In August of 2016, I was in one of the most beautiful place I have ever been to: Dubrovnik, Croatia. I loved it and I hated it. I was traveling with a few friends, and after visiting the not-so-touristic city of Belgrade, Serbia with a bunch of locals, I found myself pretty much waiting in line with other tourists to enter the walled city of Dubrovnik.
I remember watching the flow of people in the streets, half of them wearing cruise-badges, and wondering why I decided to come at the worst moment ever: at the same time as everyone else! This is when I vowed “never again” and decided that my traveling from now on would happen off the beaten path, and to apply three sacred rules to all my upcoming trips.
Sacred rule #1: choose your moment
Of course there are places where we’ll want to go because they are magic. Let’s take Paris, France for example. Who wouldn’t want to visit Paris once in their life? The Champs-Elysées, Montmartre, the Pont des Arts… I hear you. I love Paris. But why want to wait in line in all the museums and pay a high price for your hotel rooms, when you can get to know that city like a true Parisian by strolling its streets in the winter months.
Not only you’ll have the city for yourself, you’ll get to meet the locals and you’ll enjoy the infamous nuits parisiennes… as early as 5:30 pm! The city of lights is vibrant from October ’til February and, if you hit for the late fall, you might even get a few beautiful days.
As a general rule, if I choose to visit a praised destination, I will look at high season and tend to choose my time slightly off one end or the other. Early Spring in Scotland was a fantastic bet, the weather was gorgeous (I even got sunburned) and we avoided both tourists and midges!
Sacred rule #2: look for the lesser known option
I was recently interviewed by Intentional Travelers about the way U.S. affects other countries and one of the question was: “what would you like U.S. citizen to know about your country?” My answer came from very deep: my country is not a city and it is not called Paris. France is an incredible country with a wide variety of amazing locations. If you think you saw France if you have been to Paris, once, for 48 hours, you cannot be more wrong.
And it is the same for many countries. This is why I always wonder: is there a different option? Case in point: as we were traveling up the Italian Amalfi Coast, on the summer of 2015, we had the opportunity to visit both Capri and Procida. Both islands off the Napoli shore, both beautiful, but what different experiences.
If you’re into luxury stores, fancy restaurants and beautiful people: Capri is your gig. I’ll leave it all to you, though, as I’m much more into watching the fishermen come back from sea as I have aperitivo and chat with the waitress of a local hangout on an island that only has a few thousand residents (but over seven churches). I adored Procida.
Sacred rule #3: find adventure in your backyard
Who says you need to travel thousands of miles to find adventure? There are dozen of countries and five continents (and counting, I’m still hoping to get to Greenland and Antartica one of these days…) checked from my “list”. But some of our best trips are still in our own backyard. There are many places in France that I haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet, and I’m really looking forward to that.
As for the United States, since I talked about Europe quite a bit, well, for the eight years I lived there, I can tell you that it’s an amazing playground for off the beaten track traveling. Just last summer, I made my way up the Pacific coast from San Francisco to Portland, and it’s definitely a sight worth seeing.
All in all, I am a big fan of sustainable traveling and I strongly believe that memories are made when we let a sense of adventure guide our steps. From Ireland and more Italy (how can we ever get enough of that food…), to Southeast USA, I have many destinations in mind for which I’m looking to explore the road less traveled.
This post was originally published in November 2017 on The Vagabond Monkey.