Taking the Road Less Traveled
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both, and be one traveler, long I stood, and looked down one as far as I could, to where it bent in the undergrowth;
I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
― Robert Frost
Some of you may have already read or heard this poem but it resounds strongly in my heart because I firmly believe in traveling differently. That’s why I created the Road Less Traveled Series to list down the most underrated destinations that I’ve visited.
In this day and age where traveling has been made more convenient and affordable, combined with social pressure to do what’s trending, there’s always the mad dash to visit top tourist spots or countries. More often than not, people go on a Southeast Asian trip, which usually includes Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. While I have nothing against those three countries, there is still more to even just their top 10 tourist sites from Trip Advisor or any other tourist site.
It goes without saying that if one place is quite unpopular, there are far fewer people you can encounter, especially not a lot of tourists. This is a huge factor in your experience because then you will be able to fully enjoy the place to yourself as well as meet more locals than tourists.
This pushes you to integrate with the locals more. With few tourists in sight, you are able to push yourself to meet with locals to interact with. Have drinks or a meal with a local. Even just an hour and you’re sure to learn far more than what you could ever read from a book. Stories told by people shape who they are now. They’re a better reference to comparing their history with their current or modern culture.
The hostel culture of today limits your interaction to fellow travelers who are most likely just like you. And while that’s also a fun way to meet people and travel, never forget to immerse with the locals. The experience will always be different, especially if your cultures are vastly distinct.
There is also a sense of exclusivity when you are one of the first few people to discover a place before it turns popular or commercial. I remember swimming out into the ocean in the south of Cebu some years ago. We swam out of the shore and not far away were whale sharks swimming freely. It was a majestic feeling to see them free. Today, hundreds of people line up daily and the area is congested by local fishermen. They assist tourists in the “whale shark experience” and feed the whale sharks in order to keep them in the area for profit. The entire sight of it is sad.
Over the years, commercialization has had a negative impact on natural attractions. There are perks to having commercialization such as creating job opportunities and bringing in revenue. However, there are some things that are better left untouched. This applies a lot to travel destinations. Because most places destroy the natural state of a place and replace them with concrete or plenty of modern architecture.
This erases the scenic views you could have enjoyed before, like the pyramids in Egypt. It’s so close to the city (something a lot of tourists don’t realize until they get there). Or the Taj Mahal–it’s been too popular now that when you go there, it’s flooded by people. It ruins how scenic the place could have been.
With that being said, I personally enjoy visiting less popular tourist destination. And take note that even the most touristy countries have undiscovered gems! In Cambodia, what’s the first thing you’d probably visit? The Angkor Wat, of course, right? But did you know that this temple was based on Banteay Meanchey Temple? It is about two hours away and is a much older temple so the experience is different. And in Italy, nobody really thinks of visiting the cave dwellings in Matera. Sassi di Matera are houses dug into the calcarenite rock itself and are suspected to be among the first human settlements in Italy.
Make your adventure more worthwhile and give purpose to it. Visit famous tourist spots if you must because they’re definitely still worth visiting, but don’t forget to travel differently as well. As Robert Frost wrote, take the road less traveled and it will make the difference.
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