Trip Planning: tapping into the Diaspora
I was having dinner at the fabulous India Village Restaurant in Ancaster, Ontario with a friend who knows the owner, Jackie, who soon became a travel advisor for my upcoming trip to India.
The restaurant was packed when we arrived. As the evening eventually slowed down, Jackie joined us at our table and we started talking about India. And then she said some of the most magical words ever:
“My husband and I are going to India on the 24th. Why don’t you come with us? Stay with my family in Chandagarh. Come to my brother’s wedding!”
Of the many, many invitations I’ve received as a traveler, I think this one must be the best. I immediately shifted my plans forward a couple of weeks. If you’re reading this on publishing date, January 25th, I am now on my way to India.
Travel Advisors Can be Found Everywhere
Researching a trip is not really my thing. I like to go and discover along the way. While I can’t deny the value of studying maps, blogs, travel guides and forums to learn the how, where and what of a destination (and I do all those things), my favorite trip planning technique is talking with people. I especially like talking to people who are from my destination country and still connected. Toronto is a great place for this kind of research.
Name a diaspora, and it’s in Toronto.
Last year my big trip of the year was to Chile thanks to my neighbors. They left Chile during the coup in 1971 and, with the country on an even keel again, they bought a condo in their homeland a few years ago. So, with their invitation and a place to stay in Santiago, I went. How fabulous! They coached me before leaving, gave me advice on how to get from the airport to their condo, how to travel the city, what to avoid and what I had to experience. It was wonderful.
While the destination for my major trip of 2012 was not determined by a contact already met, the diaspora stepped in and supported me once I announced my intentions. In addition to Jackie’s connection in the Punjab, I’ve been introduced via the Internet to friends of friends on the ground in India. I have four connections in Delhi thanks to three different contacts, plus two in Bangalore.
I also sat down with Mariellen Ward of Breathe Dream Go, a blogger specializing in India. I consider her an honorary member of the diaspora. Her advice on how and where to travel in India has been invaluable.
Six degrees of separation is not just a catch phrase. It is a proven principle of our connectedness. (Read about the science behind it here). I wonder if your travels have been enhanced by people at home who are from your destination. Please share in the comments below.
Watch for My Posts on India
While I am traveling, most of the posts will be pre-planned so that I can focus on the experience, not on writing for the blog. But I will try to share one post a week about my experiences and many more on my return.
Expect lots of photos!