What does Off the Beaten Path Really Mean?

travel off the beaten path

I took the subway back from downtown Manhattan to Brooklyn early this week.

The R train pulled into Union Square but as I was about to step in, I turned and saw the long line of people waiting for the Q express and thought better of it. Sure enough, the Q sputtered into the station as soon as the R departed.

As it turned out, the express train was anything but.

The train stopped between stations frequently, lurching foward and then stopping again. Heavy sighs from the passengers, squished to the gills. All of us crunched together, separate sardines on a commute home.

I looked around me and wondered what people’s stories were in this mishmash of humanity on a late Monday in New York.

I was dressed for meetings in a skirt and silk top and boots; no one giving me a passing glance would think I lived elsewhere, that I had spent the past 3+ years roaming the globe.

One never knows what lies beneath the outer layers.

travel off the beaten path
“Manhattanhenge” in New York this summer.

As the train ground to a halt for what must have been the 20th time, the giant hairy arm of my neighbour knocked over the woman across from me. We were all clustered around the pole on the train, but only he was oblivious. Lost in his music, or simply uncaring, he kept elbowing her in the face as he moved.

Several minutes passed. Five, six.

Still stopped on the Brooklyn Bridge, my neighbour still stuck smelling the arm of the giant to her right.

I turned to her and suggested she start pulling his arm hairs out, one by one.

She giggled.

The man across from us stifled a laugh.

More time passed, but we did not move.  Six of us were standing in star formation, each joined together by the metal pole affixing us to our allotted subway places, grounding us for the duration of our ride home.

There’s a funny sort of intimacy that bubbles to the surface when you’re motionless in the subway; you can’t help but actually start noticing details instead of vaguely staring past the person in front of you. Your straphanging neighbours cease being random strangers and start to take shape into real people, with quirks and personalities and stories.

After several service announcements (“broken subway is broken”) and still wedged on the Brooklyn Bridge, the woman to my right cocked her head in my direction and whispered “since I’m not going to pull arm hairs out, tell me – what’s your life story.”

So I told her.

And she told me hers, and then we both raised our eyes to the man across the way, who shrugged and volunteered that he was from Florida, had just moved here to take a job after years of freelancing.

“I thought the train was supposed to be fast?” he asked.

We nodded, commiserating.

What does Traveling “Off the beaten path” really mean?

I often receive emails asking for suggestions about where to visit that’s off the beaten path.  People who write to say,“I know you put these places on your blog, but where are the secret places, the ones that no one else knows about?”

Oftentimes these readers are looking for a connection to others that feels special or sacred, something different. A story that we can look back on and tell the story to friends at home. “And then, she invited me to her family’s house and I ate with them, staying late into the night!”

But do we really need somewhere away from all the tourists to get that feeling of sincere invitation or “authenticity”?

Every Sunday in Chiang Mai I took take my motorbike to the night market to get a massage and grilled pork and sticky rice.

It was a routine that made Sundays the best of the week, full of smoky meat and sharp, spicy sauce and followed by an hour of someone beating up my legs and back. And in the middle of the hustle and bustle, the fluid movement of near and far, I always felt like I was in another world from the endless stream of tourists flowing by.

I would go to the same woman every week and while she worked her magic we’d make fun of the random outfits on those walking by, or berate the men working there for teasing the youngest girl on staff.

The song and dance between her and the other masseuses was overstated and comical, slapstick humour and lots of laughs. By the time I left Chiang Mai, I was showered in hugs and given bags stuffed with food to take on my onward journey.

how to find anywhere interesting
Incredible smoked pork from the Sunday Walking Street in Chiang Mai

And yet, when people ask for suggestions to Chiang Mai, they don’t want the night market. They want something different, something that sets their visit apart from the others.

Like an everyday commute in New York, you don’t need the social clout of stepping outside the quotidien to have memorable experiences.

Nothing I experienced in Chiang Mai is because I’m special, or because I befriended people specifically. It was simply a matter of genuine, human interacting. You only need to look at the people around you – truly look, communicate, smile.

The rest falls into place.

* * *

Three days before my ride to Brooklyn, I took the subway to the Lower East Side for the Restless Legs travel reading series.

