" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!
Few forms of travel involve more excitement, unpredictability, and opportunities to connect with the locals than road trips. Whether in a car, motorcycle, RV, or even a converted school bus (yes, I've done it!), nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip! This summer, why not hit the road on one of these epic routes and see what you find:
One of Southeast Asia's most popular motorcycle routes is the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail that runs north to south through this elongated nation. I spent three months in Vietnam in 2014 and this was one of the highlights of my time there. The countryside of Vietnam is gorgeous and most of the roads were smooth sailing.
Along the way there are tons of small villages to stop at and meet locals, as well as plenty of sights to see that are off the main tourist trails. One example is the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, home to over 300 caves, including the largest one in the world, Sơn Đoòng Cave. Back in 2003 the park earned itself a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List and although tourism has been slowly increasing ever since, most visitors to the park are Vietnamese.
Back in 2010, I spent six months on a 32-state United States road trip and had an unforgettable experience. We went from California to Washington, D.C., and then back to California. It was amazing to see the way the terrain, roads, people, and food varied state to state.
Most people always assume that life in the United States is the same throughout the country; however, nothing could be further from the truth. But the only way to experience this is to travel cross-country for yourself!
If that's too grand of a road trip for this summer, check out the 7 Best American Road Trips for Last Minute Getaways.
flickr // auspices
Iceland is a majestic and beautiful country, and one of the best ways to experience it is to spend a couple of weeks circling the entire island in a rented car. As my friend Liz of Young Adventuress describes it, Iceland's Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is "830 miles of adventure and surprises." Just be sure to read all the do's and don'ts of an Iceland road trip before you go!
India's diversity cannot be understated. From the deserts of the west to the lush and rainy mountain hills in the far east, the climate, flora, and fauna change as dramatically across the country as do the people and the food. While some of this is seen when traveling the country by bus or train, only when you navigate the roads yourself does this become clear.
Earlier this year I traveled 3,000 kilometres from the far west of India to the far east ... by rickshaw! With a top of only 55 km/hr (around 35 mph) it took us two weeks, but was absolutely incredible. Highly recommended — and possible for you to do. Learn more here.
Reno's big sister Las Vegas may get all the attention, however that doesn't mean visitors to Nevada should skip Reno. The city and surrounding area has plenty to offer -- besides just gambling -- without the overwhelming crowds of Vegas. Consider these offbeat sights and activities when planning your Reno vacation:
This 78-lane bowling megaplex is a testament to how much the citizens of Reno love the sport. The National Bowling Stadium is the largest bowling alley in the world and as such plays host to all the big bowling tournaments. It was also used in the filming of the bowling comedy classic Kingpin. Go on by and test your skills at the "Taj Mahal of Tenpins."
Go karts, mini golf and the Ultimate Rush, oh my! Grand Adventure Land is a miniature amusement park located at the Grand Sierra Resort but open to the public, not just guests of the resort. The highlight of the park is a ride called the Ultimate Rush, a crazy combination of hang-gliding and sky-diving that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping!
Read More Reno Has More to Offer Than Just Casinos
Levi's denim jeans are an American icon known around the world and they got their start in Reno, Nevada. First designed by Jacob Davis using Levi's denim, the two patented the idea in 1871 and the rest is history. Although Davis' original factory no longer exists, a plaque commemorating this historic event can be found at 233 N Virginia Street.
I bet you didn't even know this one existed, eh? Neither did I before passing through Reno on a road trip with my off-road addict of a best friend. Turns out the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is located downtown inside of the National Automobile Museum, making it a great destination for all sorts of motor enthusiasts. The amount of stuff inside will amaze you! Definitely a must visit and a great way to pass an hour or two.
2015 marks the first year of the Reno Offbeat Arts & Music Festival. This four-day festival is designed to highlight the burgeoning offbeat art, music and food not just in Reno, but found throughout all of Nevada. It will take place November 5th - 8th, 2015 throughout downtown Reno. Details and full lineup have yet to be announced, however you can find out more on the Reno Offbeat Festival web site.
