The Real #1 Travel Tip: MAKE FRIENDS! 🙂
Since I believe that in all areas of life, relationship is of primo import, it’s no surprise that the real number one travel tip in my mind is to make your travels all about relationships: visiting friends who live in travel-worthy locales, traveling with friends from home to countries abroad, and being open to making new friends wherever you may end up. You can do this whether you’re traveling alone or with friends. Some of my all-time favorite travel memories involve adventures with friends I made “on the road.” To name only a few examples of many: I went to Morocco in September of 2009 with Karsten, a German guy, and Felicia, an American girl, I met in Spain; I visited Denmark in December of 2009 because I met Jess the Dane and his friends in Tarifa, Spain in October; I was blessed enough to be invited to stay in a posh apartment in downtown Wellington, New Zealand in February of 2010 because I’d kept in touch with Amber and Paul, a Kiwi couple I met in Vienna Austria in July of 2009; and in November of 2009, one of my best friends and travel mates, Margie, and I were invited to an authentic, local Argentinian BBQ/dance party/bonfire near Mendoza. It was the tail end of Margie’s and my month-long South American adventure. We both agreed that Mendoza was one of our favorites from the get-go. Our first day there we partook in an awesome paragliding excursion, and when as signed up for that, we concurrently committed to doing a whitewater rafting, rappelling, hiking expedition the following day. So, off we went, west, into the Mendoza area countryside. Disembarking from a small bus full of young tourists, we gathered near a picturesque cabin from whence all the adventures were to begin. There were many early 20’s, blond, cute, petite girls in the group, but I guess Margie’s and my silliness caught the eye of some of the guides. (We have personalities! Haha.) After going through the usual pre-brief with the wide-eyed gaggle, a couple of the guides joked with us individually and on our bus ride to the drop off point. The usually class 4 rapids were a calm 2 or 3 due to low water levels, but it was still a lot of fun. After dropping of all white-water-rafting-associated gear, Margie and I set off with another guide for the rappelling and hiking portion of tour during which we engaged in some broken Spanish conversation with the guide they call Flaco. He seemed quite entertained by Margie’s and my usual antics: crass comments, sarcasm, and inappropriate poses for pictures. Upon returning to the cabin where snacks, drinks, and a pool were available to all excursion participants, Margie and I grabbed a couple of beers and went out to the deck to relax. A few of the white water rafting guides invited us over, into their specially roped off “guides only” area, so we kindly obliged. They chatted us up a bit and seemed to get our sarcastic sense of humor, so it made for easy conversation. Then they asked us if we’d been to an Argentinian barbecue yet. Well, no, we hadn’t. “Would you like to go to one?” they asked. “Yes, we would,” we answered. And they invited us to their house where all the guides lived to attend the BBQ party they were hosting later that night. Margie and I asked for a moment to discuss the matter. We hunched over and put our heads together. “What do you think?” we both asked one another. “I think it sounds like fun. But is it safe?” We glanced over our shoulders at the guys. “We could take ’em if we had to,” we decide. We tell them we’ll go, we appreciate the invite, etc, but plainly inform them that if any of them tries to lay a hand on us, we’ll kill them. Ok, so this isn’t our normal protocol, but we figured in this case better to be safe than sorry and to give them fair warning that we weren’t to be messed with. Then, c’est la vie! We got a good vibe from them and felt it was a unique event worth experiencing.
Great success! Our gut instincts did not lead us astray. No one was creepy with us at any point throughout the night; moreover, we learned a lot about the culture (ie: differences between Patagonians and regular Argentinians), new jokes (“bonnie rabbits”), and how to cook Argentine-style (we actually helped them prepare the food). We had an absolutely wonderful night full of talking, laughing, cooking, dancing, and some impromptu music playing. That night was, by far, one of my favorite nights of all my travels abroad, and it would not have been possible without Margie and I both having the open mind and courage to go for it.