Three Frenchmen were lost, and given that I’m from Montreal, I jumped in to help them figure out where they wanted to go next. They stayed on the platform, and as I boarded the train, a woman next to mejoked that she ought to have learned French in high school. (Let’s just say these Frenchmen weren’t hard on the eyes.) Originally from Russia, she lived in New York for some time. She was surprised to hear of my travels through Russia and Siberia. This initial banter turned into a long discussion about the politics of Russia and Siberia and an invitation to her family’s house for dinner.

None of these stories make me unique, and none are truly outside the confines of what’s normal for everyday human interaction.

So why is it that when I tell people about my new subway friends, their jaws drop and they say “why don’t I meet people on the subway?”

While it’s true that I’ve become more open to these random connections by virtue of my travels, I had similar experiences prior to quitting my job to travel the world. Perhaps it’s the same thing that has me winding my way through cities in search of markets and food instead of sights to see; I’m fascinated the most by the interaction between people.

To those who write to say they’d love to travel but aren’t yet ready to go, I suggest that they get outside of their comfort zone, even in their own hometown.

You want to get off the beaten path? Start small, then take your show on the road.

It’s an excellent start.

And when people write me to ask for isolated places, I do send them a list. But I also suggest that they remain open to the panoply of human interactions as they move through their days.

Yes, I love to get away from the tourists and the many people who travel for travel’s sake, but it’s not always about the most far flung places. In the middle of the busiest cities you’ll find those same connections and new friendships.

84 thoughts on “What does Off the Beaten Path Really Mean?”

    1. Hi Nima, I tried out a few other colours when I redesigned the site, but I liked the subtlety of leaving them the same colour – more as an optional link-through, instead of a required link. Appreciate the suggestion though! Yes, that pork is fantastic – Sundays never seemed so good :)

  1. Beautifully written post and a thought provoking question to ask. I would venture to guess that the best off the beaten path experience have to do with people and moments with others rather than a location or undiscovered place. Sure, off the beaten path places are those where there aren’t as many tourists. However, maybe “off the beaten path” is actually a metaphor for authentic and this is what people really want. So maybe people want experiences with real people and away from tourists.

    It’s funny that you talk about your own town or places close to home. How often do people travel to find these “off the beaten path” experiences yet miss out on so many of the same wonderful experiences that they could be having in places close to home? Maybe “off the beaten path” says more about our mindsets and what we need than it does a destination that we are looking for. Travel seems to trigger the desire for those type of experiences but maybe living life every day to seek “off the beaten path” experiences is actually about changing how we choose to engage the world around us moment by moment.

    Have no idea if this makes sense but I stream of consciousness approach here to kind of figure this out as I go. :)

    1. Thank you for the comment, Jeremy. I agree that the expression is representative of what tourists want these days – it’s part of why I get so many emails asking for those (or “authentic”) travel recommendations. It’s a mindset more than anything, and I think starting to travel certainly engages that perception, allowing us to embrace it and focus on it, even in our hometowns.

      1. I agree with Jeremy. And I think travel opens people up to become more adventurous (whether they like it or not) and it then goes home with them, making them more open to unusual experiences everywhere.
        When people say they want to travel ‘off the beaten path’, it’s synonymous with wanting original/unique experiences rather than just sight-seeing tours. But you can only really create them yourself by being open to try new things or being a bit more daring than the majority.

  2. my “off-beaten-path” often not too adventureous. Usually it’s a place where I see a smile and get a good coffee. I ended up visit that place every day and forget my travel plan. I have soft spot for people with warm smile and I tend to stop there.

    1. This totally reminded me of a place I found in Barcelona, Spain that when I happened to walk down some dark alley, off some weird street where I was just wondering aimlessly…towards an open door that had beer…. I met a really nice bartender that wanted to practice English…I continued to go back to that same place….day after day after day. If you ask me where it was now…I could not even give you a clue. Those were the things that I love when I travel…it is the people. I get so worked up that I may miss something…and really, every time it works out just fine. I got so sick of seeing Cathedrals, museums, etc. I wanted to meet the people. I have to remember that it is not the Cathedrals, museums, bookshops, etc that I remember it is the people!

  3. My last tweet was about this SAME concept. Sometimes I feel guilty when traveling because I don’t go that far off the beaten path. The truth is I like being around people who speak English, and get bored super easily when I go too far off the trail. My blog post was actually entitled “Am I a Bad Traveler?” I’ve come to the realization that as long as you’re satisfied, it doesn’t matter how far off the path you get.

