Tools to Find Off The Beaten Path Destinations
So much of mainstream travel seems to be about visiting popular landmarks, taking a selfie at the most Instagrammable locations, or doing a whirlwind tour of the “top 10 must-see destinations” in XYZ country.
Certain destinations get popular like Thailand’s Maya Bay, then hundreds of thousands of tourists bombard it year on year. The culture is lost to profiting from tourism, nature gradually degrades from the human traffic, and it ultimately becomes another been there, done that, got the selfie opportunity,
In the modern day of mobility gained through cheap airfares, the huge surge in tourism, and the remote work lifestyle, it seems like much of the world has already been well trodden. It may seem impossible to find those truly off the beaten path travel destinations.
The truth is, you’re not looking hard enough.
Over the past 7 years, I’ve taken pride in exploring off the beaten destinations across Asia and the South Pacific regions. Sure, I also visit many popular hot-spot destinations, but I make it a firm goal not to wholly base my travel experience on that.
Perhaps you want to get off the beaten path, to experience something real and authentic. How do you actually go about finding these destinations that no one apparently talks about? Here are a few of my personal tips.
Search Google Maps
Back in university, I used to dream of finishing my course, packing up and living a life of travel. I’d get totally in the zone for hours searching the ocean on Google Maps, looking for some small island that no one had yet discovered.
If you’ve ever done the same, you need to follow that intuition.
Go find a remote spot on the map like Uripiv Island in Vanuatu. Make it a goal to get there. The journey won’t be straightforward, but it’ll be an adventure. Don’t hold expectations, when you get there it might be almost deserted, or it could be one of the most welcoming tight-knit communities you’ve ever met.
I also like to use Google Maps when I’m already at a destination. While staying in Kanchanaburi I scrolled around the area and discovered an ancient Angkor Wat style temple in the jungle called Prasat Muang Sing. This type of attraction should be hugely popular, but when we arrived there were only another three people walking around.
Find Inspiration on Instagram
Social media is a fantastic distraction from real life. You can spend hours scrolling through your feed aimlessly. I fill my Instagram feed with travel blogger account who mostly hit off the beaten path destinations.
Photographers like Zac White who explored Cocos Islands off the west coast of Australia, or Stefan Haworth who spent what seemed like a month on Timor Leste. These travel photographers show us destinations that most have never heard of, and truthfully, most will never travel to.
Of course, I’ll suggest you also follow my Instagram account for loads of off the beaten path destinations that I’ve been exploring lately. I post a lot more photos on here than the average blog post can handle.
Get the Details on Travel Blogs
In my opinion, the days of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are done and dusted, though it’s amazing how many people continue to rely on these biblically.
My introduction to finding off the beaten path information via travel blogs was with Travelfish. I started using Travelfish while motorbiking across Vietnam for 3 months and almost instantaneously made the move. I went cold turkey on Lonely Planet from there on.
These days the travel blogging industry is alive and kicking. There are so many travel blogs focusing on different niches that you can virtually find any information you need. Vietnam Coracle focuses on motorbiking in Vietnam, Expert Vagabond has great content on hiking in Central Asia, my own blog The Lost Passport provides loads of information on remote islands and small towns in Thailand and South East Asia.
Watch YouTube Travel Channels
YouTube is apparently the second largest search engine as of 2018 with over 1.9 billion monthly users. There are new content creators popping up every day. Travel channels like Lost le Blanc give loads of information on popular destinations with side sections on some lesser seen spots.
We recently spent one week hanging out on a beautiful island called Koh Mook in the south west of Thailand. I found out about this island from a travel video on islands in the Andaman Sea. There was a 10-second segment on Koh Mook, and then it was gone. I messaged the video creator for more information, and a week later I was on the way.
Just Drive, Ride or Walk
Not everything needs to be discovered online, sometimes the best way to find off the beaten path destinations is to just explore.
Have you ever driven along the highway and seen a sign for a waterfall, a lookout or a camping spot that no guides mention? More often than not, people will drive on without giving it a second thought.
I challenge you on your next trip to go the extra mile and visit one of these side destinations every day. I guarantee that by the end of your trip you will discover something amazing.
Milford Sound in New Zealand is one of the most iconic destinations in the whole country. Along the way, there is a small sign for Lake Gunn, a spot no one talks about. By making a short detour we found the most tranquil picnic spots in the world, besides a beautiful lake with crystal clear water.
Conclusions on Traveling Off the Beaten Path
It’s all too easy to stay in the comfort zone and stick to the tourist trail. It’s when you go the extra mile, put in the extra effort, then you will discover something amazing and make your travels really memorable.
Don’t forget, the world is huge and full of undiscovered treasures. Whether it’s scuba diving an uncharted reef, showering in a waterfall without a name, or visiting an island that doesn’t even appear on a map, if you travel off the beaten path, there’s a real adventure waiting for you.
What’s been your favorite off the beaten path travel experience? If you’ve got an epic story, I’d love to feature you on this blog.