Three years ago, I changed my travel plans in order to visit friends living in Croatia. The country was definitely on my list, however it didn’t happen to be in the top five “must go now” destinations at the time. What changed my mind? My friends were nearing retirement age, and would soon leave Croatia for their homes back in the United States and Honduras.
What resulted was a more in-depth experience in Zagreb than I may have had if I’d waited and just traveled there on my own later, with their notes and advice. Certainly, I enjoyed their company and the free bedroom. But traveling with them around the city and learning from their life there gave me a unique insight that allowed me to appreciate the often-overlooked capital city.
Making friends on our travels gives us the opportunity to see beyond our perception of a place and get a deeper look at that culture. And taking advantage of contacts we may already have in a destination is often the first step. When you’re making your 2011 travel plans, don’t forget to consider your friends living abroad. Who knows how long they’ll be there!