Every year around this time, all the usual suspects release their lists of best places to go in the new year. And a couple of years later, those spots start showing up on the “this place is a tourist hell” lists. The ebb and flow of travel journalism creates an instant demand for the hot new places to see. And I am over it. I don’t want to hear about them. And I certainly don’t want to visit them.
I’ve seen enough of the world’s travel highlights that my travel goal going forward is to get random and weird and visit unpopular travel destinations. Here are all the reasons why.
You can get away from the crowds
The most beautiful vineyards in France or jaw-dropping cathedral in Italy can be instantly ruined by a crowd of rude, inconsiderate people. And that’s infuriating and disappointing and exhausting. So I don’t want to travel like that anymore. I’m ready to go where there are no buses full of tourists. I don’t want to be corralled like sheep through any museum. I don’t want to share a beach with 30 thousand people, half of them hocking cheap garbage while I’m trying to relax. I want to be as far away from other people as I possibly can be without blasting off into space.
If you think I’m exaggerating, you probably haven’t spent 3 hours waiting in line to see the Mona Lisa. Now imagine doing that on your honeymoon. And sharing your romantic vacation with a tour group full of pushy, loud assholes. That’s a hard pass on that.
Locals from less-visited places are much more welcoming
Nothing hardens people to foreigners more than ignorant tourists disrespecting their city. The most popular cities in the world (that are basically begging tourists to stay the hell out) are full of people that don’t have time for our shit. And I get that. Because when I’m not being a tourist, I’m surrounded by them where I live.
When someone gets asked the same stupid question 100 times a day because people can’t be bothered to read, of course they get frustrated. Wouldn’t you? So when you visit one of the “hottest travel destinations for 2018,” on top of dealing with a bunch of other visitors, you have to deal with locals who probably already dislike you and will be rude and unhelpful.
On the other hand, places that don’t get a lot of foreigners see visitors as a welcome surprise. They’re curious about what brought you to their side of the world, because they don’t have that same conversation 20 times a day. They’re more likely to help because they’re more likely to be glad you came. And in most cases, they want you to have a good impression of their home and their people.
Unpopular travel destinations save you money
One of the most expensive vacations I took last year was to Machu Picchu. You really can’t judge the cost of a trip by the local cost of living. Because when something is popular to people from other more affluent nations, your experience ends up costing what a bunch of Americans and Europeans are willing to pay for it. A one-way train ride to Machu Picchu alone would pay for an entire week of hotels in Macedonia.
That’s because the famed Inca ruins are on everyone’s bucket list. But talk to people about Macedonia, and they think you’re talking about a dinosaur. Anything that’s been featured repeatedly in a travel magazine, on a top 10 list, on the Travel Channel is going have a constant influx of people driving up the price of everything in that destination. But if you can’t buy a travel guide for it, you’ll probably be traveling there like a king. And then you can write your own.
I want to find hidden gems that are actually hidden
Travel bloggers love to talk about off-the-beaten-path spots, because we all want to be unique, to provide something different. But the most off-the-beaten-path street in Paris is still the most beaten path in the universe. Because it’s still Paris. I want to go so off-the-beaten-path that I don’t even know how to pronounce the name of the place because I’ve never in my life heard anyone utter it.
Why? Because everything else, I’ve already seen on Pinterest. And I don’t want to go somewhere to just check it off a list or take the same picture I’ve seen all over Instagram. It’s nice to not have an expectation every once in a while and just go. Imagine being the person who discovered bioluminescent waters for the first time. You probably can’t. Because instead you’re the person who will go to Puerto Rico to be disappointed that it doesn’t look as bright as it did in pictures.
I don’t know about you. But I rather be the first guy that expected nothing and discovered something magical. And it won’t always be wondrous; it might suck. But until I find out for myself, I want it to remain a mystery.