Throughout the evolution of travel the term ‘get off the beaten track’ has become synonymous with the idealistic wanderer who desperately craves a new perspective on the already over worn tourist trails. Perhaps they’ve watched movies like Into The Wild and The Beach a few too many times, longing for that special place in the world that hasn’t yet been ruined by tacky bars and cheap knock off sunglasses. Or maybe they want to be the first person to explore an exciting new destination, before hostels and hotels open up the market to the hordes of vacationers and holiday goers.
It’s no wonder that phrases such as ‘get off the beaten track’ and ‘off the grid travel’ have become so appealing to travelers that look to the world as a place of mystery and discovery. The sense of desperation to claim these hidden hideouts has also been accelerated in our ever increasingly small and interconnected world. Every year untouched and untainted locations are becoming more difficult to find and even more expensive to travel to as people push the boundaries to find their own personal paradise.
But finding a spot that’s truly off the tourist trail is a lot more difficult than it sounds. You can’t simply jump on a random bus in El Salvador or Cambodia and let it take you out to the middle of nowhere unless you have some idea of what lies ahead. Particularly in some of the sketchier places around the world you always need to consider your own personal safety first. So with that in mind here’s a look at how to really get off the beaten track on your next trip!
Do Your Homework
Yes it’s probably true that if it’s written in a guidebook, or posted all over travel blogs, that the location isn’t as secluded as you’d like, but it pays to get a wide selection of opinions. There is plenty of information that can still lead you to a quiet corner of the world without worrying too much about an overflow of ambitious travelers following the same advice. With the abundance of travel blogs out there these days, try to throw the little guys a bone and search deeper than the first Google page. Chances are you’ll find some bright up-and-comer who’s discovered the next best thing.
Hire/Buy a Motorbike or Car
By far the best adventures we have had on this trip come from our travels via motorbike. Whether it’s renting bikes to get around the island of Phuket, cruising through the Cambodian countryside or buying a bike in the Philippines to tour the whole country beach by beach. Being able to stop when you want to stop, for as long as you want to stay, really increases your level of freedom on the road. With the right research and information you can find all those spots that only locals get to, or that travelers can’t access because tourist transport doesn’t service the area. Plus, it can save you a lot of money in transport costs if you hire your own bike for a day and hit up a bunch of different spots.
The beauty of slow travel might not appeal to everyone, but when you’ve got the time it’s the best way to get off the beaten track. Most people who have limited time choose the top tourist spots, so they rarely have time to explore their wider surrounding. And rightly so if you’ve got a tight schedule. If you were only in Cambodia for a week then you’d prioritize Angkor Wat over little Banlung. However, if you were there any longer I’d say definitely pencil it in. All around the world there are hidden locations on the fringe of major tourist attractions just waiting to be explored. Traveling slow also gives you more time to do your research and find the best/cheapest ways to get out to the locations you want to explore.
Make Friends With Locals
Part of traveling slow also gives you the added opportunity to lay a few extra roots in each spot that you stay. In doing so you get the chance to meet locals that know their country’s secret spots better than anyone. Not only will they give you the local perspective on these places, but you’ll also learn a lot more about the culture and history of the country you’re staying in. Local friends are also great because they have the hook ups for places to stay and eat in area that have yet to be saturated with tourists. And they speak the local language, so it’s always easier to travel with them. Broaden your horizons away from the standard backpacker crowd, there are so many awesome new local friends out there waiting to meet you!
Learn the Language
This is a little easier said than done, especially if you’re off to somewhere completely linguistically different to your native tongue; like Vietnam or Indonesia for an English speaker. But give it a shot, learning a bit of the language will definitely help you navigate local transport and negotiate good deals on places to stay and eat. Cuba would not have been the same for us without being able to speak some moderate Spanish, and we’ve heard others struggle to escape the delicately mapped out tourist route without having a few more words than ‘dos cervezas, por favor’. Do a quick Google search for the top phrases, write them down in a notebook and then take them out to practice for a day. You’ll be speaking like a local in no time… sort of!
There are always more ways to get off the beaten track if you’re willing to sacrifice a little more. Sometimes you’ll have to be prepared to ditch the modern day comforts of hot showered hostels and breakfast-included backpackers, but you’ll unlock the true meaning of exploration and discovery as you find the locations that inspire a new generation of travelers.