Off-the-beaten-path travel is all the rage. Everyone wants to embark on journeys to dream destinations, hoping to find their own little piece of paradise away from the tourist crowds. However, the reality is quite different. Well-known places often transform into highly touristic spots, losing their essence and authenticity—the very charm that defines a region or even a country.
In this article, I aim to unveil the myths surrounding off-the-beaten-path travel. As seasoned travelers, we strive to share the realities of the journey, going beyond the polished legends and glittering fantasies. So, today, I have 5 secrets to reveal to you.
Secret #1: Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel Isn’t Always Comfortable
Embarking on off-the-beaten-path travel means stepping out of your comfort zone. By leaving the tourist hotspots, you also leave behind the material comforts they offer (which, let’s admit, can already be basic at times).
Regions that attract many tourists may or may not meet our expectations of comfort. It’s easier to find restaurants with familiar food, spacious rooms with hot water, and good service in those areas. However, as we venture away from these zones, we inevitably sacrifice some comfort.
The countries we visit, especially developing ones, have different lifestyles and standards of comfort and aesthetics. It’s not uncommon to find ourselves in questionably clean rooms, uncomfortable beds, and basic bathrooms. Don’t expect to get lost deep in Peru and find a comfortable room at the same price you would pay in a popular tourist city. And don’t expect to eat anything other than fried chicken. The reality is quite different, my friends!
So, be prepared, as it is by stepping out of your comfort zone that you’ll experience the most intense adventures.
Secret #2: Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel Is Immersive
When we travel abroad, we seek to encounter different peoples, cultures, and traditions. We desire an authentic change of scenery. Well, off-the-beaten-path travel is precisely what you’re looking for.
The farther we venture from tourist zones and capitals, the more lifestyles change. Rural regions are often worlds apart from what we know, and even within the same country, there can be vast differences. For instance, in Peru, the real sense of immersion doesn’t come when you step out of Lima’s airport. Big cities generally have a Westernized way of life.
However, as you move away from the cities and delve into more remote countryside areas, life becomes quite different. The locals seem to inhabit a different era, sometimes even a different world.
Traveling off the beaten path also means discovering local living and working conditions, finding yourself in places where communication becomes challenging and comfort is rudimentary or even nonexistent. It can sometimes lead to moments of genuine incomprehension. Be cautious of culture shock, homesickness, and other forms of discomfort that may arise when feeling destabilized and detached from our usual reference points. However, this is also the charm of the countries we traverse—genuine authenticity and a true sense of immersion.
Secret #3: Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel Isn’t Always Cheaper
Case of Activities: Tourism is a fantastic economic driver for many countries. It enables businesses to thrive and fosters healthy competition, resulting in affordable activities, accommodations, and transportation.
However, when venturing into more remote and less touristy parts of the world, competition is often scarce. Consequently, some off-the-beaten-path destinations can be more expensive. The scarcity of tourist operators in certain places gives those established there a near monopoly, allowing them to charge higher prices.
From an economic standpoint, it may seem less favorable. However, traveling to more remote and expensive areas often leads to alternatives that are of higher quality and more environmentally friendly, particularly when it comes to activities.
Case of Accommodation: When it comes to accommodation, the fewer options available, the higher the prices become, and the lower the quality we expect, unless we opt for luxury accommodations. Can you imagine?
When traveling to developing countries, the cost of living is generally cheaper. Therefore, even when exploring off the beaten path, you won’t pay exorbitant prices compared to the local cost of living (unless you’re being scammed). However, keep in mind that the less an activity is solicited, the higher its price will be.
Secret #4: Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel Requires Time
Off-the-beaten-path travel aligns with the principles of slow travel. Not everyone can access the remote treasures of a country—it takes a certain kind of traveler and a touch of daring. And that’s part of the charm!
Sometimes, I come across questions from aspiring travelers seeking recommendations for “undiscovered, affordable, and easily accessible places to spend a few peaceful days.” It always makes me smile because the reality is that you have to choose. Either you go to an easily accessible place, but it will have tourists, or you go to a place without tourists, but it won’t be easy to reach. Do you truly believe there’s still an unknown paradise beach? Honestly?
I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s time to debunk the myth: if a place is beautiful and easily accessible, it’s known and, therefore, touristy. This mantra applies to various geographical scales. A beautiful and accessible region will be relatively touristy compared to the rest of the country. A beautiful and accessible city will be touristy, and a cool and accessible activity will be well-known.
Secret #5: Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel Doesn’t Really Exist (Sort of)
But here’s an even bigger secret to reveal: off-the-beaten-path travel doesn’t truly exist. Well, not entirely. Let’s be honest, living like Robinson Crusoe on a remote island in the Pacific or the Indian Ocean is reserved for the boldest among us.
For the rest of us, tourist-travelers seeking rest, simplicity, and authenticity, we must contend with these marvelous, sometimes less touristy places that may not be entirely clean, comfortable, or easily accessible but will undoubtedly offer extraordinary adventures. Because let’s face it, if we’ve already heard about a beautiful place, it means that others have been there before us, right?
Off-the-beaten-path travel is an enticing adventure, but it comes with its own set of realities. It requires travelers to step out of their comfort zones, embrace immersion in local cultures, and be prepared to encounter higher costs and invest more time.
However, these challenges are what make off-the-beaten-path travel so rewarding. The authenticity, unique experiences, and sense of discovery are unmatched. So, next time you plan a trip, consider venturing off the beaten path for a truly remarkable journey.