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  5. Great post Jodi! I couldn’t agree more! Off the beaten track means doing things you haven’t done before. Talk to a stranger, travel without a reservation, quit your job, start a business, dance on the street, eat something new, whatever it is for you. And every time you do it, find out that there are so many other people that are doing it to. And when you feel it isn’t so special and exciting any more, start the next thing.

    1. Thanks Ruurd. Lovely to get a comment from you, given that you were a part of my initial days on this trip back in 2008! I think your characterization is spot on – pushing those boundaries and taking that step toward the unknown (the mindset or the physical act of doing so) is what makes the experience your own. That’s as ‘authentic’ as it gets!

  6. A well-used path is one where thousands of feet have beaten down the grass and weeds so that only dirt is visible; it is worn and easy to see. To go “off the beaten path” means to (dare to) go places which are uncommon, unusual, or more adventurous–places the average folks don’t try to (or want to) go.

    1. Hi Alan, welcome to Legal Nomads and thanks for the comment. It’s true that technically ‘off the beaten path’ is somewhere where others have noted dared go, or where it’s difficult to visit or experience, but my point was a more philosophical one. Ultimately, in the search for that uncommon place we sometimes lose sight of the forest of all those micro moments that make up the whole of what makes travel exciting. While I understand the drive toward different, sometimes it’s equally as satisfying or exciting to look around you no matter how popular the path might be.

  7. Yet another great, thoughtful post, Jodi.

    To me, getting “off the beaten path” just means doing something or going somewhere that pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone, like you said. It has to be slightly more strange than familiar. Because that’s when you are challenged and can get the most out of the experience. But, like you said, you don’t have to go halfway around the world in order to have this sort of experience. It can be striking up a conversation with a stranger on a subway, or signing up for an improv class when you’re terrified of being on the stage.

    Like you said, I think we’re ultimately just looking to make connections. But I think a lot of wannabe travelers just assume that those connections can only be had away from home.

    1. Hi Amanda, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject. Connections are what many of us seek, near and far – it’s part of what makes us all human, after all. As you’ve reiterated, I don’t think you need to get too far away from your own home to get that kind of ‘fix’ – you only need to keep your mind open to meeting and learning from those you encounter. Have a great rest of the weekend and safe travels to you too!

  8. Gorgeous sentiment. And one I fully agree with.

    Yes, “off the beaten track” is psychological. The beaten track is the way other people behave, governed by their decisions – and that applies to us as well. Stepping outside those grooves we beat into the world with our feet…that’s how to get there, whether by leaping on a plane or deciding to walk instead of taking the bus.

    This really comes home to me when I have visitors. The best way to see your home town/city with new eyes is for new eyes to come visit you, forcing you to do the tour guide thing, and I always find the mark of time upon the things I’m showing people. “Oh, well, this used to be a restaurant but it’s gone now….ah, they’ve blocked this road off”. I realise the habits, the tracks I’ve fallen into.

    All it takes is a step in a new direction, or a “hai” at a stranger. Agreed. :)

    1. That’s precisely right – it’s always noticeable to show people around your own town, to reinvigorate what you’re used to under the umbrella of a visitor’s newness. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  9. For me, sometimes it just means going somewhere that is commonly overlooked, but it does not have to be far or in the middle of nowhere.

    People just want to have a sense of adventure and most of the time it just comes from your inner feelings…And then it snowballs to – having a great find….or meeting new friends and forming new relationships.

    Or if you are already with friends, your fun and adventurous self just rubs off with the rest of the group, and you all end up having a grand time! =)

  10. Matt Langdon (@theherocc)

    Great post, as usual, Jodi. I think this ability to find “adventure” anywhere can definitely be learned. I would never have considered striking up a conversation at the beginning of my travel-life, but now I do it all the time. The more you do it, the less uncomfortable it will be.

    I struck a conversation with a French guy in Chicago because I love France and ended up showing his friend from Rome around Detroit the next day. You never know what might happen when you start a conversation.

    1. That’s very true, and as you’ve noted those random connections often lead to a chain of other interactions and meaningful friendship. Ruurd, for example, who commented earlier? He and I met in line for an ATM in Bariloche, and then weeks later he walked into my hostel’s common room at midnight with friends, in the north of Chile. We ended up travelling as a group to Santiago and seeing a football game and joking about how those meetings and greetings and random hellos end up turning into something more profound as time goes on. Thanks for reading, as always! :)

  11. Enjoyed this post Jodi. I’m of the same mindset. “Off the beaten path” has become somewhat of a cliche nowadays. Having spent years traveling around the world, we’ve now found that traveling around our big Canadian backyard has given us the same reward that previous “exotic” adventures did. At it’s core, its about doing things differently and constantly challenging your perceptions.

