There is something contradictory about traveling these days: on one hand the internet is providing aspiring travelers with alluring stories about ‘hidden gems’, ‘secret destinations’ and ‘off the beaten tracks’, while on the other hand everybody seems to be doing what everybody else is doing, going to the same tourist destinations en masse.
Browsing the internet you may get overwhelmed by all those ‘best places’, ‘unique experiences’, ‘top things to do’ and ‘things not to miss’. So many options… How do you navigate this world of mass tourism and the hard-to-escape ‘fear of missing out’?
What to do? Go along with the masses or go your own way? Follow up on what other people ‘highly recommend’ on Tripadvisor or pick your own choices? Traveling Dutchie‘s advise: go your own way (which doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding the obvious tourist destinations).
Off the beaten track?
With more and more people on the travel trail, many seek their own ‘unique’ experience and travel agents know that. So that’s what their websites and advertisements focus on, as do many travel blogs. It’s one of the most alluring things travel blogs and websites seem to offer these days: the ‘hidden gems’, ‘secret destinations’ and ‘off the beaten tracks’. I admit, it all sounds really attractive. No crowds, your own special place you can enjoy in peace. And indeed there are many places you can explore in relative solitude.
But be aware of the advertising rhetoric: “A places nobody comes…” Really? You did after all… “An undiscovered gem…” Actually, there are no undiscovered places on this planet anymore. They are just not yet discovered by you. The fact is there are no ‘secret destinations’. Think about it for a second: if you read about a ‘secret destination’ on the internet, it’s not really a secret, is it?
Let’s be realistic. You will never be the only person to visit a place. Millions of people travel the world nowadays, so chances are other people will go where you go. Which is OK. People go to places for a reason: because it’s beautiful or impressive or interesting, be it naturally, culturally, historically or otherwise. So it’s no surprise some travel destinations are very popular.
The same goes for ‘off the beaten tracks’. Most places in the world have been well traveled, most tracks are pretty beaten. Of course there are some far-off places which hardly see any visitors because they are hard to reach. But unless you are a true adventure seeker who has set their mind to traveling to hard-to-get-to places, chances are you prefer first to visit all those fabulous destinations everbody else is going to.
The truth is most ‘unique’ travel destinations are not unique at all – many others have come before us and many more will follow. Which is OK, it’s our own experience that counts. Plus going to well-beaten destinations has some upsides too: a good travel infrastructure for instance. (What? No WiFi?! 🙂 )
Make smart use of the herd
When you are making travel plans, you may want to make use of other people’s experiences, by checking Tripadvisor and reading travel blogs. Of course these are valuable sources of information. But use them in a smart way. Even if you, aspiring traveler about to discover the world, are planning to visit the obvious tourist destinations, that doesn’t mean you have to follow the crowds.
Don’t blindly follow what other people recommend. Instead ask yourself what you may find worthwhile seeing and doing. For example: if you’re planning to visit The Netherlands, maybe you’re not interested in coffee shops, the red light district and a canal tour in Amsterdam, like too many tourists following the crowd; maybe you prefer to explore other beautiful cities and go on a bike ride in the countryside. (Just a random example of course 🙂 )
People go to places for a reason: because it’s beautiful or impressive or interesting, be it naturally, culturally or otherwise. So it’s no surprise some travel destinations are very popular. It might be a reason for you to go there too. Just be sure you are going for the right reason: because it suits your own preference and not somebody else’s.
Also be aware that ratings on websites can be manipulated. Reviews about accommodation or tours can actually be bought, so do not blindly trust them. And let advertisements and affiliate links on a website remind you that the content on that website may not be independent. (Traveling Dutchie is ad-free, affiliate-free and cookie-free!)
Drop the FOMO: there are no ‘must sees’
Reading travel guides or blogs you sometimes get the impression that everything is Awesome! Amazing! Fantastic! That every shithole is a ‘must-see’ and every adrenaline-inducing activity is a ‘must-do’. So little time and so many things you must do before you die… Well, let’s drop that FOMO and start thinking for ourselves, shall we?
‘Best tips!’ ‘Best places to stay!’ ‘Best experiences!’ Language like this is intended to lure you in and stir up your desires. To make you feel like you ‘need’ to go see this or do that – or otherwise you will miss out. And eveybody else is going, so you must too! But traveling is not about checking a list of ‘must-sees’ so that back home you can brag that you’ve been there. Traveling is – or in my view should be – a personal experience.
Don’t go to places just because other people or your travel guide told you you should. If you want to see Manhattan from the top of the Empire State Building: go! If you don’t, don’t go. (Or go to Top of the Rock – better view 🙂 ) Is the German capital of Berlin really a ‘must see’? Personally, I don’t think so. If after a day of sightseeing you want to go to bed instead of a club, that’s fine (even if Lonely Planet says it’s a not-to-miss club). Always ask yourself: is this something I really want to see or do? Or is it just for the sake of making a snap shot to put on Instagram?
So don’t blindly follow the herd. Travel the way that works for you. There are no ‘must-sees’, only ‘I-would-like-to-sees’. Be critical, think for yourself and make your own choices. It’s your life, your journey!