Yupp, there it is — Facebook is USEFUL. No, not like investigating how ugly Tara’s newborn is useful-but actually useful. Where did we go wrong? It used to be so progressive, so established with the youth. Now it’s a hipster rite of passage to exhibit their evolution to more sophisticated past times, turning their ring adorned noses up to the mere mention of a wall post. Well, my traveling friends, fear not what the hipsters say, you’re defiant of the trends anyway. It’s in your nature. Use Facebook with no trepidations. Let it guide you.
1. City expat groups can be your best friend
To say these groups are useful is an understatement, really. I found an apartment, motorbike and a job in Saigon in under a week. UNDER A WEEK. Visualize a coffee shop message board, newspaper and your favorite travel guru all in one. Actually, picture your favorite travel guru in a coffee shop, sitting near the message board while reading a newspaper. There you have a Facebook expat group, bestowing upon you all the information you could ever want for. If your dwindling funds leave you feeling troubled, you can trust that the job listings and freelance opportunities will console your money belt. Local realtors are practically begging to see you sans backpack and civilized in an apartment you could never afford at home. Your home page will be teeming with promising apartments and houses for rent. Weary travelers aren’t a rare sight. Head in hand, asleep in a café or losing their minds on the poor rickshaw guy who asked them one too many times if they needed a ride, we’ve all been there. Whether it’s a place to see live music or an international grocery store selling frosted flakes, the member’s suggestions can alleviate your weary traveler woes. It’s all there and it’s all for you!
2. Keep in touch and stay in touch with old friends and new
Your friends miss you and your family does too (maybe). When you post those killer skydiving photos, they’re looking. When you share your insights on the hygienic value of the squat toilet, they’re reading them. Let them into your life, let them live out those experiences through you (perhaps conveniently forget to mention the nose picking, soup slurping stranger you woke up to in your bed on the overnight train). This is their portal, the bread crumb trail back into your life. Travelers have loads of down time, who are we kidding? We aren’t always off canyoning and snorkeling with whale sharks. Take the time, send those guys back home a message letting them know you still care about their lives. Show them you are still interested even when you can’t experience it with them.
Apart from the socially inept, a traveler is bound to meet some new “travel buddies!!!!” Those who rip you from the grips of loneliness with tales of adventures far more badass than all of the “badass” adventures you thought you were having. They mend your spirit with their camaraderie and give you that familial feeling that someone might, just might care enough about you to bring you to the hospital when you come down with dengue fever. When the time comes to leave your new comrade, you realize how temporary it all really was and how now, you will have to begin again, finding someone new to reassure you that the street stall clams you just had for lunch were safe to eat. Although seemingly lost in the waves of your voyage, Facebook helps you hold on to pals like these, allowing you to swap new badass stories and plans to meet up in other distant lands. Your friendships don’t have to end when your hostel reservation does.
3. Receiving and giving advice
There you are, in your musty hotel room. You just arrived in Hanoi and instead of wandering the alleys and dodging traffic in an adrenalin filled panic you are on Tripadvisor researching with the fervor of a grad student, which restaurant you should give a visit. This is madness and even you know that you should stop wasting time. You have your travel buds to rely on, did you forget? They are all there, living in your friends list, just a message away. Be prepared, message those who have been to your future destination ahead of time and get their suggestions. Now you’ll have more time and energy to argue with the fruit sellers over the insane price they want to charge you for bananas. If Amy just posted photos from Thailand and you’re heading there next, ask her which city you should give a miss and which one is worth your while. While you’re at it, get her to suggest a hotel and throw in a bar recommendation too. Your time lounging on the beach just went up significantly, thanks Amy. Don’t forget that TAKE TAKE TAKE is not the way of a true traveler. You need to give, help out your friends and acquaintances. Hand off the number of that hilarious and fairly priced tour guide you used for the Great Wall. Share the gift of an unforgettable experience or a hostel that felt like home. Be enthusiastic about your reply to friends when you see that little red bubble over your message feature. Give back to the community. Karma, never forget about karma.
4. Choosing activities to do while traveling
We’re travelers! Give us knowledge and experience, let us do what we’ve never done before! Can we? Oh, you bet. Trips, classes, excursions and entertainment, the selection is vast and the quality is uneven. Luckily for us most companies have Facebook pages now and we can welcome relief after hazily sifting through options like a disheartening pile of history homework. Facebook is a place you can start and if a company doesn’t even have one, well, you already know one excursion you won’t be attending. The page will bring the tour to life, make it more real. You can watch videos and see pictures with actual people that you could probably reach out to if you wanted to (even though it’s a little creepy). It provides interactive information-how many people have given them a like, what comments did people make? If it looks and sounds like the people on the page had an epic time, they probably did and if you’re still not sure, check out the comments, they literally do speak for themselves.
Let your travel inspire! Don’t keep all of the life-changing goodness to yourself! What I have found most meaningful over the years is the way my posts have inspired people to travel who otherwise thought it was too unreachable of an idea. Throughout my time as a traveler I have received messages from friends and acquaintances asking me for advice on how they too can have a journey. My family and friends thank me for my posts because they allow them see places that they say they will never get the chance to see in their lifetime. We can’t all be public figures with a sway on society but we can use what we have to bring information and inspiration to others. When you give, you can in turn take and one benefit of having travel friends is that they travel. They share that fiery passion with you and using Facebook as a window, you can watch one another continue your journeys. Their posts and photos of places you may never even have considered of going may begin to persuade and inspire you to head there too. It opens up the world to you just a little more.