Many of us want to travel “off the beaten path” to discover and enjoy destinations less riddled with tourists. We want to be travelers not tourists. Perhaps this instinct to move away from what is “popular” is so that you can feel truly foreign. You know the feeling. When you look around and see no one and nothing that is familiar to your culture and your heart races with anticipation and a little bit of fear. Is that invigorating to you like it is to me? Maybe it is simply human to want to discover something new as a way to keep the curiosity going in our complicated lives. In western culture, to be a traveler is worn as a badge of honor. But there was time when the wandering, “location independent” soul was largely discriminated against. Travelers, or the ethnic slur used to describe the Romani cultures “gypsies,” are romanticized in movies and TV for their beautiful musical heritage, their magical abilities, their modest creative ways, and their irreverence for formal religion and lifestyle. The musical heritage part is true and the rest is, as my grandmother used to say, codswallop. They are a culture, like many, with a brutal history of unthinkable atrocities, suffering persecution, torture and execution to name a few.
So while we go off the beaten path, we are neither tourists nor simply travelers, we are adventurers and rebels. Still sounds romantic, doesn’t it? I’m glad… whatever gets you on the road and gets you to parts of the world that are aching to be exposed and loved by you.
What do I mean by off the beaten path?
Instead of traveling to Maui, choose the Big Island. Instead of South Africa, go to Namibia. Instead of Croatia, check out Slovenia. Western Australia, Anguilla, the mountains of Tennessee and Sri Lanka are additional examples. These choices are changing all the time, but I heard from an expert (Thanks Black Label!), that these are just some of the choices that are currently off the beaten path. If you are like me, you need an expert to tell you where people aren’t going instead of where they are. Or sometimes to keep me from veering completely off the path and in to some jungle, lost from humanity with only my notebook and pen.
Let’s discuss Sri Lanka today, as it doesn’t get the credit for being a destination that it deserves. As a compact island, the Asian nation south of India, has rainforests and beaches within minutes of each other. You could choose an island beach holiday or a wildlife adventure holiday or even a majestic historical pilgrimage to some of the oldest cities in the world. Join this culture in late July for Kandy Esala Perahera, a 10 day festival where every night drummers, dancers, acrobats and elephants parade down the street while a sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is available to venerate. Venture to the Dambulu Viharaya, which is a cave temple, or Sigiriya, a royal palace from the 3rd century BC.
If you have not immediately googled Sri Lanka and begun reading a travel guide, do so. It is off the beaten path, beautiful, majestic, hospitable and enigmatic. Plus the people of Sri Lanka will serve you exotic fruit and spicy delicacies. What are you waiting for?