There are two types of travellers. The one who plans everything out, does research before going to the place, plans all the stops, looks up all the good restaurants and bars, and marks every little bit on a document and a map. Then there is the wanderer. The one who just gets on a plane, and then wanders about, hoping to stumble on the best restaurants and places of interest.
I used to belong to the first category. Always prepare a document months before our trip, with all the flight details, hotel addresses, places that we must visit, good restaurants, and a well-planned timetable of what we have to do. But over the time, I realised that with this I am missing on the joy of simply wandering about and stumbling on restaurants that might not be known to the general touristy public. With time I realised that some of the best places that we’ve seen or eaten at, were only found by coincidence, or were suggested by locals.
Get off the beaten path!
Something that I’ve grasped along the years, is the fascination of visiting places that are not that touristic. We’ve been to some of the Greek islands for our honeymoon. We obviously had to visit Santorini, because, come on! But then, we also visited two islands, Amorgos and Sifnos. And I can definitely say that I much preferred these two islands rather than Santorini. They are much calmer, not a lot of people going around, sometimes we even had a beach to ourselves. We rented a car and spent days going round these two little islands. Sometimes it was just us, the rocky hills, a few goats grazing around and spectacular sunsets. On Amorgos, I had one of the best pasta alla carbonara in my life. And this was when we were lost in the main city of the island, trying to find a restaurant because we were getting hungry. We saw this empty restaurant and decided to give it a go. And that was one of the best decisions we made during that trip!
Get lost in alleys and follow your instinct
Morocco is another country which I suggest that you literally get lost in. This is definitely not a difficult task, especially in the old medinas where the streets are all tiny alleys, winding around the city, and the street names are all in Arabic. Just don’t look too lost, because local people will stop to help you (nothing wrong with that), but then end up asking for money for their service! When we were in Fes, we bought this beautiful piece of art on canvas, for just €8! We went into this alley, because we followed some pieces of art hanging on the wall, and ended up in an art studio, which also served as an art school for young students. Now everytime I look at that beautiful piece of art, which is now hanging in our living room, I remember that really narrow alley, and the smiling old man who sold it to us!
Get the inside scoop from locals
One thing that I really like to do now is to stay in either B&bs or airbnb. This allows you to meet the owners of the place, who are generally locals, and through them you get the inside scoop for good restaurants and things to see, other than the general, well-known attractions. When we were in Bruges, we were staying at this lovely B&b which had only 2 rooms. The host, who was a lovely, bubbly young woman, gave us a lot of insight about the city and suggested that we go to this small village near Bruges, called Damme. In order to get there, you can either go by ferry or else walk like an hour and a half along the canal among tall trees. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done, and the village, although there was nothing special about it, was still a lovely spot to have a quiet lunch in.
Although I still create a document for every trip that I’m going to make, and do some research from before, I now find that getting insight from other travellers and locals is much better than just sticking to the top things to do in a place. To be fair, nowadays it’s much easier to search for off the beaten path places on the internet, through other travel blogs. But, this doesn’t compare to getting lost in a city and stumbling on beautiful places. So go ahead. Make your little discovery on your next trip 😉
‘Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.’ – Erol Ozan