Tourist Spot or Off the Beaten Path Haven?
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Some travelers skewer tourist spots.
Other travelers bemoan off the beaten path havens, not being able to remotely rough it for more than a few hours.
Ditto for the higher energy proponents of each place. Fans of convenience, masses of meat suits, quick and easy travel and a general emphasis on the bucket list thing gravitate toward tourist spots. Hey; I have been there. I dig a good old popular location here and there.
But I also enjoy being off of the grid. Or entirely off da radar as was the case in the jungles of Costa Rica.
Before you snap judge either as being good or bad, take a deep breath. Let’s add open-mindedness to this equation, shall we?
Rich, fulfilling travel tends to involve a complete experience, including trips to both heavily touristed areas and off the beaten path spots too.
Tourist spots are popular, heavily traveled, world famous spots frequented by tourists.
Times Square in New York City.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
You know the drill.
Let’s breakdown some advantages and drawbacks of tourist spots.
- usually easy to get to (mass transit due to the high volume of tourist traffic)
- make for convenient travel
- highly organized (in most cases)
- food and shelter close by
- almost always eye-popping, or brilliant, locations
I am not a huge fan of tourist spots as a prime travel destination but enjoy the odd visit here and there for the brilliant factor. Tourist spots are highly visited spots for a good reason; walk through Times Square or Angkor Wat and you will see what I mean.
The convenience factor is through the roof; lodging and food games are typically tight in these areas.
- highly popular spots meaning loud masses of tourists diminish experiences
- more expensive because they have tourists by the balls (or, supply and demand at play)
- lose authenticity for the sake of commerce; Tanah Lot in Bali and Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon come to mind as places where the sale of tacky items or just flat out mass commerce does tend to ruin the walks in and walks out of the places
The drawbacks can be strong guys. Although I like seeing world renowned spots, 45 minutes to 2 hours tops and I am out, unless the scale of the place – Angkor Wat – demands more time.
Off the Beaten Path Havens
I have lived in quiet spots off the beaten path and in an outright off the grid spot in Costa Rica.
For the purpose of this post, let’s say an off the beaten path spot is some 15-30 minutes outside of a town center, in a quiet, serene community.
- quiet, peaceful, more private setting
- less expensive
Kelli and I tend either house sit or rent places that are off of the beaten path. We prefer this method of traveling because peace, quiet and authenticity mean a great deal to us.
Example; we house sat in the farmlands of Jimbaran, Bali a few years back for 6 months. This was a quiet, sleepy Balinese village with more cows than people, small warungs, nary a word of English spoken, critters, wilderness, the whole 9 yards.
Ride the motorbike for 10 minutes though and you experience a main drag in Jimbaran, with tourist buses dominating the road, Chinese restaurants, a McDonald’s and other heavy commerce. I may stop by for a Big Mac here and there but ain’t traveling 23 hours across the world to live by McDonald’s for a month in Bali. I want to feel like I am in Bali. Not New Jersey.
- a bit inconvenient
- fear factor a bit higher (more interactions with wildlife)
- language barrier
- cultural differences
Although I enjoyed our house sit in Jimbaran, being a distance from town was not too convenient. I did learn some Indonesian but sometimes struggled to chat with locals at the warung when buying stuff. I also recall guys showing up at the door in rent a cop outfits, as village police, asking for a “village tax” which is code for “Get some money from the rich white homeowners.”
Although I embrace these aspects of living in off the beaten path spots I do feel agitation at times being in such uncomfortable situations, whereas you rarely face this stuff living by tourist spots.
Seriously; visit both type of places. Get the full travel experience.
Over time you can find preference.
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