share fun and memorable experiences with family and friends around the world.
1. Get together for virtual happy hour
Just because you can’t raise your glasses in person, doesn’t mean your days of gathering with family and friends over drinks are over. When distance creates a barrier, virtual happy hours are a fun option for connecting in different time zones. FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Zoom are a great way to enjoy a few drinks with your family and friends and keep happy hour alive. Pick a time that works for everyone, send a calendar invite, choose a signature drink, or share recipes for concocting your favorite cocktail or mocktail. It’s five o’clock somewhere in the world!
2. Start a remote book club
Starting a remote book club is an excellent way to keep in touch with fellow book lovers and maybe even introduce yourself to a new author or genre. Recruit family, friends, and beyond to get together virtually to discuss a book chosen by the group. Or join an existing book club to connect with people all over the world. Rebel Book Club is a six-city global organization that hosts monthly virtual book discussions. Need book ideas? Check out Goodreads list of 50 popular Book Club Books.
3. Host a virtual game night
Keep the traditional game night alive by hosting a virtual game night with family and friends. Throw a fun-filled evening together (with a little friendly competition, of course) to combat the distance blues and get your adrenaline pumping. Houseparty is a popular video chat application that allows up to eight people to talk at one time and comes with games like Heads Up and Chips and Guac.
4. Travel the world together – virtually
Can’t travel to see your significant other, your family, or your friends? Thanks to the internet, you and your loved ones can “travel” the world together without even leaving your home. Visit the depths of the Paris Catacombs from your computer chair or browse Google Maps where you can explore everything from the Colosseum and the Palace of Versailles to the base camp of Mt. Everest.
5. Celebrate special occasions with a video
Have to be apart for a birthday, anniversary, or another milestone event? Distance doesn’t mean you have to miss out on celebrations—you just need to reinvent them. Send that special someone a custom video of yourself along with a heartfelt message. While it might not be quite as good as celebrating in person, the receiver will get to keep the video message forever. Go the extra mile and coordinate with a group of family and friends to each record a special video message for whomever you’re celebrating. Get creative! Piece the video messages together and your receiver will have a heartfelt, one-of-a-kind keepsake they can cherish for years to come.
6. Go old school with snail mail
While many of us long for the day we can reach “inbox zero,” receiving a card or letter in the mail is very welcome. No matter if it’s for an occasion or you simply want to send something “just because,” don’t forget how meaningful a card or letter can be.
7. Binge-watch your favorite shows together
Starting a virtual book club with your loved ones is fun, but there’s nothing wrong with binge-watching your favorite shows with them too. Luckily, distance doesn’t have to drive a wedge between you, your family and friends, and your favorite shows. Streaming services like Netflix Party make it easy to watch shows together across time zones with features like group chat and synchronized video playback.
8. Share recipes and cook together
Cooking together can be a great bonding activity for family and friends alike—and luckily, you can still gather around the kitchen virtually. Ask mom to teach you how to cook your favorite childhood dish, try your hand at hosting a cooking party, or start a “cook club” to keep in touch. Each week have the group select a recipe for everyone to make. Get to work in the kitchen and then set a time to meet virtually and discuss your trials and tribulations. Looking for more inspiration in the kitchen? Online cooking classes and chef-hosted cooking demos, such as Chef Jose Andres on Instagram, can teach you and your loved ones new techniques for free.
9. Eat a meal together online
Food is a means of connection—so it’s lucky for us that distance doesn’t have to stop you from breaking bread with your family and friends. Set up a time to share a meal virtually with your loved ones. Have everyone join a call via FaceTime or a digital conference provider and catch up over a meal. Want to go all out? Even if you’re having dinner while they’re having brunch, make things formal by setting your table, putting down a tablecloth, and popping a bottle of bubbly.
10. Attend a concert from the comfort of your own home
There’s nothing quite like seeing one of your favorite bands with your loved ones in tow. Many concerts, festivals, and other performances are available for live streaming for fans around the world. Find a concert, festival, or performance you like and reach out to family and friends to set up a time to watch from your homes. To find live audio and streaming, NPR Music offers a list of performances, with links to streaming platforms including Instagram and YouTube.
11. Make a collaborative playlist
Spotify’s collaborative playlist feature is the perfect way to share tunes and mix music genres to create a unique international playlist. All you have to do is download the music streaming service, click “Collaborative Playlist,” and copy the playlist link. Share the link with your family and friends and they will be able to add music directly from their accounts.
12. Visit museums around the world together
There are thousands of world-class museums that offer virtual tours and online collections to explore from your home. Google Arts and Culture is an excellent resource for finding virtual tours from all over the world and is available 24/7 so you can sync up with family and friends in any time zone. From the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, these virtual tours are completely free.
13. Phone a friend
Sometimes staying connected is as simple as picking up the phone—and no, we don’t mean texting. In our digital-focused world, it’s not uncommon for the majority of our communication to be done via texting or social media. Calling your family and friends is a tried and true way to stay connected. Most phones allow you to chat with multiple lines, so staying connected to a bigger group is simple. Exchange a “Good morning” or a “Good night” with your family and friends on the other side of the world.
14. Get your game on
Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or looking for something new, video gaming with long-distance family and friends is an easy and fun way to stay connected. Certain video games have multiplayer options, allowing you and others to game together. Animal Crossing is a popular life simulation game that allows you to visit your friends’ towns within the game. If traditional video games aren’t your thing, there are plenty of internet games you can turn to like Words With Friends, which lets you play the game and chat with friends directly in the app.
15. Make the most of messaging apps
There are countless apps to help you stay connected to family and friends. Beyond the usual repertoire of Facebook and Instagram, apps like WhatsApp can help you easily communicate with loved ones on other sides of the globe. Send texts, pictures, videos, and voice notes or get the whole family together with a group chat.
16. Take an online workout class
Working out with your family and friends is a great way to motivate yourself to live a healthier life. Thanks to the internet, you can exercise with your loved ones even if you’re on other sides of the globe. Search “free online workouts” and you’ll find thousands of results for video workouts to make getting your heart rate up at home easier. Schedule a workout date with your best friend and get ready to sweat it out.
17. Learn something new together
Whether with family or friends, learning something new together is a great way to strengthen your bond. Thanks to MasterClass, there are plenty of ways you and your loved ones can learn together. Sharpen your photography skills with renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. Learn how to get laughs from comedic genius Judd Apatow. Or try out your acting chops with none other than Samuel L. Jackson.
18. Put a different kind of space between you
Looking for a fun way to connect with family and friends when there’s space between you? Try going to space. Thanks to NASA, you and your loved ones can now tour the International Space Station together, all from the comfort of your homes.
19. Share a laugh
Laughter does the soul good—especially when shared. Schedule a time for you and your loved ones to connect via FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom, and watch a stand-up comedy show together online. Even though you can’t be physically together, sharing a laugh can make everyone feel closer.
20. Send money to show your support
Sending money is not only a way to assist your loved ones in times of need, but it also gives you a way to connect and show your support to the people you love.
Money transfer apps like Western Union offer the flexibility to send money 24/7, with the assurance that your funds will be delivered to your family and friends. Send money on the go, set up easy repeat transfers, or check fees and exchange rates before sending money to loved ones.
Stay Connected to Family and Friends with Western Union
Sometimes staying connected looks like virtual happy hours and game nights, other times it means sending funds to support your family and friends when they need financial assistance, are celebrating a milestone anniversary, or “just because.”
Western Union is available to customers worldwide. With the Western Union® mobile app, you can easily send money anytime to over 200 countries and territories around the globe with just a few taps. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com or download our mobile app to start your next transfer right now.