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.

Enticing Mui Ne

We pulled into town on the afternoon bus from Saigon. Heat waves shimmered off the pavement, and the smell of pungent fish sauce assaulted our sinuses. Saigon, our entry point into Vietnam, had been sheer chaos. Amazing, intriguing, delicious and dripping in history to be sure, but absolute chaos. After risking our life and limb on a daily basis exploring the city, we were more than ready for a different type of traffic jam. Enter Mui Ne.

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Happening Halong Bay

You Sing! You Sing! The karaoke microphone was thrust into Jim’s hand by the cheering crowd. Thick smoke circled the room, becoming increasingly worse as the passing tobacco bong was alternated by chain smoking cigarettes.. I sat silently, waiting to see what he would do. Singers we are not, but faced with such enthusiasm, it would be hard to resist.

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The Imperial Citadel of Hue

Hue is the former capital of Vietnam, situated nearly in the center of the country. It is an easy city to get a hang of, split down the middle by the Perfume River, boarded by an appealing boardwalk.  The weather is infamously bad,  with the Truong Son Mountains seeming to bring in frequent drizzle, but it is a relatively pleasant town with inexpensive lodging, good restaurants, and lots of sightseeing opportunities.

 

Remnants of the war for sale on the boardwalk.

Remnants of the war for sale on the boardwalk.

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Finding Beauty in Simplicity

My breath fogs the air, mixing with the morning mist, as I climb out of the camper. The morning sun is peeking through the trees, causing flashes of light to reflect off the lake. Jim and the dogs are still asleep and I stand in wonder at the absolute silence surrounding me.

At moments like this I’m always struck by the beauty of the simple things in life, and astonished by our continuing ability to ignore it’s power. We spend our lives fighting a simple life of happiness as we strive for more, bigger, better. As I sit alone in the still of the morning, my mind wanders away from this scenic lake in Oregon to reminisce about some of my favorite memories, all of which had nothing to do with grand monuments or fancy lodging, and everything to do with meeting the locals, good food, and unexpected magic.

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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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