An Embarrassment of Choices ~ Travel Beyond the Crowds

Written in cooperation with Goodshop.

New travelers are often at a loss when choosing a vacation destination. For experienced travelers, the choice is not so much about where to go, but where not to go, for an embarrassment of choices for world travel exists. Searching for the best travel deals or coupons from Priceline is a given, but researching a location can be a more formidable task. While the normal, and proven, questions to ask yourself will point you in the right direction, below is a rundown of a few of the must-see regions around the world, but with a slightly different viewpoint.

Mexico~

Image via Flickr by Greencolander

High on many travelers’ lists, Mexico is a destination that arises again and again. Part of the appeal is simply the proximity and short flight times from the United States. However, many only look to this vibrant country as a beach destination.

While beaches on both coasts are stunning and offer different experiences from one another, part of the great appeal of this diverse country is in its hills. From the Copper Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world, to the colonial hill towns such as Patzcuaro and San Miguel de Allende, much of the magnetism of this amazing country is found far from the sands of the coastline.

Southeast Asia~

Image via Flickr by poida.smith

Nearly every traveler is aware of the charms of Southeast Asia — the chaotic charm of the large cities, the fantastic food, the inexpensive massages, and the verdant and rich countryside. As the gateway to the region, Bangkok is nearly impossible to avoid, but move beyond this fabled city to discover an impressive diversity. Vietnam offers French colonial architecture, amazing food, and immense beauty.

Cambodia’s recently troubled past is merging into a young, progressive country full of hope, as well as the home of the extraordinary ruins of Angkor Wat. Laos, long considered the ugly stepchild of the area, has emerged as a front-runner on the lists among those in the know. Myanmar, recently reopened to tourism, offers the astonishing ruins of Bagan, as well as a feeling of stepping back in time.

Europe~

Image via Flickr by jarnold221

Granted, nearly everything has been “discovered” in Europe. If finding great flight deals so that you can jet to the continent sits high on your bucket list, never fear; you can still find ways to avoid the crowds. Most travelers simply do not have the time to get off the beaten path and explore. Thus, they follow the guidebook crowd from one photo op to the next.

Fully escaping the tourist crowds may be a challenge, but to get a more personal experience, you need only walk a few blocks away. When St. Mark’s Square is literally sinking in the crowds, meander a few blocks off the square and discover a Venice with no crowds. If you can no longer bear the crush of humanity in the Louvre, see what you must see and escape to the more civilized crowds of Sainte-Chapelle or the Musée Rodin.

Wherever your holiday may take you, using a few simple techniques can create a magical experience. Instead of having a holiday like everyone else has, venture a few steps off the beaten path to find the true local charms.

Stepping Back in Time

I have never liked history. My dad was a history teacher. My brother is a history teacher. I got through the classes, but never embraced the subject. That all changed the moment I started traveling. Unencumbered by a parents authoritarian lectures and dry professors, I found myself relishing stepping back in time to see a world thousands of years in the past.

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Phnom Penh beyond the Killing Fields

Cambodia remains one of the countries that ranks highest on our list of those places that most pulled at our heartstrings, and makes us long to return. There is, undeniably, the crown jewel of the ruins of Angkor Wat, the long boat trip to Battambang, and the traumatic and powerful sites of Tuol Sleng and Choueng Ek at Pol Pot’s Killing Fields. There are gorgeous beaches, that we still need to get to ourselves. But, during our time in the country we experienced so much more of this very poor, and yet vibrant country, particularly in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

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A Unique Day in the Country

My traditional krama scarf kept only some of the dust out of my nose and mouth as my motorcycle driver raced along the packed dirt road and I was soon covered from head to foot in the fine, grey powder. Jim and his driver had taken an alternate route out of town and were nowhere to be seen. I was on the back of a moto with a driver who spoke no English somewhere in the countryside of rural Cambodia. And I was having the time of my life!

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Lost in the Markets of Asia

I was momentarily blinded as I entered the labyrinth of makeshift booths. The simple relief of stepping out of the blinding sun into the relative cool of the market stalls was temporary as I moved further into the crush of bodies surrounding the overloaded tables.

Under cover in SIem Reap

Under cover in SIem Reap

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Foto Friday

Banteay Srei, my favorite temple among the huge complex of Angkor Wat. Built in the 10th century and made primarily of red sandstone, the carvings are of a smaller and more elaborate detail than any of the other temples, lending to a belief that it might have been mainly carved by women. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, it is absolutely engrossing and we could have spent many more hours exploring the site.

The Killing Fields of Phnom Penh

**** Warning – this post contains some graphic photos and disturbing text. It’s an incredibly important history lesson but be warned, the story isn’t pretty ***

Cambodia, a country that touched my heart for many reasons. Much of our time in the country was spent feeling disturbed but the history and modern reality of this little country in SE Asia is an important lesson to all of us about how power can corrupt with terrifying results. In other posts I’ll cover the good of the country, the gorgeous beaches, friendly people and, of course, the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor Wat but this is about the horror that was the Pol Pot Regime and the destruction it brought to the country over three short years.

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