Looking for the adventures that travel agencies don’t know about

On a recent trip to Bohol, an island in the Philippines, I found myself riding at the back of a motorcycle in the mountains of Sevilla and Sikatuna. The roads were steep, stony, and unpaved. But the view held lush shades of green and the mountain breeze felt cool running against my legs. Knowing that an accidental move of a few inches would cause me to plummet to my death, I thought “This should be in the guidebooks.”

Many travelers have had similar experiences. When they research a destination, everyone tells them about the monuments, museums, restaurants, and the beaches. No one tells them about the lesser-known adventures that are waiting to be discovered. But they’re there. With a little effort, the diligent traveler can find them.

The easiest way to find uncommon routes and activities is by taking public transportation and, occasionally, getting lost. While there are some places where you shouldn’t take this risk, such as areas heavy with gang wars and armed conflict, there are many places where you can do this without feeling vulnerable. Look at your map and find the small towns that no one is talking about. Odds are, you’ll find something worthwhile there, something more fulfilling than yet-another-monument.

I find that it’s also useful to look for someone who isn’t new to the place, but isn’t native to it, either. Someone who is new to the area might not have the information you need, while someone who has lived there all their life might see everything as mundane and ordinary. You need to find the person in between – someone who has explored the place well, but with an eager perspective.

In-depth historical research also comes in handy. It’s always interesting to visit caves where revolutionaries hid, obscure cafes where famous people stopped by, and small rivers where early settlements flourished. Herds of tourists usually don’t visit these places, especially if they’re out of the way.

It may be easy to assume that just because a guidebook doesn’t mention a place, there’s nothing to see or do there. I actually find the opposite to be true. If you commit a little time and diligence to less popular destinations, they can lead to the most pleasant surprises you’ll encounter on your trip.

How do you find new and out of the ordinary places to visit?

Posted by | Comments (5)  | November 27, 2008
Category: General

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