When I went to Japan I had a breakthrough: me and my friend went to explore Kyoto. After bumping into several temples we didn’t really have a reference for, we decided to ‘do’ the temple of the golden pavilion (kinkaku-ji). After surfing a wave of hundreds of tourists for 45 minutes and missing (for the most part) the darn temple, I thought to myself:
“I’m going to create an app that tells you the level of ‘tourist trapness’ for every attraction in the globe. I will call it ‘Tourist Trapvisor or ‘tourist trapperr’ and it will be the mecca of alternative holidays on the internet.”
Disappointed, I walked away from the hordes of tourists and I lost myself in the grey highways of Kyoto. For some magical reason, I ended up in a local Sakura (cherry blossom) party which was bubbling with Japanese families enjoying delicious food and drinks in proper ‘hanami’ style (Japanese picnic).
There was only one tourist, and that was me.
Travel is too affordable my friends, and we have all the travel information of the world at the click of a button. There is nothing else to discover on this planet. Anywhere you plan to go, you’ll find it packed with dangerous ‘selfie stick’-yielding tourists. We are hearing the echoes of the past that dictate us to visit the main sights of each place, in total disregard of the local, authentic reality.
Inbound travel to Asia has grown above 5% every year for the past 6 years. That means that in 6 years tourism to Asia has grown a whopping third. And most of it is ‘get to the sight, take a thousand photos, fuck off back to your dull life’ type of travel. As a bonus, brag about being able to travel that far and start counting your ‘likes’, oblivious to the present moment.
Alternative holidays are the new mainstream
You may try to use some of your extra 5k per annum you got as a senior executive on an ‘alternative holiday’. You may go someone farther than anybody else, away from the filthy masses, where the impact to the environment is ‘smaller’.
Looking at these suggested alternatives to the Mediterranean on the Telegraph, I observe that Scandinavian countries and Finland are on the top list of places to have a different type of holiday. I lived in Finland for 5 years and at the time I thought going there on holiday would certainly break my bank.
…and most likely my umbrella too.
I get why Nordic countries are interesting, off-the-beaten-path destinations, but these places are simply too expensive for the value you get. ‘Alternative’ shouldn’t mean twice as expensive.
There is definitely great interest in ‘unusual’ holiday destinations. I found this website which is essentially all about this kind of travel.
Millenials who can afford it choose down-to-earth, honest holidays that don’t leave a huge carbon footprint (with the exception of the ridiculous amounts of CO2kgs that your flight seat sprays into the atmosphere, of course).
We fly from our overpriced metropolises and land straight into Costa Rican ziplines, Thai scuba-diving courses or Peruvian ayahuasca ceremonies.
I’ve been there and found a bunch of other office neurotics who, like me just wanted to feel good about themselves for a couple of weeks. I also found some savages who enjoyed riding elephants and quads across tropical forests.
This meant to me the culmination of a passion for travel that started with a premise in mind: to spend at least as possible in food, accommodation, entertainment and travel (with evening beers being the exception).
Real alternative holidays for millennials
Since I went freelance and moved to the Northern Spanish seaside, I’m not so much interested in holidays or travelling far, but these are three types of travel I would gladly embrace right now.
1 Ugly towns
Ugly towns have a benefit that results in other good things to happen: You won’t find tourists.
Therefore, everything stays as it is: authentic, unmasked and affordable. You will feel like the king of Airbnb. And plus, every little town has a nice little old building or museum you can visit.
If you are in the UK, you are certainly spoiled by choice, so simply go to Google maps and go anywhere with more than 150k inhabitants that isn’t London.
If you live in Spain or are heading to Spain, I recommend the following cities:
Great weather, cafes and delicious ice cream shops with ‘cannabis’ ice cream flavours.
Great Spanish bulky menus del dia (three-course specials with wine and bread included).
A deindustrialized small town with great bars (go to El Sinfónico) and lovely dog-owners.
If you feel really adventurous and you really want to follow the Telegraph’s advice of going to Finland, go to Lahti, the ugliest town I’ve ever been to, home of a mind-blowing Radio and TV- museum.
2 Suburbs of massive towns
This comes after another realisation I had in Japan: I stayed in Nerima, a suburb of Tokyo, the home of my friend’s studio apartment. His home didn’t have a shower or a proper kitchen so we did a lot of local ordinary activities, such as spending a lot of time in the local ‘onsen’ (Japanese spa) and eating in the local restaurants. I fell in love with the atmosphere of the suburb, because I got closer to Japanese culture than anywhere else I visited (especially the bloody Temple of the Golden Pavilion).
Go to Google maps, choose a foreign city with over 5 million inhabitants, Airbnb yourself into a not-too-deprived district and spend there 5 days. Your life will change.
3 Cruise packages
I always avoided anything packaged, in part because I wanted to look cool and do everything myself. As I don’t have that concern anymore so I would just embark a ship and embrace ‘her’ like my home in the seven seas.
If I’m able to be oblivious to the fact that the deck of a cruise ship can have twice as much pollution than Piccadilly Circus, I would love spending a couple of weeks drenched in alcohol and not really knowing where the hell I am.
Get a cruise package from Fusion Cruises, pay once and embrace the power of Dionysos
‘Alternative’ doesn’t mean anything. It simply is an alternative to something else. The mainstream-underground distinction isn’t valid anymore. At the end of the day, your best holiday is the one that lets you engage with the here and now as much as possible. That may mean staying away from your smartphone, your social media bullshit and your photo camera for a week or two and discover how mindblowing the present moment is.
What does alternative travel mean to you?