This series of blogs focuses on traveling beyond the normal tourist sites, while still visiting said sites. It gives insight into what other options are around and available. Most travelers want a unique experience when they visit somewhere but what is considered unique to one may bore another to tears. As always, the information is based solely on my own experiences and opinions (have to keep those lawyers happy!) :).
Almost everyone when they first start to travel go to the big tourist attractions, whether it be the Louvre in Paris or Big Ben in London, there are just some sites that you have to see, especially if you are not used to traveling.
And there is nothing wrong with that!
However, if you have been bit by the travel bug (not to be confused with bed bugs), then you know how annoying many ‘tourist’ sites can be. What to do? How do you find those ‘off the beaten track’ places especially if you are in a country that speaks a different language?
Aside from the typical travel books there are plenty more resources available in this age of technology. The tools I use most are Google and Flickr (for visual images of places I may be interested in visiting). With very rare exceptions, I plan on renting a car and just driving around when I go somewhere with just a very basic layout of a route. In 2009 I even finally braved driving in the UK with that whole ‘drive on the left side’ thing – still not London though. I’m not that insane yet.
Once you have a place (or places) picked out the next thing to take a serious look at is your own, personal interests and hobbies. I am a photographer but also work in archaeology and historic preservation as well as the occasional ghost hunt and I adore old buildings, especially ruins. But for too long the general idea has been if you are someone interested in history or art you should focus on just one aspect when traveling such as visiting all the museums. Why? As much as I love museums, living in the Philadelphia area, I have access to many museums on a regular basis from D.C. up to NYC. So, unless it’s a very unique or unusual museum filled with pieces not normally seen around here, I skip it. With the exception of the British Museum, I will only stop if it’s a small, hole-in-the-wall museum such as the ones in Sighisoara, Romania – seriously, who could pass up seeing a torture chamber museum? 🙂 Traveling should be fun, not only educational!
I very rarely fully plan out an itinerary – mostly because I’m just not that organized. The other reason, however, is far too often I have found that once I arrive at a destination there turns out to be things I’d rather see or tours I’d rather go on than what I had initially planned. One of my biggest regrets is not having taken the Jack the Ripper tour while I was in London though, in all fairness, I was running a 102 fever that whole week from strep throat so I’m sure the others who did take that tour were more than happy I stayed away. Why Jack the Ripper? Why not? Sometimes it’s very important to remember in the midst of experiencing a place or culture that you also are allowed to have fun! Although, on another trip to England, I did finally get to Sherwood Forest just to be able to say I was where Robin Hood was :D.
So in the weeks and months to follow I will be posting a blog about traveling beyond places I have been to over the years. It may be a city or it may be a country. Please feel free to share any of your unplanned adventure stories as well.