    1. Thanks Cam. It’s that challenge that remains the most difficult, right? I’ve certainly found myself needing a break from the travels themselves, and sometimes I don’t want to challenge myself – I just want to rest up! But to those who think you need to get far away, I challenge them to try and look for the same thrill as they go about their lives, in addition to their far-flung adventures.

  12. I love this article Jodi. You are so right – off the beaten path does not necessarily mean some secret place. It can be right in front of you in a crowded city. We just have to be open to the experience.

  13. Lovely post, & I agree. Honestly, when I get questions about where people should go that “no one knows about,” it takes everything in me to keep from replying, “the people who LIVE THERE know about it – does that not count?”

    The part about being more open to these kinds of encounters & conversations after traveling resonated with me, too. I feel like that’s one of the more useful gifts travel has given me – I’m more open to serendipity.

    1. Hi Jessie. Thanks for the RT, too. You and I have talked about this in person, and I’m glad to see your comment here. The philosophy or remaining open to the randomness is what I was aiming for here, and serendipity is an excellent way of synthesizing the general feel. You never know who you’ll meet or who you will learn from and that’s what makes life so exciting.

  14. I completely agree, I love traveling off the beaten path (hence my site’s title), but I also think this definition is so broad that it can cover almost every corner of the planet. I can’t even start listing all the offbeat places I’m discovering right in my hometown. Ok, I admit, I do come from a godforsaken village, abd when I come back from my travels I feel a bit a tourist, but sometimes even locals are amazed of the sites I went to see half an hour drive away.
    Sure, offbeat places are easier to find in an unknown village in the Himalayas than at the Taj Mahal, but what if you meet a camel farmer who lives just behind the Taj and you have the chance to have dinner with him and his family? That’s a great experience to me, and as you explained clearly, it’s more a matter of attitude than actually strive to find the off-the-beaten path.

    1. Hi Angela, I find the same in New York, where I’ve lived for years but of course it isn’t my hometown. I’ll often take born and raised NYers to tiny street eats or restos they’ve never heard of, likely because so much is easy and accessible that they stop looking. The experience, as we define it, has less to do with the genuine isolation of a place and more to do with the sheer difference of the experience. In the case you listed, having dinner with a camel farmer and his family is so out of the ordinary for you and me and many others that it raises the experience to something offbeat and off-the-beaten-path. As you’ve said, you don’t need to be far away to get that feeling of difference. Thanks for reading!

  15. Wow, I love this post in all sorts of ways. I was joking with some friends last week (new friends I have met since moving to New Zealand in January) that I hate large parties, but I can talk to any random person on the street. I think traveling forces us to open up in these ways, especially traveling alone. I have found myself recently yearning for connection, even though I have friends here now, I still find myself alone a lot, and while I tend to enjoy it, sometimes it is nice to be around others. These little moments of interaction, of sharing life while sardined together, are the best. They remind us, over and over again, just how much we all have in common.

    Also, I love how you started this post about how everyone on the train has a story. I often walk down the street wondering about everyone’s story. The Rugby World Cup is happening right now in New Zealand, and while I know nothing about Rugby, I love the stories it is bringing to the country. Thanks for posting this. It brought me a huge, huge smile.

    1. You make a very interesting point, which is that a series of experiences like those I’ve described do tend to make the quotidien more hollow, since you’ve connected to things more deeply than most people. Since many don’t look at the world as a series of interconnected links, that rapport is lacking and often (I think) contributes to the culture shock many of us feel in returning home after a long time abroad. I felt this way after coming back from Myanmar to Thailand; my days were so concentrated with new experiences that I felt like I was a fish out of water when I returned to Bangkok. This faded, of course, but it was initially jarring – and unexpected.

  16. Nice post, Jodi. It reminded me a post recently by financier/physicist/scrivener Emanual Derman where he says: “Because beneath the quotidian city the romance of an immigrant past in which everything is amazing and open to you is always lurking. Mundane people have romantic stories in their past. And romantic people have to do mundane city things.”

    Of course, people say that New Yorkers are famously taciturn, but I would guess that it’s more a prisoner’s dilemma suboptimal equilibrium and you will be rewarded for some gregariousness in the cattle cars rattling beneath the streets of old New York.

