We’re not backpackers nor do we travel luxuriously. Our travel style falls somewhere in between.
Whenever I read any sort of travel review — whether online or in a book — I often find myself wondering if the person writing the review is someone I would even identify with. Do we like the same things? How does his/her version of ‘outdoorsy’ or ‘bargain’ or ‘rustic’ or ‘luxurious’ or ‘difficult’ or ‘can’t miss’ compare to mine?
For the most part I find published travel guides to be a geared towards backpackers or towards people who enjoy staying in expensive hotels. I’d like to think we fall somewhere in between those two extremes. To me, a ‘budget’ hotel is not $150 a night (unless you are staying in New York City). Not that there is anything wrong with this approach to travel, it’s just not our style of traveling.
Oddly enough, I have had a few people ask me from time to time for my recommendations and not knowing their particular style of travel. and not wanting to ruin their trip in the event that our travel styles do not match, I have hesitated in giving any. As such, I thought I should clarify a few things about us and how we like to travel in the slim chance that anyone is a) reading this and b) wondering if/how our approaches vary/are similar c)actually using my rambling photo-laden blog posts as a guide.
ON HOTELS + MOTELS:
Since this is usually a big part of any travel budget, we tend to stay at simple, inexpensive, clean (this is a deal breaker for me), local, typically family-run motels. I wouldn’t say that we would never stay at an all-inclusive resort, but it probably would not be our first choice. I like quirky places and am not turned off by weird things like mis-matched furniture or kitschy dated decor. If we are staying in a hotel/motel/hostel/pensione/b&b we always pay extra for a private room (no more bunk beds for us) and an en suite bathroom. There are a few exceptions to this rule: 1. If we are staying in a city or location where we cannot find any reasonably-priced alternate/local options (or just don’t care) then we just use priceline or hotwire and stay at a chain hotel (we have found SO many great deals this way). 2. If we find a really cool or unique place (we are kind of suckers for things like factories-turned-hotels or treehouse cabins) then we will *sometimes* make the decision to splurge for a night but rarely more than two nights.
ON CABINS + CAMPING:
We love to be outdoors, so we always try to incorporate cabins, camping, hiking, or any outdoor activity into our travels. I would consider us to have a pretty high threshold for getting dirty — we are comfortable backpacking to remote locations and staying in a very rustic setting with or without indoor plumbing. For me, when I say the cabin/campsite is rustic, I mean it typically requires a hike in, has no running water and the toilet is either a pit toilet or a DIY toilet. Car camping sites with electrical hookups or cabins complete with indoor bathrooms (and hot water) are pretty luxurious in my eyes. Rustic to me would be something like Corbin Cabin. Not-so-rustic would be something like Big Meadows Lodge. We have a 2lb tent, a 6 lb tent, and a freakin’ tent with three rooms that has to be wheeled into a campsite. Ultralight 2lb tent = rustic/backpacking. World’s largest tent = not-so-rustic. 6lb tent = something in between.
ON HIKING (AND OTHER SOMEWHAT ADVENTUROUS ACTIVITIES):
We are not extreme athletes or professional rock climbers/surfers/skiers/snowboarders/mountain bikers — we’re just two very normal people who like to be outdoors. While we keep ourselves at a reasonable level of fitness, I consider myself to be something of a wimp (pretty much scared of everything), but a very curious wimp. Most activities that involve any level of danger or water (because I’m also terrified of open water) usually involves a great deal of whimpering on my part, a few tears, and then eventually (hopefully) an overwhelming desire to know what’s on the other side. I also have a terrible case of shaky leg syndrome whenever heights are involved. Honestly if I can do it, anyone can. When I refer to a hike as difficult I’m obviously not comparing it to say, scaling Mount Everest, but difficult in a way a normal, somewhat sane, possibly wimpy (like me) person would view the hike. My benchmark for ‘difficult’ day hikes is Half Dome (Round Trip — there and back up the Mist Trail), which I consider to a pretty strenuous, somewhat scary hike due to the length of the hike, the elevation gain, the lack of water on the trail, the amount of people doing dumb stuff, the steep terrain up the waterfalls and especially the non technical climb up the dome. An “easy” hike for me would be something that’s relatively flat and/or is a short distance (for me that is under 5 mile RT).
We love to eat and our most favorite thing to do when traveling is experience other cultures/locations/people through food or by sharing a meal. We tend to favor inexpensive, local. fresh, and organic, but we also like splurging from time to time on “once in a lifetime” sort of fine dining. I would consider us to be adventurous eaters, meaning there is nothing we will not try — brains, bugs, whatever. Things that most people find “gross” we don’t. We both grew up eating “ethnic” food so eating “weird” food is actually not that weird — it’s how many people in the world eat! I wouldn’t eat something purely for shock value, and I highly doubt I’ll eat dog or cat, but we’ll eat…or at least try…anything once. For the most part though, we prefer to visit local markets and buy our own food to cook ourselves — it’s usually cheaper, better, healthier, and allows us to be more flexible.
ON TRIP PLANNING:
Our formula for planning a trip usually involves a trip down the rabbit hole known as the World Wide Web and goes something like this:
– Determine a few places we MUST visit — museums, landmarks, restaurants etc.
– Google search for accommodations around those locations and then further google search to see if those places are sketchy. (A lot of times I just search for “unique” + “lodging” + enter location name to see what turns up), I tend to take online reviews with a grain of salt but if when researching lodging options I come across any reviews that mention ‘bed bugs’ or “hell hole” then it’s a no go. I don’t care if it’s true or false or whatever. Hell. No. Also, if a place mentions “rude staff” more than a few times, then that’s also a no for me. I don’t care to stay in places that cater to my every needs, but I don’t like staying in places with horrendous service either.
– Continue googling until I am so deep down the rabbit hole that I am now planning future trips to different locations (although this is oftentimes how I ‘stumble’ across interesting places)
– Book a nice(r) room at the beginning of the trip and a nice(r) room at the end of the trip. Book a trendy restaurant or restaurant we have been meaning to try on one of those days.
– Find budget/unique/off-the-beaten-track options in between
– Bonus points if being outdoors or an amazing view is involved.
– We usually leave a few days ‘open’ in our itinerary to accommodate things like weather or to allow us to pursue a fellow traveler or locals’ recommendation
– I usually do the planning since I’m pretty OCD and Sly is just happy with whatever I choose. Sly usually does the reserving and follow-up.
We are definitely off-the-beaten track sort of travelers. If we can avoid being around fellow tourists, especially tour groups of any kind, then that’s usually our choice. Of course we like to see check-in-the-box sites like the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building, but that is never the focus of our travels, more like the side note. Even in the most touristy locations, there always seems to be a better, more local/out-of the way/secret/hidden trail or vantage point or approach — these are the types of places and experiences we seek. Our favorite accommodations and activities allow us to interact with local culture, integrate nature, cook local food for ourselves, and meet local people.
If this sounds nothing like you, then you probably won’t find any of my recommendations (or blog) relevant at all. The latter most likely being true for most visitors of this site. In fact you will probably be very disappointed (if you aren’t already) when you roll up into a kitschy old cabin that I have described as ‘charming’ only to find out that it is in the middle of nowhere and does not have indoor plumbing.
But if you made it this far, and this sounds even a little bit like you then send me your travel recommendations, I’d love to trade stories and hear what you have discovered!