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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

How to Avoid Copycat Tourism

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

The globe is big enough for everyone to find unique travel experiences. Don’t be a copycat.

You know the feeling. When you see a spectacular photo from one of the countless jaw-dropping sceneries on Earth. Or when you read about someone who had a hell of a time in that particular city you always dreamt about visiting. Chances are that you will inhale the inspiration and start planning your trip. And you should.

But seek your own experiences, your own memories. Sheep never were particularly innovative. Don’t be one.

People don’t like copycats, anyway. There are a few things I invite you to think through.

1. Keep an open mind. 

This goes withot saying, but what I mean is that you don’t plan your trip only based on what you read in guidebooks and online, what you hear from your neighbour that has visited before or what that so-called travel expert said about the place on TV. Only doing what they tell you to is not keeping an open mind. They may have been there, but perhaps only for a short time or maybe it was 3 or 5 years ago. They may also have lived there for a year or two and have just returned. Regardless, what they recommend is based on their experiences, their memories, their interests and their ideas of fun. Why would you plagerise their stories? Live and write your own. Don’t be a copycat, a sheep or merely a follower.

There will of course always be exceptions such as a famous monument, a world famous museum or the best restaurant in the country that you must pay a visit to, but as a general rule I always seek my own experiences. By talking to locals, travellers I meet there or by being impulsive enough to walk down a random road, jump on an arbitrary bus or say hi to that peculiar  person in the park.

2. Don’t travel for bragging rights.

Travelling is the new status symbol to more and more people, and social media helps us to show it off more easily. It seems like it is all about going somewhere fancier than your friend or foe, at least to a better restaurant or a flashier hotel. But if the only reason you travel is for the show off photographs on Instagram or maximizing your Facebook likes, do you even take pleasure in the travelling itself? Pleasures such as exploring new places, feeling the different and unusual atmospheres, tasting flavours unknown to your tongue and meeting people with background totally different to yourself. “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”, a wise person once said. But not if travelling isn’t about exploring the world and yourself but about mimicking the photographs of others in front of pyramids, beaches or hotels. I would claim that you are only travelling for status. If that is the case, why don’t you just be true to yourself and get some designer outfits or a couple of sportscars instead?

Strange coming from me, hey? With six travel world records to my name, visits to every country, much used SoMe accounts and published books and articles. But believe it or not, I do not even have a bucketlist. I am however very impulsive and I find pleasure in strange, weird and crazy ideas that suddenly come to mind. Some of which led to world record attempts and what not.

3. Use guidebooks with care.

Guidebooks can be excellent in planning your trip, but chances are that they are totally out of date, inaccurate or written by a ballet-dancing, fly-fishing, former pro-wrestling, new age fanatic that you may have nothing in common with.

Use guidebooks for what they are, one source of information. And never assume that everything in them is accurate, remotely correct or what you agree with. Finally, be aware of the insult factor when reading a guidebook about the country you’re in. Those around you may wonder why the hell you don’t just ask them instead, or assume that you are an ignorant and arrogant traveller for not reaching out.

I have also written about why guidebooks are bad for you, if you need more excuses not to buy another guidebook in your life.

4. Don’t plan your holiday to death.

Guidebooks sort of also bring me to the last point. Don’t overplan your holiday, or it will seize to be a holiday, with schedules much more feirce than what your much hated boss could ever impose on you.

I mean, how can you base all your planning on what you read or hear when you haven’t even been in that city, region or country before? Chances are great that it will be very different to what you expected the minute you walk off that aircraft, train or boat. But by then everything has been planned, restaurants booked and all the tours set up and paid for. With no time left for being impulsive, listening to advice from locals or just walking down that unknown path. And who knows, it might very well lead to that pristine beach that no one knows about. As they don’t want to spoil it all by having it listed in a guidebook.

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