by Katharina Heuermann, Traveler + Dream Seller…
I’m the founder of Destination-k!, a German travel agency. (Please forgive the German on my website — I’m working on the English version!) I’m also one of you: a creative professional who loves to travel and, yes, also has a budget.
Now I don’t go for what’s cheapest, but what offers the greatest value. Since “value” is defined by each individual, my mission is to explore the world and find unique sites and special hotels and the coolest things to do, then present them here for you to judge…
Today I am in Thailand, watching more tourists than locals passing by, and that got me wondering…..
This is 2016: the world belongs to bloggers, reviewers, and travel guru pages. Nothing is unknown anymore. Nothing’s hidden. Nothing’s a secret or even a tip. You want to know where to get the best Pad Thai in Bangkok? Homemade, cheap, and authentic? Google has about 533,000 answers for you!
What strikes me most is that almost every other travel article is about “secret,” “hidden,” or “unknown” places “off the beaten path.”
So I began to wonder, what happened to the beaten path if everybody has wandered off it?
If nobody does mainstream anymore, is non-mainstream the new mainstream?
As this question spun in my head, I read yet ANOTHER blog about getting off the beaten path. So I considered going to the main path again. Or Main Street. It must be pretty empty nowadays!
What I’m saying is, what’s wrong with regular tourist attractions? Yes, I do like staying at a nice hotel, and no, I do not need to stay at a filthy hostel which received “first place” in a Lonely Planet book just to find, surprise, surprise, not locals there but all Lonely Planet readers. While I’m not a big fan of big hotel chains, I do look for something special — something that separates one hotel from the rest, like a unique interior, a tree house, or a strong company ethic (eco would be nice).
At the end of the day, it’s YOU who makes the experience.
What’s your point of view? Did you learn something about the local culture and people? If yes, then you know why: you talked to the locals and the staff, not 100 other tourists sitting around a campfire singing their country songs.
I’ve had the best times ever chatting with front desk staff, bell men, taxi drivers, and barkeepers. I get valuable insider tips about what is happening in the city, where to go, and what to do. By interacting with them, I learned more about their culture than I would on an “unbeaten path” full of “non-mainstream” tourists.
Then there’s my beloved hop-on-hop-off tours. I just love these red double decker buses. If I can, I first experience every city I visit on such a tour. Imagine you are on a bus tour of Berlin and you have a genuine Berliner as your guide. You can just tell that this guy must have seen the Wall coming down. Live. And in color. He is full of interesting stories. Even funny ones. Who wouldn’t love to see Berlin with an authentic Berliner?
And that leads me to the ultimate Main Street: Disneyland!
I love Disneyland, for it lets me be a kid again (not that I’m a grown up, yet… or will ever be). If you want to learn American culture, go to Disneyland and do some social studies. Disneyland perfectly reflects America as a BIG SHOW where reality sometimes gets left behind for a little moment of happiness and a little Wonderland. The land of the dreams and the free.
That feeling is what traveling should give you: an understanding of other cultures while seeing the most interesting places on Earth. On or off the beaten path.
I hope you’ll join me!