Most of us are canceling trips right now rather than planning them. Travel uncertainty is likely to last into 2021 (I don’t plan on going back to Europe until it’s safe to visit my parents and that means a vaccine or a good treatment or me knowing for sure I have had COVID and have good immunity).
This can leave us feeling very trapped. (I still have a trip planned for September, which I haven’t finished the final details of, and which I think is about 50/50 to happen because I have to fly). For people for whom travel is a major mood lifter, the feeling that you may never get to go on that vacation just adds to all the pandemic-related stress.
But this will be over and we will be able to travel again. So I’m doing a series of posts on things we can do in terms of planning and research. This first one is on finding off-beat and unusual destinations.
Avoiding Those Sticky Tourist Traps
Look, there is nothing wrong with wanting to go to Paris, or Rome (Rome is on my list), or Prague. Or, you know, a major U.S. National Park.
They’re sticky traps that catch a lot of people in their net. People are already flocking back to Yellowstone, ignoring social distancing and all I can hope is that outdoor transmission rates are low.
In this time you probably want to avoid the Yosemite Valley or the Eiffel Tower. Or Disney. Disney parks likely won’t be giving you the full experience until some time next year. Same with Las Vegas.
So, you might be wanting to look for some more off-beat destinations.
Finding Those Off-Beat Gems
So, here are some tips for finding places, like Tallinn or Bratislava, that not so many people visit:
- Leverage your family history. If you’re American, you’re probably a mutt. Do you have ancestors from the Ukraine? There’s a possibility to consider. It can be a lot of fun to plan a trip that relates to your ancestry.
- Read travel blogs. Travel bloggers are always hunting for different places to visit. Digital nomads who travel all the time don’t want to rotate between the usual suspects. I found Tallinn on an article on top cities to visit in Europe, and I didn’t regret it.
- Look at your hobbies. Do you love trains? Switzerland and Wales are obvious places to go for off beat rail travel, but there are amazing train trips all over the world, including in Canada, Norway, Scotland… If you’re a knitter or weaver, how about going somewhere with interesting wools and yarns. Britain and Iceland are the obvious choices, but what about Bolivia? Literary trips can lead you into some weird corners. Near Manchester, where my family now lives, I discovered the wonderful Abney Hall. Literary connection? It belonged to Agatha Christie’s brother-in-law and she often went there to write undisturbed. Or there’s Newstead Abbey, home of Lord Byron.
- Forget National Parks, look to National Forests. Sequoia and Yosemite are well worth visiting, but Inoyo National Forest on the east side of the mountains has amazing hiking and fishing with far, far fewer people. If you’re in England, look for “Forestry Commission” sites. These are the equivalent of national forests, managed for natural resource preservation. They are, by law, open to the public, with the entry fee a token charge for parking. You might be the only person there!
- Hit social media. If you’re anything like most people, you have Facebook friends all over the place. Some of them may live or be from places you would never consider visiting, but which turn out to be far more interesting than you thought.
- Let yourself follow that research rabbithole. Like now I want to go to the Pyrenees. Oops. But free association can lead you to some interesting places, and spark an idea for that next trip you would have never thought of.
We can’t travel right now, but we can dream, and if we have extra time at home we can use it to plan our next several trips…