We’ve all said it. “I really need a vacation!” That common phrase is uttered in offices and at happy hours all across this great land of ours by people in desperate need of some time away from their everyday lives.
Unfortunately, breaking the inertia of that hectic yet mundane existence can be challenging. What you need is some decision-making lubrication. Put down the WD-40 and instead check your address book. Nothing makes for an affordable, memorable and energizing trip than a visit to a friend. What seems like a simple idea can spawn some of the best possible adventures. If you don’t believe me, well, I’m writing this from Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon Territory. I’m here visiting my friend Eva Holland of World Hum. And this isn’t the first time I’ve traversed the globe just to say hi to a someone I know. So, what makes visiting a friend such a special vacation? Let’s count the ways.
1. A Good Excuse – OK, we’ve determined that you need a vacation but may have a hard time summoning the motivation to pull the trigger. Visiting a friend gives you the perfect excuse to get off your ass, ask for some time off and get away from your everyday life for a while. There’s no planning or research necessary. Just ask your friend if you can come, ask your boss if you can leave and then get going!
2. It’s Cheap(er) – Sure, you’re going to need a plane/bus/train ticket and that’s going to cost you a bit. But when you arrive at your friend’s house, you’ll have a place to stay and a kitchen in which to cook your own meals. Accommodations and food can be the two biggest expenses once you’re on the ground. Knock those costs down a few pegs and your trip just got a whole lot more affordable. And that just means more cheesie souvenirs and drinks for you (and for your friend, since you should treat her to a round or two for being your host)..
3. Friendly Tour Guide – Who needs guidebooks and expensive tours when you have a local friend? Not only can your buddy share his expertise with you, you’ll get to experience the destination through the eyes of a local. Of course, seeing the touristy sights is worth it, but the best experiences often come at seemingly innocuous local restaurants or on lazy days in a park. Share a “typical” afternoon with your friend and enjoy a slice-of-life experience that no tourist would ever have. You’ll leave having a better understanding of the place than you would if you just followed that guidebook’s advice.
4. Getting to Know You – Odds are, if you’re visiting this friend, you’ve kept in touch with her since she moved away. You’ve listed to her stories on the phone, followed her on Twitter and killed time at work by perusing her online photo galleries. But do you really have a sense of what her new life is like? By visiting a friend, you’ll have a new appreciation for her anecdotes and everything that she’s shared with you will have more context. You’ll meet her friends, see where she lives and party where she parties. Your friend may have a new life away from you, but there’s no reason that you can’t get to know it (and her) better by paying a visit.
5. New Friends – Speaking of meeting her friends, you’ll get to expand your social circle on your visit. Having you in town will be the perfect excuse for your friend to host a dinner party or rally a group to hit the town. Meeting new people and spending time with locals make travel such a wonderful activity. By visiting someone, you’re guaranteed make new friends on your trip. At the very least, you’ll get some new Facebook friends out of it.
6. Built-In Travel Pal – We’ve written a fair amount about travel companions here at Gadling. But when it comes to visiting a friend, all you need to worry about is getting there. Once you arrive, your friend will be around to create memories with you. Even if he needs to work for part of the time, you’ll still be able to explore your surroundings with him when he’s free rather than always being alone. And those are the types of stories that will make your other friends regret not joining you for that visit.
7. You’re Going Where? – I’m sure I would have gone to Sydney, Amsterdam and Chicago whether or not I knew people there. But I’m not sure when I would have made my way to Fargo or Whitehorse if I didn’t have friends to visit. Going to a somewhat obscure or less “sexy” locale is a fantastic byproduct of visiting a friend, You’ll get to see a place that you may never have experienced and learn that it’s just as awesome, if not more so, than many of the more popular destinations around the world. You can have Paris. I’ll happily spend my week in the Yukon.
8. A Friendly Face – For you, the visit may just be a vacation. For your friend, however, it’s a chance to see a someone familiar. Whether she admits it or not, her new life may still have her longing for the comforts of her old home. Your visit won’t just be about you getting away. It’s will be a chance to remind your friend that she hasn’t been forgotten and that people will actually visit her — no matter how remote her new home may be. Bring a bag of her favorite junk food or a t-shirt from her old local bar and it will be the best gift you can give as a house guest.
Visiting a friend is so much more than just a vacation. It’s a chance to learn about a new place, reconnect with someone special and experience life as a local. Visits to friends often generate the fondest memories of travel, as those trips tend to strengthen old bonds, create new inside jokes and foster a comfort level that is often hard to achieve when traveling to a place that is completely unknown to you.
So, the next time you are desperate to get away and think that it’s just too difficult to plan a trip, consider those friends who have relocated to a place that you never would have imagined going. Write one of them an email or, better yet, give him a call. He’ll be thrilled to hear from you and beyond excited that you want to visit. Before you know it, you’ll be together again. Just be sure to thank him and to pack that gift from home.
Did I miss any good reasons for visiting a friend? Have you had an amazing trip just by reconnecting with someone who had moved away? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.