Your comfort zone that is. I was chatting with a friend who is currently traveling around Ireland and she has been going to some “off the tourist map” type of locations and just loving it. It’s because she is away from the homogeneous tourist areas and really experiencing the country and people. This is typically something that can’t be done when you take the normal tourist route. I’m not saying that you should skip the tourist areas altogether because they are usually full of sites that drew you to there in the first place. But don’t just stop there, make your way beyond the tourists and sellers of fine trinkets and you are bound to discover things that will really get you in tune with the destination.
Countries are more than just their sites and structures. The true identity of a country is its people and their culture. By escaping the trappings of the normal tourist zones and venturing out a little, you are more likely to experience things that will be more memorable in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should just throw caution to the wind and start trekking across the countryside, although there are those that do just that. What I’m saying is that you should look for opportunities to see more of the country in a safe and secure manor. Look for some tourist destinations that offer a little more of the real experience where you might get a chance to see and or interact with the local population. Go ahead, they won’t bite. I promise.
One place that I always know I will find great opportunities to see everyday life is the local market place. You can find them most everywhere, from Japan to Guatemala to Dubai. Not only can you get some great photos but you can really see the cultures come alive. It’s real and honest and not there just to separate you from your money.
Some advice for getting off the beaten path
– Check the local US Embassy website for any tourist warnings.
– Only go during the daylight hours.
– Try not to travel alone. A group of 3 or 4 is even better.
– If you can, hire a driver that speaks your language and knows the area.
– Check out websites like TripAdvisor.
And Number ONE, don’t be the Ugly Tourist. Tread lightly, be polite, smile a lot, ask questions, and be prepared to answer some as well.
Oh, and don’t forget to take some pictures 🙂