7 Actions that Enhanced my Vacation with my International Friends

I am so blessed! I have met such amazing friends while traveling abroad, and none as close as the friends I made on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage in Spain. I met 5 friends and a donkey on my first Camino, and we all remained very good friends throughout the 6 past years. All of them visited me in Canada and I often stayed at their home in France.

Last month, I had the pleasure to host two of my French friends for three weeks. French is my first language, so communicating wasn’t too much of a challenge, although France French and Canada French vary quite a lot, not only in the choice of words but also the accent. Since we all traveled often, we have gotten used to our respective accents. Given we came from different cultures, we enhanced our time together by doing 7 things. I would like to share those with you, and perhaps you will share some of your travels with friends from abroad.

1 – Adjust meal times. This is actually a noticeable difference in our cultures. My friends typically eat dinner later in the evening, while we tend to eat around 6:30 pm or so. We moved the time to 7:00-7:30 pm, a mid-point for all of us.

2 – During the planning phase of the 3 week holiday, I asked them to give me a list of things they wanted to do or visit, in order of importance. I really wanted to ensure I wasn’t going to be dragging them somewhere they didn’t enjoy or plan to see. A very high on the list location was Niagara Falls. This turned out to be a great idea since I had not been there before (even though I live a mere 7-hour drive away).  I likely would not have thought about the Falls since I expected they wanted to choose locations closer to my hometown. I’m so happy we went as it turned out to be well worth the drive.

At Niagara Falls

3 – We took turns making the meals. This was fun and delicious as they got to experience our way of eating and we feasted on some very tasty French meals. We also visited my brother and his wife for a few days, and they delighted us with a true Quebec style dinner and they enjoyed the French dinner my friends prepared for all of us.

typical Quebec meal

 

Typical French meal

4 – We had deep conversations during our many day trips on so many subjects. I would let them start the conversation which typically was “In Canada, how do you …” and we would share our experiences and learned much about our respective countries. The subjects ranged from getting a driving license to higher study costs; from politics to burial traditions; from retirement funds to buying groceries. We truly talked about anything and everything!

5 – I let them know they could ask me to stop driving at any time to take pictures. I really wanted them to feel they could do so, as I realized early on that what I thought was interesting to photograph wasn’t always their main interest. One interesting fact was that in France, due to the narrow streets and highways, large 18 wheeler trucks are not seen in their part of the world. They would ask me to slow down as we passed the big transport trucks and they would photograph many of the larger ones. The bigger surprise for them came when they saw a double large truck (two 53 foot trailer together, 32.5 meters in total)! They also were totally surprised by the number of pumpkins we had for sale. Since they came in October pumpkins were available mostly for Halloween, which is a big event for us. They really couldn’t get enough of our vast amount of pumpkins!

pumpkins galore

6 – I typically dislike going grocery shopping and I tend to go for what is needed and rush out as quickly as possible. I soon discovered that a trip to the grocery store could take up to an hour as I realized that they really enjoyed looking at all the different food we have, the different packaging, and we had a great time comparing the cost of different items. They did the same in clothing and outdoor stores which was a fun thing for me to do with them. I remember doing the same the first time I went to a grocery store in Spain. This turned a chore (shopping) into a really fun activity for us.

7 – We spent a lot of time talking about the different expressions we have and how our same language was at times, quite different. We enjoyed learning twists and turns of words and learned a lot about our common and not so common way of speaking.

I was sad to see them leave after three weeks of spending all our time together but we already have plans to meet up both in Spain and France this coming spring and summer. I gained a new appreciation of my country and my culture as well as understand more about theirs. It was a fabulous experience!

My friends from France and I

What have you learned from traveling with others from different countries or cultures?

apptraveler

Retired exec consultant who traveled for more than 4 decades, both corporate and leisure. I appreciate my travel experience and want to share tips, photos and stories with readers! I live in Ottawa Canada and have traveled to 31 countries.

31 thoughts on “7 Actions that Enhanced my Vacation with my International Friends

  • November 13, 2017 at 7:30 am
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    That’s awesome, its good to have time together and do stuff. I like to cook with my friends and/or brothers when we hang out. I like the picture with the big chair, i think its good memory to capture. You all look so awesome.

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    • November 13, 2017 at 7:36 am
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      Thanks Jack for your comments. We had such a great time together and yes, the big chair was a hoot!

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  • November 13, 2017 at 9:49 am
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    Sounds like you guys had a blast! And you exchanged good times (and great food) too!

