When you think of planning your holiday, the first thing that comes to mind is the standard vacation, with a hotel stay, visits to tourist attractions, sampling of local cuisine and all those other things we love to do when we’re away from home. Holidays also mean packing your backpack, grabbing your hiking gear and climbing shoes and conquer some mountains. There are some activities that don’t match fancy hotels, luxurious spa services, water-parks and long walks on high-end island beaches, or having dinner at candlelight in a five star restaurant. And how about city breaks? Visiting museums, taking photos of monuments and having brunch at cozy terraces and bistros? When it comes to travel and spending quality free time, sky is the limit in terms of options and offers and there is no travel agency which doesn’t compete to offer its clients the best holiday plans, best accommodation facilities and best transportation options. But have you ever stopped to consider there are other ways to travel, that may well be as exciting and fun as regular vacationing? Let’s have a look at ten reasons to try alternative tourism this summer!
What do we mean by that? It’s cost-effective, of course. Using alternative means of transportation, such as hitch-hiking, or biking (for the more athletic readers), as well as non-standard lodgings – couch surfing, or hosteling, can seriously decrease the costs of going on vacation and allow you to spend more money on fun things. Not to mention you have the opportunity of meeting new people all the time. Ask any hostel manager and he will tell you a lot of fascinating stories, just like a couch surfer will admit that provided you end up in some strange strange house with an odd host, the experience can be truly enlightening.
Alternative tourism gives you more freedom. Going on a booked holiday with a fixed schedule can sometimes be cumbersome. Planning everything by yourself and adjusting your plans as you go allows you to see more, do more, and enjoy more than you would if you had flights to catch, hotels to get to on time, and cancellation fees to pay if something unexpected comes up. Young people embrace more and more the idea of jumping their cars and go on a road trip, sleep where they can, eat what they buy, in a sort of semi-controlled adventure from a movie.
You get to go off the beaten path. Leaving the comfort zone and trying new things is difficult, but very rewarding. With alternative tourism you can try new things you never even imagined doing, take routes that no travel agency offers, and experience more than you would on a standard holiday. How about planning to see the most odd statues in Europe? Or try all the amusement parks in a country? Choosing to make a tour of specific interest points may be an adventure in itself, as you’d be surprised how many people have these original ideas. Like exploring the world’s scariest places or go in a pilgrimage to some famous and abandoned places around the country.
Did we mention you get to meet new people? Yes, you do. More than just hotel staff and flight attendants, if you go on an alternative holiday, you can meet new, exciting people and learn about their lives and cultures, and who knows? Some of them may even become your new friends. How spectacular would it be to random meet people from exotic cultures you only saw in movies or on TV and they would just invite you to their son’s wedding? We tend to lose trust in people and faith in random, meaningful meetings, but how beautiful would be to remain friends with somebody who lives at the other end of the world whom you met once during a road trip during one hot summer in South America?
By choosing alternative means to classic tourism, you can sample new cultures. Visiting a new country as a tourist will only give you that much insight into its culture, but if you open your mind and go live with the locals for a few days (couch surfing is one of the best choices, just as a work and travel program) you can learn much more, and be truly immersed in the local culture for the duration of your stay. The experience will be so much more rewarding than just seeing new places!
Try new food! If you’re bored of all those “international” restaurants with the same menus, you can go deep into the heart of every new city you visit and pick a place where all the locals hang out, for a genuine culinary experience that no fancy restaurant will offer you. Better yet, you can ask your hosts where to go for the best local experience. Nobody says that you can’t try the local cuisine even if you sleep in a five star hotel and have a fixed travel schedule, but if you didn’t know, the best Chinese food in Budapest, Hungary, is not in “touristic” restaurants, but in the train station, as there are a lot of Chinese people working there and the chef cooks them food just the way they like it.
7. Out of the box
You can see places that are not on tourist booklets. When couch-surfing, the local hosts will often take you to places that aren’t in any tourist booklet. Those places can be exciting, amazing, fascinating and fun, and you would never hear of them unless you chose alternative tourism. And if you truly want to get immersed in a city’s history and culture, take a local and ask him to walk you the empty, mysterious streets.
8. Travel light or heavy
Alternative tourism and transportation allows you to pack anything you want. Since the choice of transportation and route is yours entirely, you can choose to travel as lightly or as heavily loaded as you need or want. Hitchhiking doesn’t come with an excess luggage fee!
Get lost! With good company and a relaxed attitude, even getting lost in a new place can be fun. If you don’t find your way back, you can always change route and do something entirely different than what you had planned, and still enjoy your trip. Remember, there are no flights to miss or hotels to pay if you miss your check-in date.
10. Time is on your side
Take your time. With a self-planned holiday, you can spend as much time as you want in one place, visit all the attractions and enjoy them all, as opposed to running through them on a schedule. After all, it’s your vacation – you’ve had enough deadlines and scheduling at work, now is the time to do things at your own pace.