Half the fun of traveling is in the planning. Investing in the idea of a place is part of the experience. Expectations develop and excitement rises. You look at photos of destinations and imagine yourself there. The travel bug has caught you, even before you have left the house.
Planning your next travel adventure but unsure where to start? Why not try this experiment:
Don’t do any research. Don’t just go to places you’ve heard of. Don’t even point to a random spot on a map. Instead – plan your route depending on who you know.
You likely have some friends scattered somewhere around the globe. You talk to them on Facebook and always vaguely promise to visit sometime. Well now’s the time! Draw a circle around the towns where you know someone and plan your route accordingly. It is a great random, spontaneous way of planning your next trip. And – you get to see long lost buddies. Just be sure to give them a call in advance! But, after all – who doesn’t love friends coming to visit. The perfect situation – read on for the reasons why.
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See the hidden gems of a city
Visiting friends gives you the local perspective. Rather than following tourists around the classic route of a city, you can see its hidden gems. Allow your friends to take you to their favorite places – an obscure bookshop, an underground bar, the best, understated view of the city. If they live in a natural area, these gems can be exceptionally beautiful – a secret beach, or a perfect spot to watch the sunset. Find the secrets known only to your friends – and now to you.
Have a personal tour guide
If you do want to see the main sights of a city, no worries – you have a personal tour guide. If they are from a city, they have passed the main sights enough times to know the tourist hot spots. They probably also know all the cheap tricks. A tower with a better view and less expensive fares. The days when museums are half price. A plus one loyalty ticket. Embrace their local knowledge, and avoid getting caught out by hidden tourist costs. Also, friends can add personal embellishments to the usual, mainstream tours. All the fun of exploring a city without the dull tour guide.
It is also fun for your friends
Everybody loves showing off his or her hometown. They can play tour guide and show you their favorite spots. Let them boast insider knowledge and take pride in their city. Moreover, visitors bring a fresh perspective to an old place. By staying with friends, you can help them appreciate the beauty of everyday things. You might notice something they walk past daily. Repeatedly tell them how lovely their city is or highlight small marvels they might no longer recognize. Either way – there is a strong inspiration of gratitude that comes with visitors. Yes, it’s great to visit old friends. But, hopefully – it is just as fun for them.
Go to less mainstream places
This way of choosing a route ensures that your whole journey will be truly original. You might visit small towns in the middle of a country. Maybe unknown coastal towns or rising cities – just because you know a friend there. Avoid the well-trodden tourist roads. Your path might not be the most popular. It might be winding, random and not very logical. But it will be unique, and chosen for the best reasons.
You have immediate friends
Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling. Hostels can be fantastic, but also intimidating. Sometimes you might not have the energy to meet new people. Always engaging in small talk can be tiring. When staying with friends, none of this matters. You are already happy and comfortable in their company. No need for small talk, just immediately at ease. Furthermore, you can meet friends of friends and temporarily immerse yourself in an entirely new friendship group.
Live like a local
By visiting friends, you are not just another tourist; you have the opportunity to live like a local. Fit into the routine of someone who lives in the area. Witness the daily life of a citizen. Hang out with their friends, follow their routes through a city, and eat at their favorite restaurants. No need for maps. If you are lost, just give your friend a call. This way, you can avoid rushing around and following tourist pathways. Instead, you know exactly where to go and what to do. Plus, it probably won’t be down the most mainstream routes. Ultimately, you will feel like you have been there much longer than you actually have.
See your friends!
More than just travel, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with old friends. If you live far apart, there is a good chance you have not seen each other in a while. You are making an active choice to spend time with these particular people. Enjoy the travel experience together. Jump from moment to moment, from friends to friends. You can move about independently yet share the company of those you like best. You have a friendly face waiting for you in every city you visit. What better reason is there to travel than to see your favorite people?
You have a place to stay
The final and weakest reason: you have a place to stay. Rather than sleeping in a standard youth hostel full of strangers, you are in a home, accommodated by a friend. You immerse yourself within a local neighborhood. Nobody knows not to mistake you for a resident living there. The base of a friend’s house is welcoming and personal. You have the freedom to cook together in their kitchen. Or, just settle down and watch a movie in the evening. A temporary home away from home, where you can fully relax and enjoy the local travel experience.
Travel is an undeniably amazing life experience. However, constant movement can sometimes risk old relationships. It is harder to maintain friendships when you are always away from home. That is why visiting friends while traveling is a perfect compromise. Share your experience with your favorite people rather than merely telling them stories about it. The stories you do tell will be better for it – more personal and more original. When deciding your next travel options, choose a route depending on who you know. The result is an entirely rewarding experience.