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    • November 14, 2017 at 1:36 pm
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      Hi Andrea, thanks for your comments. We had a blast, that is true! and the great food was a bonus!

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  • November 13, 2017 at 7:25 pm
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    Both my husband and daughter walked the Camino de Santiago- the friendships made along the trail are truly something special! I’m much more often the traveler than the host but this list would be helpful on either end. It really is the little things that count- what a sweet thought to compromise on meal times.

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    • November 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm
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      Hi Lois, Nice to hear from someone who “gets” the Camino relationships – it is truly a unique type of friendship that is unlike any other I have.

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  • November 13, 2017 at 9:08 pm
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    You were very accommodating and it worked out well. (I need to go see niagra falls!)

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    • November 14, 2017 at 1:34 pm
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      Hi Jen, thanks for your comments. I get treated like a queen each time I visit my French friends, so it’s only right I do the same! Niagara Falls is worth seeing at least once in a lifetime!

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  • November 14, 2017 at 1:09 am
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    That is so awesome! I am in a group on facebook for moms with kids who were born the same month as my oldest and we have moms from all over the US, one in Canada, one in Germany, and a bunch in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. I have met a couple of them in person, but would love to travel to meet more of them and see their countries as well!

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    • November 14, 2017 at 1:33 pm
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      Stephanie, Thanks for your comments. What a neat premise for a group! Sounds like you have a great diverse group of friends!

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  • November 14, 2017 at 8:45 am
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    This is amazing! It is always sad to see your loved ones leave after an awesome time spend together. But it’s great that you guys will meet soon. Your picture of sitting in the big chair is awesome!

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    • November 14, 2017 at 1:32 pm
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      Thanks for your comments – the departure was challenging, but we see each other each year, so that is a good thing.

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  • November 14, 2017 at 1:52 pm
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    You sound like a wonderful host! And how lovely it is to have friends from other countries. We learnt since very young as my family liked to have exchange students staying with us, it was always an interesting experience!

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:37 am
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      Hi Cynthia, thanks for your comments. You just triggered a memory by mentioning student exchanges. I didn’t get a chance to participate in those when I was in school but I had friends who did. I always think that doing any type of exchange, and the younger the participants, the better, is a great insight into cultural differences and learning about others.

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  • November 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm
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    I love this!!! I would love to gain friends on a vacation and share that friendship years later. Visiting each other’s countries with a experienced friend as tour guide is the top of visiting anywhere! I get the grocery store trips because we had an exchange student a couple years ago for a couple weeks and she just looked at our food too.

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:35 am
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      Hi Rose, thanks for your comments. Grocery stores are some of my favorite things to visit while touring a new country. I even like to compare brands we have in Canada and abroad, as the adverts on the packaging can be so different!

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:34 am
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      Hi Janella, Thanks for your comments. It’s been a true pleasure to travel with them and will be again in the future. I am truly blessed.

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  • November 15, 2017 at 2:27 am
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    It’s so nice to get the chance to meet people when you travel and get to know them too. It sounds like you found friends that are worth keeping!

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:32 am
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      Thanks AnnMarie for your comments. They are truly amazing friends, and friends for life.

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  • November 15, 2017 at 5:53 am
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    I love how good the duck looks there. Absolutely delicious. I have never really had a meat pie, unless you consider an Empenada one. That’s great you can adjust things to have better relations while out traveling.

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:32 am
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      Hi David, Not only did the duck look good, but it tasted so delicious. That was a real treat!

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  • November 15, 2017 at 9:41 am
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    I love that you guys make the effort to do this. It looks like everyone is having a great time.

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:31 am
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      Thanks for your comment Jill. We did have a great time, and will again, no doubt!

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  • November 15, 2017 at 10:03 am
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    Whoa!! It looks like you are having a ton of fun. and I really like the awesome shot of the big chair.

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:30 am
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      Hi Candy, thanks for your comments. It’s amazing how many readers have commented on the big chair. It was a fun find, for sure!

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  • November 15, 2017 at 5:19 pm
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    what a great experience for you (and your friends)… I love your tips on what worked for you all, esp taking turns to cook so you can try different types of food, yum! Glad it was fun!

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:29 am
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      Thanks Eloise for your comments. The food experience was by far one of their favorites!

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    • November 21, 2017 at 10:29 am
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      Hi Krystal, thanks for your comments. It may sound strange, but after our walk on the Camino for 3 weeks, we felt as connected as family members.

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