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  18. “Off the beaten path.” I honestly hate this phrase. It’s empty in meaning and using it implies there is this fixed physical path that all of us can walk on or veer off of. It’s more a mental, subjective concept for me — less a physical place and more, as Mike said, something psychological. It’s more about my attitude or approach, and/or my comfort zone (and stepping out of it), and has less to do with hunting for the “exotic” and the “authentic” in faraway or secluded places. “Going off the beaten path” could simply mean walking on 5th Street to downtown San Francisco from my house, instead of 2nd Street (my usual route). And my “beaten path” is different from yours, and everyone else’s.

    On another note, I like the moment on the subway you describe, as it reminds me of those mundane-turned-memorable encounters I seem to experience at unexpected times with strangers: when I’m riding the bus, standing in line for coffee, or fishing for the right change in foreign currency at a kiosk…

    Sure, taking time to trek to a remote coast of an island with no tourists is certainly amazing (and I’d never complain about doing stuff like this), but I seem to learn more about myself and how I relate to people in everyday situations in places like a crowded subway car. (And actually, those are the types of little moments I like writing about.)

    1. I think many people (including many LN readers, if the comments here are any indication!) would agree that it’s a psychological connotation and not a physical one. As you’ve said, both near and far can be replete with opportunities like the ones I described or the bus rides you’ve alluded to here. What matters most is that you are open to this relativity and connection, and not as much that you are geographically elsewhere.

  19. Great post!

    We were just pondering this general theme on a walk here at home base (Seattle).

    Specifically, we were discussing whether or not we need to make more of an effort to do more off-the-beaten-path sorts of things when we travel. We spend so much time on the road that we kind of feel as though we’re obligated to stretch in this regard.

    Talk then shifted to the benefit of off-the-beaten-path experiences in well-traveled places. We decided to do an immediate “mini-experiment.” We decided to return home from our walk in a way other than our usual path. Guess what? We came across a multi-acre protected forest area that we didn’t know existed. Embarrassingly… about a mile from our home.

    Experiment successful.

    We like the idea that off-the-beaten-path is right where you are. Whether you’re looking for unique travel experiences, friends, conversations, food, etc.

    There’s always something new to uncover right under your own nose.

    1. Hi Kent! Nice to see some NVR representation here – glad you enjoyed the post :) As you’ve said, right under your nose can be extremely satisfying or new or unique, if only you take the time to look. Nice to hear your experiment was successful in this regard. Safe travels to the both of you!

  20. This is a great piece. I have found that getting out of my comfort zone to interact with people during my travels has definitely enriched the experience. Those simple conversations or shared laughs have meant more to me than some of my attempts to get “off the beaten path.”

  21. What an insightful post my friend. I couldn’t agree with you more about how interactions with the people no matter where you are, can be just as or more fulfilling than seeing one more tourist sight on the old bucket list!

    This article brought back memories of my last trip to Florence when my partner was sick for two days. While he slept and in between my periodic “rounds,” I ventured off to places by myself but it wasn’t until dinner that one night that I truly discovered it’s the people that add the “local flavor” wherever you are. I met the owners of a little restaurant who took me on a tour to meet “Mama” in the kitchen, one of the chefs, seated at a beautiful cafe and received exceptional service all night long! Then, as I began to eat, folks around me started talking to me and before we knew it, dinner was over and we were all exchanging info.

    This was one of my most favorite off-the-beaten-path adventures and one that I seek out on every trip!

    Thanks for such an awesome post!

    1. Your experience is often the type of story I recount in explaining why I enjoy solo travel. Because I’m alone often, I’m more open to those connections. That’s not to say two people can’t be open to them, but rather that if you are actually talking to someone else, you might be missing some of these connecting opportunities. It’s nice to get a bit of both as you roam. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  22. I think it’s being willing to take off your headphones, get your nose of your book and open up to the world. I’m just as guilty as anyone as staying within my “comfort zone” even when I’m halfway across the world–but I find that when I manage to turn off my distractions, smile and start a conversation, that’s when I manage to find people who are willing to open up to me as well :) Great story–it reminds me of reading in the Melb newspaper of hearing one tram driver tell his tram to turn to the person next to them and say hello…even if it didn’t become lifelong friends, at least it reminded everyone that the people crowding you on your commute home are real people too!

