GUIDEBOOKS WILL ALWAYS have their place in the travel experience.
But it’s possible to become too reliant on them to the detriment of your trip.
Ideally, guidebooks should be viewed as the starting point of a trip and used to find the right direction rather than something to look to every time you’re unsure of your next move.
Think travel without the safety of the guidebook can be daunting? Here are some tips for traveling without it.
Stay In An Unlisted Place
Some of the best locations are exactly that because they are not listed in any guidebook. They are often more intimate and the staff may go that extra mile to make your stay a truly memorable one.
You will be supporting a local business reliant on passing trade or word-of-mouth (rather than following a long line of people traipsing a well-worn path from the point of arrival to the most highly rated hostel).
Unlisted places may also be cheaper and friendlier, as they are not resting on any laurels arising from their entry in a travel guide.
Disregard Some Guidebook Advice
I would never suggest disregarding guidebook advice where personal safety or cultural respect are concerned – wandering into a mosque wearing a bikini or flashing wads of cash in a neighborhood known for gun-toting criminals are scenarios that will never conclude favorably.
However, if you pay too much heed to every danger described, you could be too terrified to leave your room for fear of being kidnapped at gunpoint or coming down with a rare tropical disease. Get out and explore!
Nobody Likes A Miserly Know-It-All
Insisting you pay $3 per night instead of the current rate of $3.50 because “that’s what the book says” is insulting to your host and rather pathetic.
The guidebook listing will have been written well in advance of your own travels, meaning prices will inevitably be higher. I have been ashamed to hear fellow travelers complaining loudly about sums of money that actually amount to very little in the context of their own lifestyle back home.
You’ll invariably make fewer friends if you behave like this, so just relax and pay the proper rate.
Listen To The People You Meet
Undoubtedly the best advice I have received while traveling is from talking to other people about where to stay and what to do.
A little-known island is just the ticket when you want to escape the backpacking crowds. But, as you can imagine, a little-known island won’t be tranquil for long once it’s featured in a global publication.
Sometimes the only way to have a bit of peace and quiet is to take a risk and follow advice from people you meet along the way. Remember, they probably had the opportunity to stay for a while and were able to see things from a slightly different angle than the guidebook writer.
Leave The Guidebook In Your Accommodation
Don’t skip the iconic sights, but be open to more obscure ideas. Who knows where you might end up?
For me it was staying overnight in a tiny rural village with a new local friend and his extended family, getting drunk on home-distilled liquor, and trading Lao phrases such as “Can you starch the collars” and “Is there an ATM around here?” from our phrasebook.
I don’t remember anyone I met while visiting the Taj Mahal, but I won’t forget the laughter and warmth of the night I stayed in an unnamed village in the middle of the Lao jungle.
Take A Chance!
The advice given in guidebooks can be invaluable and will give you a birds-eye perspective on issues such as local culture, safety guidelines and an overall flavor of your destination.
However, it’s possible to lose your travel independence because of the safety net the guidebook affords. Sometimes traveling without this cushion and relying on first-hand advice from the people you meet (whether they are locals or travelers) will lead to a more rewarding experience.
By taking a chance on the unknown, you will almost certainly have a more memorable travel experience.
It could be a bumpy ride at times, and you will probably make mistakes along the way, but travel is supposed to be an adventure, right?
What are your tips for traveling without a guidebook? Share in the comments!