Travel consists of a combination of different experiences, including visiting both man made and natural attractions and enjoying local food, wine and shopping experiences. The often forgotten elements of travel are the in between experiences which are usually totally unplanned.
The ‘on the beaten path’ tourist attractions are usually included in all of the guidebooks, which results in all tourists to a destination visiting the same places. As a result if you purely follow the guidebook recommendations you will result in a trip where you have ‘ticked the boxes’. If you have visited the attractions using a tour then you may have also used a tour bus to go directly to each location. If you use this approach then your opportunities to mingle with local residents are limited.
The ‘in between’ experiences mainly arise when you are walking and catching public transport. Getting lost is a great way to better explore a destination. By walking you have better chances to see other options and to go beyond the standard tourist track options.
For example, I visited Prague many years ago and really enjoyed visiting the three major cathedrals, which were beautiful but also intensely populated by tourists. A couple of days later I was walking around the inner city area and came across another cathedral which was not listed on the tourist map. I went inside and was amazed to discover yet another amazing cathedral which had no tourists.
And on a separate trip to Rome we did a walking tour which ended in Piazza Nuova, another well touristed location with many restaurants. We walked further on into a more residential area and came across a little restaurant which appeared to be well patronised by locals. We had a great lunch, and ended up chatting with the people on the next table who happened to be fashion designers from Australia on a shopping trip to Italy.
Another element to ensure that you have the best chance to make the most of your trip is to allow enough time in each location. For example, if you only have two days in Paris then you will only have enough time to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Champs Elysees. And nothing else. As a result you will result in a ‘tick the box’ tour which while fun will be exhausting and less fulfilling.
To make the most of your trip ensure that you allow enough time in each destination, and consider avoiding tour buses where possible. As a result you open yourself to more unplanned travel experiences which will only enrich your journey.