When I embarked on my World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrimage earlier this month, I intended to blog my way through my 10 days in Brazil.  Unfortunately, I did not expect that the lack of time, a less than cooperative rental phone, and spotty cell service would put a wrench in this plan.  Gratefully, I was able to use Twitter to get my message out – 140 characters at a time!

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The first reason I choose Twitter over Facebook as my means of communication had to do with the little amount of battery it takes.  I could leave the hotel at 8 a.m. and still have a half-charged phone by 8 p.m.  The day I left myself logged onto Facebook, the phone was drained within six hours.

I also love how my Twitter posts are sent directly to Facebook–one of these days I’ll figure out Hoot Suite so that I can hit all my social media at once.  Though I discovered after a day of posting that my tweets would only post to my personal Facebook page, and not the Reconciled To You Facebook page.  Side note:  This is just another technology mystery I am unable to answer–even after I assured everything was correctly set, the programs are refusing to cooperate.

Interestingly, before tweeting my way through #WYDRio, I had never thought to use hashtags as a way of grouping my trip adventures.  While some people prefer to create their own unique hashtags to coincide with their events, I choose instead to use the hashtags established by the Archdiocese of Boston (under whose umbrella I was traveling) and by CatholicTV – hoping to reach a wider audience with the news and insights I was sharing.   When I have characters left, I try to add the hashtag “#share” – as this appears to assure an automatic retweet, therefore the information will reach even more people.

Additionally, I found Twitter quick to open and the information would send in even the poorest of internet situations.  There were only a few occasions that I was unable to process  and send a tweet.

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The one negative I encountered was in trying to include pictures with my tweets.  In the end, we had to upload Instagram for picture sharing.  The number one lesson I learned was having your technology uploaded, linked, and ready on your smartphone before you leave on your vacation or pilgrimage.  Unfortunately, I did not get my phone until I reached the airport in Boston and it was not activated until we landed in Brazil, leaving me no time to follow my own advice – and why it was nearly the end of the trip before I finally had the time to download and set up Instagram.  Even the simplest function on the phone – Swype, auto-rotate screen and screen time-out – took me days to adjust due to the lack of free time available.

For those friends, family and even strangers you want to share the information with, who are not on Twitter (or Facebook), the hashtags make it easy to search, group and gather the tweets and post them in a blog, website or email.  I also use hashtags to make it easier to relocate posts that I want to use as writing prompts or reminders.

Here are a few of my tweets from my World Youth Day experience, to show that when strung together – 140 characters can truly tell an entire picturesque story (tweets unedited):

Finally here waiting for train to Christ The Redeemer Statue!! So blessed to be here #WYD

Came face to face with my favorite #EWTN Priest, Fr. Mark Mary yesterday was too #shy to say hi.  Such a #Catholic dork #WYD2013 #Grace

Just drove by building where Pope having lunch!!! At least that is what our guide said #WYDBOS

By the way at 5ft tall I see nothing.lol #WYDBOS lots of happy screaming catholics #blessed

Meeting Pilgrims from World - Tradition of exchanging small gifts so cool - my first finger #RosaryBeads #Obrigada #BlessedMother #WYDBOS

Make that 100% chance of rain lol #WYDBOS Perfect beach day :-)

Remembered sitting in car waiting for my son to get a video game, wondering if kids would ever line up like that for Jesus #Yes #WYDBOS

Cardinal Dolan was so inspiring  #DoNotBeAfraid to #Trust in God. He  keeps his promises #WYDBOS #CTVWYD13

If U Wondered: #JMJ is initials for World Youth Day in Portuguese, although I do love that it often stands for Jesus Mary Joseph #WYDBOS

I'm definitely old, if I prefer bathrooms, food, comfy chairs, no rain, and warmth to atmosphere of being with Pope in person!! #WYDBOS

Incredible meeting deaf from around the world ...learned how to sign bathroom in brazilian #MayComeHandy #WYDBOS

Adoration and Benediction with Pope Francis and it included a song by @MattMaher....no biggie!! #PinchMe #WYDBOS #CTVWYD13

We DID it! we completed our Pilgrimage! It was a powerful experience, I will be sharing blogs for quite a while. #GoForth #WYDBOS #Grace

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I shall be reaping the spiritual fruits of this trip for a very long time to come, please keep visiting my blog, as I plan to continue to write – the trip may be over but the Pilgrimage will continue through stories and reflections.

I am very much anticipating my next pilgrimage March 22-31, 2014, which will include 5-star hotels and luxury motorcoaches (if you are interested in joining us check out the flyer) – though you can assured it will be still be a very spiritually rich experience.  Follow all the Reconciled To You events and activities at hashtag #RTY.

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Copyright 2013 Allison Gingras