What do you do when vacationing in France? Most of us don’t even have to think about it. You see the Louvre, swing by the Eiffel Tower, get a photo of yourself in front of the Arc de Triomphe. Even if you’re not hitting up the famous destinations, it’s easy to imagine spending an afternoon tasting wine and cheese in the Parisian countryside.
However, with global tensions on the rise, low wages for many young people, and ecotourism becoming more popular, these well-travelled destinations are becoming less enticing. Instead, more low key destination are coming to the foreground among curious travelers. But when the path isn’t laid out before you, it can be difficult to plan an uncommon travel experience and make the best of your time in a foreign country.
I’ve had this experience when I studied abroad in Latvia, so I’d like to give you some ideas about how to pick an uncommon destination and what to do once you’re there. Here’s what I recommend.
Travel With Your Interests in Mind
Your personal interests are what sets you apart from other travellers and they can help you pick a destination that others don’t think twice about, but which can provide you with an incredibly fulfilling and exciting experience. I’ll do an example with my hobbies.
So I’m a violist. That means that I play, teach, and listen to the viola (and all string instruments) at every opportunity. I love the viola, both as a job and as a hobby. With this in mind, then, what would be a great destination for me? Well Germany and Italy both come to mind, both of them having hosted great composers and musicians in the past. I could visit Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn or hit up Cremona to see the workplace of some of the world’s greatest violin makers.
These are both expensive and popular destinations that could do without the environmental impact of one more tourist. If I’m looking to be a less impactful and more budget-minded tourist, where might I go? One great idea would be to visit Chimei Museum, a museum that hosts many historical violins and other instruments, in Tainan, Taiwan. A smaller city than the oft-visited Taipei that appeals specifically to my interests and includes all of the great Taiwanese street food experiences that would define a trip to the more popular city along with some great historical sites.
Dig Into Local History
Your country of choice might not have anything as iconic as the Colosseum or the Brandenburg Gate, but it does have its own deep history that’s important to the people living there. Do some research before you go and figure out what historical landmarks are critical to your chosen country’s past.
Another example from my experience is the surprisingly interesting history of Latvia. Did you know that Latvia and Estonia used to make up a state called the Livonian Order, a monastic order not unlike the more well-known Teutonic Order?
The territory of Latvia exchanged hand many times over the years, this cycle of oppression culminating in the bloody Latvian War of Independence, in which Latvia fought for and won its independence from the Soviet Union. Unfortunately this independence would not last, as the Soviet Union occupied Latvia from the end of World War II until its collapse in 1991. Nonetheless, the powerful Freedom Monument stands in Riga to recognize the sacrifice of all those who fought for Latvian independence.
Check Out Local Outdoors
Countries that are low in man made destinations are likely to have a lot of great outdoors for you to explore. If you do this, though, just be sure that you’re being safe. Make sure that someone (preferably someone in country) knows where you’re going if you head very far from civilization and learn how to contact the proper authorities in the area in case of an emergency.
Although I’m from Idaho and I’ve seen my fair share of the outdoors, this was an entirely new experience for me. Most of my camping had been done in mountainous regions with little to no access to civilization. To actually relax on a camping trip in front of a beautiful and untouched lake knowing that Jēkabpils was only about 15 minutes away was absolutely wonderful, and a huge shift from the frantic camping trips of my childhood.
These are my suggestions for travelling to less common destinations. Don’t be afraid to head off the beaten path and travel somewhere unexpected this summer.