By Robyn Vinter
“The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Ko Sanh Road.” goes the first line of Alex Garland’s The Beach. In the novel, and subsequent film, if you’re not familiar with it, a traveller acquires a map to a legendary secret beach community and follows it to a paradise, untouched by tourism.
The book encapsulates a feeling amongst travellers of finding something new, experiencing something authentic and raw. One of the things that many serious travellers have in common is the urge to discover, to see things that others have not seen.
For those, the idea of this kind of travelling is intoxicating.
With 196,939,900 square miles of the earth’s surface to explore, why would you want to visit the same old touristy places?
But how do you go about finding these unmissable experiences?
Whilst there is no solid answer to this question, here are some tips to help you make the most of opportunities that come your way.
First of all, throw away that guidebook. You won’t need it where you’re going. Wherever that will be. Instead, keep an eye on travel blogs for up to date information by real people. Most travel bloggers are more than happy to help you and pass on any contacts they might have in the areas you are visiting.
Talk and listen. Converse with as many people as you can, both fellow travellers and locals. Your travel comrades will have been to places you haven’t and will be able to tell you which places to avoid and which are worth a visit. Whilst everyone is eager to share their stories, resist the urge to one-up them with your own amazing travel adventures and instead listen to what people have to say about where they’ve been. Get some contact details for people you meet, should you want to speak to them again.
Whilst speaking to your fellow travellers is essential, you need to chat to the locals to find out where they go and what they do in the vicinity. If someone asks me what there is to do in my home town I cannot resist giving them a run down of the best places to visit, hidden treasures they don’t know about and where to avoid. Not everyone is like this but if this sounds like you, you’re not alone and many people in the places you’ll visit will be the same.
Be flexible. You’ve just found out about some beach huts where you can live for free as long as you help out painting them for a couple of hours a day. Trouble is, you’ve already booked flights to move on to your next destination. Whilst planning is essential for some things, you don’t want to have a rigid schedule if you can help it. Have an idea of where you want to go and when, but don’t let this dictate your travels.
Similarly, be up for anything and remain open minded. I know it’s easier said than done and when you’re exhausted or jetlagged after a long flight. You might not feel like speaking to new people in your hostel or going to explore the locality but say yes to invites, take up opportunities and converse with everyone as you just don’t know where it will lead you.
Despite this, be prepared for tough times. Sometimes the great place you’ve heard about isn’t as good as the guy in the hostel made it sound or the seven hour bus ride squashed up against someone’s armpit doesn’t seem worth it. You have to be prepared to take risks, not all of which will pay off.
Keeping in mind these tips, however simple they may seem, can help you create unique memories and once in a lifetime experiences that few others will have.
Do you have any other tips to add to this? Where have you been that’s off the beaten track?
Robyn Vinter is a travel blogger and content writer for Looking4Parking in Leeds, UK. Having graduated with a first class degree in Journalism from Leeds Metropolitan University, she has written for numerous local and national newspapers and magazines in the UK. Her passion for travel is usurped only by her passion for writing, neither of which she feels she could ever do enough of.