Well, well, well look who finally decided to grace us with a new post on her long forgotten blog…
Yes, that would be me, Nicole, the urchin who has not written in more than five months. Some blogger I am! Look folks I’m so sorry for that, but I’ve been busy studying for and passing my PMP certification exam. What is that you’re wondering? (Or maybe you don’t care, but…) Similar to any type of professional certification, it’s a piece of paper that basically says Nicole knows her shit when it comes to project management best practices and if you want to hire her you’ll have to pay the big bucks (in theory).
What else was I doing while I was neglecting my adoring fans… TRAVELING! In the last five months I’ve been all up and through Germany and Namibia–I spent nine days in Germany in August and I recently returned from a 16-day trip to Namibia just last week.
What do both these AMAZING trips have in common? I was visiting my best buddies. Now these are not ‘basic’ friends. These folks are in the upper echelon of friendships. This is an important distinction because there are some friends you can only handle in doses and you wouldn’t want to be stuck in another country with them under any circumstances.
Anna Bea, a resident of Mannheim, Germany, was my roommate for over a year here in Jersey City. She’s since visited me on occasion and I figured it was time to return the favor. And Tangeni, my bestie in Windhoek, Namibia, was at the University of Maryland with me while I was getting my Master’s degree back in 2001. He’s since visited me no less then four times and each time he reminded me that we are not “truly” friends until I visit his “ancestral home.”
So to get to the point of this post, I’m here to tell you why visiting your friends abroad can be the BEST kind of travel.
1. Trusted travel adviser
Friends can give you a reality check if you’re trying to pack too much into your itinerary and they can offer suggestions for where to go and how to get there. If you give your best bud a good amount of notice he or she may be willing to take off some time to spend with you and they might even help you plan your vaca. It was Anna Bea who suggested that I visit Cologne, Heidelberg, Munich and Berlin before and after visiting her in Mannheim. Without her help I felt overwhelmed trying to narrow down where to go. She helped me look up train schedules and clued me in about the 4-day unlimited travel train pass. Tangeni and his amazing girlfriend Nankelo actually planned my entire itinerary for Namibia. I asked about a few places and if they were doable in the time I had and within days they sent me a complete itinerary!
2. Insider’s advantage
Your besties know you way better than TripAdvisor so they’re going to make better recommendations about places to go. In most cases you probably share similar tastes. They’re also more likely to take you places that aren’t in the guidebooks. Your experience will be so much more authentic when your traveling with someone that lives in the country. They know where to get the best traditional food. They know where the locals hang out and party.
3. Built-in social network
You’ll also meet all of their friends and family who will embrace you and adopt you immediately. This means you’ll have many home-cooked meals, party invites, and day-trip companions, things you won’t easily come by when you’re traveling alone or without a native. You’re guaranteed to make some new friends that will make you feel right at home in a foreign place.
4. Safety net
With your new friends at your back you’re more likely to be daring, take more risks, and fully enjoy yourself knowing that you can call for back up. Run out of money–no problem! Get arrested–no big deal! You have people! Your friends can also help you with any language barriers and cultural norms.
5. Bond with your buddy
Seeing your friend in their home, with their friends and family, in their comfort zone, will bring out quirks and nuances about them that you didn’t know before. Special moments like meeting their parents or holding their children are priceless. There’s no doubt that you already loved this person before your visit, but these new rich experiences with them will expand your heart and broaden your mind. It is through friendship that you will perceive, understand, and learn about a culture so different from your own.
In my next several posts I’ll detail my trips to Namibia and Germany so stay tuned. I’m back, baby!