    1. That’s a great story – and good on the tram driver for encouraging meaningful interaction on his watch. That’s actually how Pam started WDS in Portland too, telling all of us to turn to the person nearest to us and give them a big hug. A split second of awkwardness followed by 500 people breathing a sigh of relief. Very effective!

  23. My whole being “shouted” “yes!” when I read this! Finding myself stone broke and unable to travel over a year and a half ago now I decided to look around me as if I was a stranger to my island, and now I can’t believe how little I knew before! I’ve met people I never would have met if I’d had another mindset. Even walking my dog, for example, I have interesting conversations every week. There are times I smile at another dog owner and say “Hola,” and they ignore me, and I just feel sorry for them, not opening up to new possibilities!

  24. Nice post, Jodi! I like how you wrote about being more open to talking with people. Since travelling i have felt the same way. Well, I was never shy but I am much more willing now to go and talk to people, find out what they are doing, how they are. I love talking to all the people in our neighborhood here in Chiang Mai, asking them how their days are, how their families are, etc. It is fun to learn Thai from them, they love quizzing me when i come back! I love waving to the people in the neighborhood on the way home and having them recognize my face and wave back.
    And THESE are the authentic travel memories I hold dear. There are many stories where we have been ‘taken in’ by someone and experienced something ‘different’ but I also love the relationships that I am forming that are, well, normal. Getting out and interacting is what we need to do. To me, that is a bit off the beaten path.

    1. Monique, our story is a perfect indicator too – we only met because we decide to start chatting at breakfast, which led to biriyani and of course the rest was history! I enjoyed spending time with you in Chiang Mai or Burma or wherever in part because you love watching everything; you pay attention to all the little hiccups that make a place special. I’m sure you’ve got a multitude of stories now that you’re teaching in Thailand – can’t wait to hear about them when I’m back!

  25. I think off the beaten path is more of a state of mind than an actual location. It means going where you didn’t anticipate to go, both physically and mentally. It means letting travel take its course without too much extra thought.

    1. I so agree with JoAnna. A few months back I was a bit down and really stumped to find anything worth writing about (despite what I said previously), and a fellow blogger pointed out to me that things I do, see and experience in daily life might seem exotic to folk living, say, in northern Canada, because all our lifestyles are different and we can all learn from each other.

  26. This is wonderful, Jodi. So well said. I think what people are really looking for are “out of the ordinary” experiences, and you can have those anywhere, with the right openness, attitude, and patience. And let’s face it, there will come a time when there are no more “secret” places left on Earth–they will all have been thoroughly explored and written about–and what then, if you’re an “off the beaten path junkie”? Outer Space?

    1. Hilariously, my brother and I have a “continent war” – whoever gets to all the continents first, wins. He keeps trying to throw outer space into the mix but I am standing firm. ;) Yes, secrecy is a relative term, and as even the more remote places become accesible, the original “social clout” of getting there is less important. What matters, then, is the experience, and as you’ve said it’s far more about attitude than anything else.

  27. Wow, Jodi. Why have I only now found this blog? Your words are incredible… They speak so much wisdom and truth and create such vivid images with your descriptions.

    I’m about to start my ‘lifelong’ travels in 5 weeks time and you’ve pretty much summed up exactly how I feel about ‘off the beaten path’. I do think experiences come with not trying so hard to be “different”. It comes with observation and really just talking to those people around you and getting to know them. :)

    1. Thank you Ceri. Thrilled you’ve enjoyed the site and that you found it resonates with you. Best of luck to you in your upcoming travels, and may they be filled with experiences like these.

  28. I so enjoyed reading this! As someone who loves to travel and a psych major, people and different cultures amaze and astound me. I meet people on the subway, in coffee shops, everywhere here in New York, even meeting one of my boyfriends through one of these interactions! My friends are often amazed at my openness and ease at meeting and talking to other people, but I’ve realized that it is just about being aware of the actual stories within each individual around you. I’m glad other people have these connections as well, because I feel like it’s one of the most important things about human life. I appreciate you bringing this to light. Thank you again!

    1. Thank you Aakriti. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that you feel it resonated with you. The combination of studying psychology and seeing it in action as you travel must be a rewarding one indeed. Safe travels to you and thanks for reading!

