I'll never forget the day I boarded my first, long distance flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Madrid, Spain. Passport clutched in my hand, my heart was pounding with adrenaline. I couldn't contain my excitement.
For as long as I can remember, I've had the travel bug. I have always wanted to go and see and do. Sitting still was never an option. And four years after boarding my first long distance flight, I have been living abroad in Paris for three of those years and have visited over fifteen European countries.
In his talk, "Why you should, and how you could, travel off the beaten path?" Jeremy Ximenez of WikiStage Stanford breaks down the "Where?" "How?" and "When?" for traveling off the beaten path.
Ximenez has tons of experience visiting countries that most wouldn't dare out of fear and uncertainty. While I myself haven't traveled to the countries he mentions, I have visited ones that aren't in the top five for most European travelers, and these tend to be some of my favorites.
In the "Where?" section, Ximenez answers that question by explaining that there are less tourists in these countries. And since there are fewer, people tend to be more hospitable and eager to meet foreigners.
When I took a cab ride from the Sarajevo airport to the center of the city, my cabbie tried to give me a quick, historical tour of his city with his broken English while whizzing in and out of traffic. The man was proud of his country, and despite a language barrier, he was eager to tell a young American traveler everything he possibly could.
Traveling is already something important to learn more about yourself and other cultures. But sometimes when you travel somewhere filled with tourists, it can be difficult to fully experience what the country has to offer. I've discovered that when you travel somewhere with few tourists, locals are more likely to offer a helping hand and try their hardest to ensure your visit is memorable.
My stories are not as extreme as Ximenez, but they just as important to me and serve as a reminder for why I love traveling to places most people wouldn't think twice about. And this is something I keep in mind as I plan my next adventure.
If you itching to travel but aren't sure where, just take a few minutes to listen to Ximenez's talk, and maybe you will have the urge to travel off the beaten path.