Vacations off the Beaten Path

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Many travelers have experienced the weird and sometimes disappointing feeling of confronting some famous landmark or destination. The Mona Lisa is a tiny painting surrounded by people furiously taking pictures. Walt Disney World is constantly deluged by crowds. In addition, the Eiffel Tower can seem surprisingly puny and pedestrian in its narrow park. Certainly, there will always be a time and place for being a full-fledged tourist. Famous landmarks become renowned for good reason, after all. However, by purposefully avoiding major tourist destinations, vacationers may find themselves enjoying wonderful and new things around every corner.

The easiest way to stay away from tourist destinations is to simply select a different kind of vacation. Instead of going to Paris, tour the French countryside instead. Rather than going to Yosemite National Park, look for natural wonders that are every bit as beautiful without being so crowded. Cities like St. Louis and Scottsdale may not seem as glamorous as New York or L.A., but they often have many of the same kinds of cultural institutions and exciting urban fun as their bigger and more popular sister cities. Wherever you decide to go, ditch the car and tie on some comfortable shoes. Exploring your favorite destination on foot can be the best way to stumble on a hidden gem.

No matter the destination, the easiest way to discover tourist-free travel destinations is to ask the locals. Think about asking questions like, “Where would you go?” rather than, “Where do the tourists go?” People like hotel concierges and taxi drivers will often have wonderful suggestions. However, by exploring the destination for yourself, you’re likely to find numerous people who are happy to help. Consider looking for meet-up groups that are relevant to your interests in order to meet other locals. In foreign countries, language learning groups can be an excellent idea, even if you plan on being in town for only a week. Alternately, sign up to do community service or volunteer work, which is a great way to give back and meet locals who can suggest incredible things to do and places to go that won’t be packed with tourists.

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