Travel Off the Beaten Path—the best-kept secret!

Is traveling off the beaten path the best-kept secret in the travel world?

Imagine the feeling, to be among the first to experience the authenticity of the destination long before making its way into everyone else bucket list. To have the luxury of seeing the place before becoming #trending and the floods of tourists ensue.

travel off the beaten path pristine locatioons

Traveling Styles—which one are you?

Traveling styles are different, the key to enjoying your travel experience is to figure out which one you are. There are different stages in the evolution of a traveler; first-time travelers gravitate towards the most popular destinations. The easier to travel to, the easier to plan destinations that everyone is talking about. In contrast, more experienced travelers stay away from the crowds and seek exclusive, authentic experiences. Yet, another is those likely to visit an all-inclusive, happy to never leave the resort. Then you have the explorer that can’t imagine spending all day sitting by the beach sipping cocktails in a tourist destination.

Explorers appreciate the finer things in life, but they also want to get more out of their traveling experience. They want to explore the destination, meet the locals, eat authentic food and experience what makes the place unique. Explorers are likely to venture off the beaten path and with good reason.  

Why travel off the beaten path?

People can’t fathom why travelers endure treacherous hours of travel to reach a destination with no direct flights, prepackaged tours, or WiFi. Much less a fancy hotel, forget about the points and the all-inclusive (gasp!) or the fine dining restaurant. These types of travelers are in disbelieve when someone travels off the beaten path (off the tourist trail), away from the trending destinations. What those people do not understand is: when you travel off the beaten path, it rewards adventurous travelers with the ultimate travel experience. To see the destination in pristine conditions, to immerse in authentic organic experiences, away from any crowds and prepackaged tours. To the traveler with an adventurous DNA, the road less traveled is the number one choice, no matter the effort, or how inconvenient the journey.

travel off the beaten path destinations with no crowds

What you experience traveling off the beaten path:

1. You find out the journey is part of the experience

Good things don’t come easy and that is true of travel. To get the most authentic experiences in a pristine destination one must take a longer journey. For example, while traveling through Indonesia, instead of visiting the ever-popular Bali again, I opted to explore a remote set of islands. I set out on a journey to the Togean Islands instead. It meant I had to take two flights, one 2hr car transfer, a tuck tuck followed by a 5hr ferry to finally arrive in paradise. In total, I traveled for almost 24hrs to reach the remote pristine islands.

travel off the beaten path Togean Islands Map

2. Travel off the beaten path to find pristine destinations

Why on earth did I endure such a journey? For the luxury of diving and snorkeling in pristine coral reefs with a rich diversity of marine life that have not suffered the effects of over-tourism. The Togean Islands are in the heart of the world-renowned “Coral Triangle”. An area with the highest marine biodiversity in the world. I choose to travel, off the beaten path, to interact with the locals who have a very unique culture. Also because the Togean Islands have white sandy beaches fringed by undisturbed jungle and crystal clear water. It’s hard to get there but believe me, it’s much harder to leave as one falls in love with the natural beauty of the islands.

travel off the beaten path pristine coral reefs

3. Traveling off the beaten path ou meet and interact with the locals

While traveling off the beaten path, you travel through areas that still keep the authentic aspects of the local culture. The essence of the destination. You meet locals proud of their culture and eager to share it with you.

travel off the beaten path organic experiences with locals

In the Togean Islands, the locals are the Bajo or Bajao people. Sea gypsies that learn to swim and dive way before they can walk. Expert divers that can free dive to incredible depths, their eyes and lungs have evolved over generations.

travel off the beaten path Togean Kids

Some of the younger kids don’t need to wear goggles. Their eyes have adapted to diiving and developed the ability to see underwater. I find this to be an amazing feat of human evolution.

They originally lived on boats and sailed the seas. Then they built small houses on stilts over water. Can you imagine, they have been living in over the water villas with coral reefs as their backyards for centuries! The Bajo homes are simple but oh so beautiful. They have built a stunning village, the panoramic views are breathtaking.

travel off the beaten path Togean traditional home

You support the locals, they get a job

I spent 3 weeks visiting the Togean Islands. During that time, I stayed in a variety of accommodations ranging from dive resorts, bungalows, cottages, and small guest houses. My favorite was the guest house run by locals. Which meant the entire family found employment running the operations of the guest house. It also meant that I was interacting with the locals every day learning about their culture, destination, and way of life.

travel off the beaten path accommodations

Authentic hospitality

The father was the GM, always attentive and finding out ways to improve my stay. Meanwhile, the wife was the chef and after learning of my love for cooking; she invited me to learn how to cook some of their local dishes. One of my favorite memories is making coconut rice and grilled Ikan (fish). Surrounded by a group of women that included the wife, a younger sister and the grandmother. We laughed, I learned, they asked me just as many questions about my country and way of living as I asked about them. We were mutually curious and learning from each other. Local, authentic experiences are synonym with traveling off the beaten path.

travel off the beaten path cooking with the locals

Finally, there were the kids, the tour guides, the experts on the destination. They grew up in the islands and knew the best coral gardens for snorkeling and diving. We would go out to sea early in the morning to snorkel or dive and come back for lunch. After lunch, I would lie out by the beach to take a nap and rest before heading out for more snorkeling in the house reef. It was that easy, just swim up and find a stunning reef. I could spend hours snorkeling and swimming and never see another guest. It seems that we each found our own side of the island and claimed it our own for the duration of our visit. I found that to be priceless, to have a little piece of heaven to yourself. A luxury! Worth every effort to get there!

