Trip Planning: tapping into the Diaspora

From the ceiling of the India Village Restaurant where I met the owner, Jackie.

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.

Your Experience?

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!

 

  • http://feedingyourself.weebly.com Barbara

    I had an internet date in France. Amongst the things we did was a dinner cooked by a local lady for a group of his friends. There was poached salmon and lavender ice cream.

  • http://feedingyourself.weebly.com Barbara

    An Indian wedding!! What luck!! If I could put something like that on my bucket list, that would be right up there. I’ve got the clothes for it.

  • Preeti nag

    Hi Jenny, I think you should totally go in for dhoombox as a gift. Its a wonderful gift – box of experiences where you can gift everything from adventure to spas and music classes also.Its always an experience more than a product that stays with a person. There are various themes you can choose from according to what you think the couple will really like.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hmmm. Money seemed to be the main gift for the couple. There was a ceremonial giving of money when the couple received individuals and their gifts and had pictures taken. They also circled money around their heads to bring them good fortune. Have a wonderful time at the anniversary celebration.

  • Anand852001

    ok hi jenny.Am from kolkata.It is a tradition city with loads of warmth n love.i think you should gift your friends mother a beautiful saree and his father Pajama Kurta with Coat.That would be amazing.

  • Jennyindia18

    Talking about a wedding.. and especially an Indian one, gifts are a really really important part of the whole tradition. I’ve heard that gifting is a big phenomena there. Being someone from outside makes it even more harder- cause you never know what they like, what they don’t, what offends them, what doesn’t. I live in BKK but keep coming to India. The next time il be coming is also for a wedding of my friend’s parents 25th anniversary in Kolkata. Any suggestions for gifts…

  • http://www.neverstoptraveling.com/ Jim @NeverStopTraveling

    That’s an incredible way to be introduced to a country and its culture Janice. And there are diaspora all over the world, many displaced my economic or social reasons. Tapping into the — even by accident, as in your case — is fantastic. I hope you have an wonderful time. Aren’t Indian weddings supposed to be incredible? I look forward to you telling us about your adventure.

  • http://twitter.com/BreatheDreamGo Mariellen Ward

    Thanks for the shout-out Janice! I am so excited about your trip, and can’t wait to find out what you think / feel about India. I would love to get a guest post from you on Breathedreamgo about your first impressions. Safe travels, my friend!