When I first went to South Africa and then subsequently Australia in consecutive years I was astounded by the length and breadth of the experience in each country. Moreover I was completely taken aback by all the stuff I didn’t know about. I remember, as I am sure does our mini bus driver, the bombardment of questions that he faced as we drove over the Highveld in the Northern Cape about how deep was this dam, how successful were the local chameleon clinics, how far did the Voortrekkers get and what caused them to stop. After a week he had enough but at least I did convince him and myself of the demand for really interesting local stuff. Multiply my schoolboy enthusiasm to the power of 10 and you have something of an insatiable demand for local knowledge, which often provides the compelling reason why we travel in the first place.
Travel broadens the mind – of that that we can be certain. A generation ago – in a largely ‘pre-gap year’ society the United States was truly a long way away and Australia even further. You could not get to ‘remote’ and exotic destinations like Thailand without at least two stopovers – and spending my 22nd birthday in a transit hotel in Soviet Leningrad was not one of my fondest memories. However being subjected to so many different situations calls for a variety of different responses. A traveller becomes more aware of the new environment very quickly and has to believe in his or her instincts – eventually becoming very good at it. It gives them confidence knowing that they can handle efficiently any situation which may arise. Sadly one capital city resembles the next one in many parts of the world as the ubiquitous Starbucks culture has become entangled with the local DNA. Today’s adventure seeker is advised to strike out from the city centre as quick as possible to get ‘local immersion’.
So my advice is just be bold and the sooner you can unearth those hidden nuggets –the richer your travel experience will be come. Pre–trip research can be garneredonline but there is a lot of noise out there and very little in the way of a consolidated repository of useful stuff. In an unashamed plea for support please feel free to consult your local TripTide hub – there are many more coming). There are also some useful bloggerati out there – but again plenty of noise and online research can take a while.
When in doubt – just ask a local – but of course you have to be there first.