4. Traveling off the beaten path you find memorable experiences

Then in the evening, the kids would come by and say, “Maria, trip sunset?” I thought, ok sure, let’s see what that is all about.

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We would then take off on the long tail boat to see the stunning sunset complete with dolphins playfully racing alongside the boat jumping in and out of the water. Those were incredible sunsets, the best sunsets I have seen.

The kids knew how much I loved seeing the reflection of the sunset on the calm ocean. How much I enjoyed seeing the dolphins come out and playfully follow our boat, so every evening they had the boat ready for us to head out for a sunset trip or “trip sunset” as they called it. Talk about personalizing a stay, anticipating needs and going above and beyond to create memorable experiences.

Travel off the beaten path to find organic immersive experiences

Then after a few days of staying at the guest house, the GM said: “Maria, I am going to visit my mother in the village, would you like to come with us?” OMG, I felt so lucky to visit the village and see further into their way of living and their culture. An organic cultural immersion interacting with the locals as they went about their daily life. I planned nothing, did not order the excursion off a tour book, things just organically unfolded with every interaction. That is the beauty of off the beaten path experiences.

travel off the beaten path bajo bajao village

That is the essence of the Togean Islands. Locals are proud of their island and eager to show off its beauty and that of its people. They have built a stunning village, the panoramic view of colorful roofs in contrast with the turquoise blue waters and the emerald green of the island vegetation. The village is so beautiful and unique they even built a wooden bridge that connects two of the islands. Imagine taking a walk on that bridge, just taking a stroll or coming out to sit on the bridge and watch the sunset. Perhaps even using it as a jetty to dive right in to see the coral reefs.

Traveling off the beaten path gives you an authentic local experience. You interact with locals; you see how people live; they share their struggles and you learn what they do for fun. When you venture out, you learn and interact with the locals instead of other tourists pushing and shoving to see the same things you want to see.

5. Travel off the beaten path to experience nature at its best—mindful moments

Venturing off the beaten path to experience nature unspoiled is worth every effort. To experience moments of solitude with no distraction, to be one with nature is everything! The peace you experience is a luxury in today’s world where mass tourism is the norm. How many of us have gone to the beach only to find a crowded beach and a sea of people? Good luck finding a spot or seeing how beautiful the beach really is. Then you sign up for the snorkeling trip and you see some fish, broken corals, and you spot the irresponsible tourists stepping on the corals. Makes your blood boil!

travel off the beaten path peaceful moments

To the adventurous explorer, it is worth every effort and resource spent to get away from the crowds and into nature itself. Imagine, for instance, swimming in the Togean Islands, seeing the best-preserved coral reefs in the world, undisturbed, just you and the coral gardens. Imagine that feeling of peace; it’s just you and the beautiful corals and the schools of colorful fish. A meditative like moment.

The locals grew up with those coral gardens, where they learned to swim and dive; it’s their home, their backyard. They protect them and have an emotional connection to protecting the environment.  Experiences like these are worth traveling off the beaten path and enduring the grueling journey to get there. It doesn’t matter air, train, boat, automobile, hike, no effort is too much as the explorer and adventurer know the reward.

6. Off the beaten path you will find no WiFi connection but will find a stronger connection with nature

The benefit of traveling off the beaten path is that many places have no WiFi or very limited access. I found that while there was no connection to WiFi I developed a stronger connection with nature. There were no distractions to take my attention away from living in the moment. With no distractions, I focused on appreciating the beauty of my surroundings and being in awe of the natural splendor around me.

travel off the beaten path connect with nature

After a while, I felt more connected with nature; I felt happier and found a sudden joie de vivre. Amazing what disconnecting from the artificial world and connecting to the real world can do. I highly recommend it, get off the grid, off the beaten path and tune in to nature.

7. You meet like-minded people

You might just find how much you have in common with the locals. By this I mean, commonalities in core values. When you spend the time to talk to locals, you get to the essence of who they really are, what they believe in and dispel common stereotypes. Then, when you meet another fellow traveler that has ventured out off the beaten path like you, there is so much to share with each other. You immediately connect and share stories, recommend things to do and laugh about the perils of the journey because they get it.

You find that adventurous travelers have certain qualities in their character that when in their element; they are at peace, happy in their own skin. They value authentic experiences and connections. When you meet other off the beaten path travelers, you are happy because you find your off the beaten path traveling tribe! Oh, the stories shared by these travelers are highly cherished, because not many people have been there before. You are inspired.

8. Travel off the beaten path to find the hidden gems

Going off the beaten track means that you get to find those amazing places yet to be discovered and commercialized to the masses. Hidden gems like the Togean Islands. You find unique experiences that most people have not experienced yet. The difficulty of the journey to get there rewarded by the exclusivity and luxury to have the place almost to yourself. Way before the destination becomes a #trending feed on any travel media outlet.

Travel off the beaten path! It akes foresight, courage, experience, time and determination to manage with the obstacles that come with traveling off the beaten path. Your reward far outweighs any inconveniences of the journey to get there.

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