I usually try to phone home every few days to chat and check on things. In addition, I try to check my voicemail on a daily basis in case something needs urgent attention; my family knows to leave a message there in an emergency.
A private personal blog is also a good way to stay in touch. Selected persons who have been given the URL can follow the trip's progress and post messages, much like a bulletin board. This is also a good way to communicate when a major trip is to be coordinated among multiple riders from geographically separated areas.
Internet access is usually not a problem because Wi-fi hotspots and Internet cafes are commonplace. In addition, most public libraries provide access to the Internet and even provide the computers.
The Spot Satellite Messenger looks very promising for allowing others to track a rider's location and for sending a help or distress message if needed. It has received good reviews and is not too expensive. I'll probably purchase one before departing on my next major trip.
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