In the last 3 weeks, I visited a friend’s family in Bihač, Bosnia, an old coworker and her husband in Shepherds Bush, London, good friends I got to know during my time in Tuxedo Park, NY (who happen to be expats in Surrey, London for a couple of years), and a dear friend from college (and travel abroad program, Semester at Sea) who also lives with her British family in Camden, London.

I was greeted with open arms, given tours of cities/towns/countrysides, and provided with cozy beds and hot meals.  Friends on the road become your second family, and it makes long travel days worth it when you arrive and piece together stories of times you’ve missed.  

My friend from Remote Year and I drove from Sarajevo to northern Bosnia before returning to Split, Croatia.  We were visiting my friend’s family in Bihač- a trip I promised to make when I got accepted into RY.  My former coworker, Alma, grew up in Bosnia where she learned English from watching TV.  She had a sister and a brother, and they grew up in a small town near Bihač, which was hit hard by the war.  She lost her brother, a civilian during the war, along with many young men from their town.  Unimaginable tragedies surrounded these incredible people.  21 years after the war, unemployment pushes 50%, winters are cold and long, and money is tight.  I will never forget the 24 hours spent with Alma’s sister and her family- we were treated as if we were long lost relatives back for homecoming.  I commented on how much I loved their bread at dinner one night and Alma’s sister, Zejna, insisted on making us a loaf to take with us.  We left with bags of food, including a giant jar of incredible homemade Rose Hip Jam, which was in limited supply.  I had no choice but to take all it gracefully.  With what little they had, we were treated like royalty.

When we left Bihač, we drove in silence for a while, struck by the kindness of strangers-turned-family.  It was a meeting that could never have taken place without us venturing into Bosnia- not typically #1 on a destination list.  I will forever be grateful I had the opportunity to visit this war-torn country and its people.

I spent Thanksgiving week and weekend in London with 3 different groups of friends, all from different times in my life.  From Shepherds Bush to Surrey to Camden, I got to see some pretty special parts of London, was taken to Stonehenge, Hampton Court, Windsor Palace (thanks, Leigh!), and toured the entire city of London.

Two countries, 3 weeks, and 4 families… here are some photos below.