The Beaten Path vs Off the Beaten Path

This article doesn’t reveal anything new. It’s just a quick compilation of few thoughts over a couple of beers in my fav local and it won’t enrich you at all, if you’ve travelled some non-resort destinations already. In the piece’s defense, I must say that it has one good alcohol analogy 🙂

How places became to be “on the beaten path”?

I’m certain that the term “off the beaten path” came to its existence only because of “the beaten path” itself. There’s no dilemma about the chicken and egg, unless you’re an Eurocentric asshole and want to argue that prior to Marco Polo nobody travelled and everything was off the beaten path or something like that.

Once upon a time, everything just was as it was. Then some dominant assholes came and created A and B and the consequent beaten path in between the two to trade and stuff like that. Everything else just stayed off that beaten path naturally, until some other dominant assholes showed up with different means of transportation or weaponry and conquered the A and B, connected it with their old place, creating new beaten paths. And everything else kept being “off the beaten path”.

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

And this is (imho) how it all happened. Btw, the dominant assholes are still pretty much in the same business even today but things are done in bit less obvious ways nowadays – let’s be honest – for instance Manifest Destiny in its original form would be a PR nightmare nowadays, although for example the current president of Brazil is trying to prove this theory wrong with his plans for the indigenous inhabitants of Amazonian forest ):

On the other hand – who knows – that bloody Bolsonaro might get a statue somewhere in the future. We do build statues for this kind of people for some reason. The world is full of statues of people who were often mass murderers, racists, genocide architects and all sorts of bad stuff.

I mean that the first wave of oversees travellers, like for example the good old Cristoforo Colombo and his jolly bunch of companions were the not exactly a multiple bracelet wearing hippies who respected the local cultures and customs…

Tad Fan waterfall, Dong Hua Sao National Park, Bolaven Plateau, Laos

OK, sorry – back to the present day and out of politics: The Beaten Path

The difference between the beaten path and off the beaten path isn’t that one is a cliché and another super-original. That would be too black & white or – let’s say – the romantic take on this split.

Yeah, yeah, all those tourist places are really crowded and usually there’s a lot of SCAM going on in the area, which could make the actual experience a bit annoying. But let’s not forget that there’s a proper reason for all those places to be like that: people want to see them because they’re special and unique, which among other things also attracts wealth, that’s why those previously mentioned dominant assholes got there in the first place.

Yes, I’m talking about places like Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Charles Bridge, Tour Eiffel, Sagrada Família, Big Ben* and many others. Well, the latter might be more iconic than actually overwhelming once you get there…

Bayon Temple, Cambodia

True, sometimes there could be a bit of a disappointment when you get to the destination ‘cos they might not be as impressive or simply physically smaller than you have imagined it so (sorry Stonehenge) but that’s mostly due to the dis-balance between the hyped up expectations and reality. But it’s like the movie based on the book you’ve red ‘cos in your head, you have imagined the set and the characters differently or simply because the timing and conditions of your visit (weather/hangover, etc…) were wrong.

One way or another, it’s still your own memory and nobody can take it away from you, plus when you see a place you have visited on TV or in the cinema – it feel tremendous, if you know what I mean, right? 😉

On the other hand, the off the beaten path holds that element of originality big time and please don’t get me wrong, it really could be the an aspirant for your the top ten memorable moments – just its definition makes it special already.

a road on the island of Phu Quoc, Vietnam

However, avoiding the beaten path just for the sake of being original is like not drinking the G&T because everyone else does so. Furthermore, it could also be a bit unwise as unknown cocktails can cause unknown consequences 😉

As for the travelling take, apart from missing out on some really exceptional places, in reality it might mean the undeveloped tourist infrastructure and the consequent general conditions of the roads, hotels, etc.. could spoil a thing or two for you.

Let’s rush into the conclusion

It’s hard to be objective about places, same as about literature, music, films or anything one perceives trough his or her filter.. We all like different things, but one thing could be said: in spite of being the first choice of the plan B within drinks, G&T is still a great bloody drink. And the tonic fights Malaria 😉 Btw – if you haven’t done so already – try it with a cucumber instead of the lemon 😉

And the tourist spots? Apart from the above mentioned annoying stuff, the beaten path brings competition, which means lower prices and therefore better choices when it comes to services…

Machu Picchu, Peru

The off the beaten path, in its romantic sense is the essence of an independent traveling, it’s basically the real shit. But let’s be honest. Like with any big rewards – the journey could sometimes be as tough as fuck. It could also be dangerous and at some point it will certainly be not very comfortable – nobody won an athletic event by watching sunsets in a horizontal position only, or?

Furthermore, are you sure that there’s The Beach and you’re the one to discover it? There’s not…or is there? Well, one thing is for sure, there are still places that will hit you like a slap in the face if the conditions are right, places that are not promoted in major guides or a Tomb Rider wasn’t filmed at the location. Do it and go where even Google doesn’t know about. For instance, Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu were also the “off the beaten path” spots just few decades ago.

When it comes to the good old beaten path – be clever. Find your way around. Think of Charles Darwin before you get scammed. Visit Prague’s Charles Bridge in the early hours (like really early – best just before you go home from a night out clubbing or if you’re past that – just wake up early – or try clubbing again 😀

Wait for the trillion Chinese photographers who want to capture the sunrise over the Angkor Wat to get in their breakfast-bound buses, etc… Observe the behavioral patterns of shit you want to avoid. There are always some ways to minimize the crap and impact of assholes..

I’m sorry if I’ve not listed any off the beaten path destination here – it would beat the purpose. Find your own 😉 And don’t tell Google about it…

*FYI: the name of the tower you see is actually Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is just a nickname for the bell inside.


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