  29. Hi Jodi. I just hooked on your site, especially with this theme. Being from a developing country, people still often ask me where to go once your here. I thought being in a developing country was ‘off the beaten track’ enough. Guess not.
    I have the same question. What is off the beaten track? With so many people and easier ways to travel, is there really a place yet to be discovered?
    And the question is, with the convenience we gain everyday, are we really ready for the real ‘off the beaten track’ experience.
    My definition is, to see what the common people can not. It could be in a bus, tram, or in your own neighborhood.

  30. Cole @ Four Jandals

    Is there really any “hidden” gems any more? The problem with the gems are that someone tells someone who then tells their friend who then blogs about it and that gem is gone. Especially when one gem means something completely different to someone else, for example just finding a lighthouse for me is an awesome experience but that is due to my Mum loving them rather than anything special. Hence it is not going to be as special when I tell someone to hike along a deserted track to get the same view. Thanks for sharing!

  31. Wow loved the post. Doing something makes each place special and unique to you gets you off the beaten track more than going somewhere “secret”(which hundreds of other people know about). thank you for defining what off the beaten track actually is not what most people think it is.

  32. Your post is so true! Off the beaten path for me is reaching past my comfort zone – leaving my beaten path (9-5 everyday grind)and getting out to explore, experience and discover the rest of what the world has to offer.

    1. I’m glad the post resonated with you, Kimberly. Yes, definitely pushing limits – that’s the key (in my mind, at least) to getting off your own personal path. Safe travels to you!

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  36. When I travel of the beaten track, I usually meet only few tourists and adventures. The infrastructure is not the best and sometimes not even minibuses cover the “road”. Of the beaten track could also mean for me to be independent and organize the trip myself. Going on a bicycle tour with friends with only a map and ask local people for the direction. Of the beaten track could also be buying a “guide book” to avoid the places in the guide book :-)

      1. I am not quite sure, if I missed it completely. Your article is great and I think you project “off the beaten path” to discover and to open up for new things, take new paths and be open minded to people. When I travel, as I described, I do the same, just in a different environment. For me talking to tourists and fellow travelers is a routine, a routine like leaving the house and going the same road every day. I go out without a plan and I am open to spontaneous chats, invitations and discoveries. Letting the path decide my direction.

  37. I agree, wholeheartedly. In people’s rush to discover the “hidden gems” and “places no one has been before”, I feel like they have forgotten that these experiences can happen anywhere. Just today I walked a different route to work and discovered a beautiful, multi-coloured home that I have never before seen — “off the beaten path” in the city I have called home, on-and-off, for 10 years. Thanks for sharing this story and for encouraging all of us to look for those undiscovered hidden gems in our daily lives.

    1. Thanks Veena! The point was ‘off the beaten path’ is an internal thought process more than an outer place, and if you’re not in the state of openness that connecting to others requires, you can go as far away as you’d like but potentially come up empty. Glad you liked the piece! :)

  38. I saw you shared this post on your facebook page and thought I’d want to read it later. I am glad I did. Beautifully written and so full of meaning. I really value human interaction and to me it even is slightly pointless to talk about off the beaten path places, especially in big cities like New York, London or Rome where pretty much everybody comes from somewhere else. Besides, what does it matter? We all have a story to share, and chances are that we don’t really need to go to a remote place that tourists will never find to actually hear that story. I have had some of the most interesting and local experiences in the most touristic destinations, just because I sat on a bench and exchanged a few words with the person sitting next to me, leading to a lovely conversation. Again, great post!!

  39. Everyone is too locked into the every day hustle. For me off the beaten path is going for a hike. It get’s me away from people. I’ve scene the most amazing things on my hikes. When I’m out a tourist location and want to escape, I look for a trail. People need to look for the genuine experiences that resonates with them.

  40. I moved to Greece many years ago and reading your post I realized I felt living off the beaten track for all those years in my new home country. Maybe because I am a foreigner which has learned to speak Greek, I open up much more easily to people than I did in my home country. And definitely Greeks open up more easily to me, as they still see me as a foreigner. This has resulted in numerous conversations I would never have had in my home country. Every day I still hear new things and see a world different than I grew up in. My life definitely feels like I am living off the beaten track.

  41. Well-written Jodi, So did you take up the Russian lady’s invite and go to her place for dinner? My experience has been when you actually take people up on those types of invites—the ones you make and agree on while tacitly acknowledging they’re unlikely to ever take place—is when the real “off-the-beaten-path” experience happens and the connection goes from ephemeral to life-long. In other words, always take people up on their invites to their homes! (Unless they look like they might eat you…)

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