This infamous brothel gained nationwide attention after the HBO behind-the-scenes special about brothel life, Cathouse. Needless to say this is not a family outing, but for all you solo travelers out there eager for a unique experience, this is for you. Expect the night to cost you a couple hundred dollars, however it is possible to spend several thousand here, if budget is of no concern.See More Offbeat Travel Guides United States Travel Ideas
One of the most popular year-round beach destinations in Texas is South Padre Island. Although the island is most known for being a party haven of college students every spring break, it is also popular with families all summer and snowbirds all winter. The island may be small but is perfect for relaxing (as long as you are not trying to do that during spring break, of course). So the next time you need a quick weekend getaway, South Padre Island is where to go -- and this is how you make the most of it in just 48 hours!
Beaches are fun, but don't spend all your time lying around on them. Get up and go try something new. There are plenty of fun and exciting water-based activities available in South Padre, from kiteboarding to wakeboarding, kayaking, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving (and certification), even surfing. Pick one or two that you have never tried before and give it a shot!
Most visitors come to South Padre Island for its beaches, obviously, however there is more to do than that. The island boasts several great parks and nature centers, such as Andy Bowie Park and the SPI Birding and Nature Center. Or for those looking for a bit more adventure, consider trying fly boarding while in South Padre, a hot new water-based activity that you may recognize from TV or the movies. It is essentially a water-powered jetpack that propels the wearer into the air and is wicked fun!
One of the best things about all islands is the abundance of good seafood. Thankfully South Padre is no exception to the rule. Blackbeards' restaurant is a laid-back and affordable place with great seafood. They are also the proud home of the best onion rings on the island. Don't believe me? Try them for yourself!
Or if you want to treat yourself or take your loved one out somewhere nice to enjoy a romantic sunset dinner and a cocktail or two, look no further than the Sea Ranch Restaurant, the island's premiere dining establishment and a local favorite for nearly 40 years. Try the Ahi Tuna, my personal favorite. Or if you've been out fishing recently, bring your catch in here and their chefs will turn it into a delicious dinner.
Just because the sun has set doesn't mean the fun has to stop. If you still have energy left before heading back to your South Padre hotel, consider heading over to Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill. The serve both seafood and traditional American staples such as burgers and buffalo wings, however their real claim to fame is being the largest beach bar in all of Texas. Live music and concerts are regular events here that definitely help make for a memorable South Padre experience!
As a native Texan, I've been to Padre more times than I can count. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask away!
Nashville is known as Music City and the city definitely lives up to its reputation. However, there is much more to Nashville besides just country music. From artwork to history to haunted locations, Nashville is a city that will keep you on your toes - if you know where to look and what to do. Check out these awesome off the beaten path ideas:
My first visit to Nashville was in 2010 on a road trip and I still remember the surprise at what we found on Music Row. Right there in the center of the roundabout is a massive 40-foot tall statue of nine larger-than-life naked people dancing, celebrating and acting free. The symbolism behind the statue is that dancing is the physical expression of music and a way of uniting diverse people.
Of course, Tennessee is the buckle of the Bible Belt, so not all the city's music lovers are also lovers of this statue, named Musica (one can only assume the name came from the fusion of music and erotica). Occasionally, clothes or sheets will be found on the statues in the morning, so feel free to help clothe the naked dancers if you wish.
There is no shortage of haunted locations in and around Nashville. From the history and legends of the Bell Witch Cave to the modern terror that at Nashville Nightmare, there is something here that will scare the socks off you.
Located about half an hour north of Nashville, the Bell Witch Cave is open for tours during the summer and autumn. As the legends go, back in 1817 the Bell family began being harassed by a witch before she eventually fled to this cave. The entire property, cave included, remains in the Bell family to this day.
Image copyright Denise Mattox
However, it's the haunted houses of Nashville Nightmare that will really give you goosebumps. These advanced, modern haunted houses are a more engaging "choose your own adventure" style experience and are designed to be scary for adults as well. Trust me, they will make all of the haunted houses you remember from you childhood seem like happy, cheery fairy tales.
Located in Centennial Park just a few minutes southwest of downtown Nashville, a life-size replica of the Parthenon was originally built for the 1897 Nashville centennial. Locals fell in love with it and in 1920 the temporary plaster Parthenon was torn down and rebuilt with permanent materials. Nowadays, this impressive structure serves as an art gallery with both permanent and changing exhibits. Its claim to fame is the life-size statue of Athena, painstakingly reconstructed to her original beauty.
Turns out that over the years lots of famous historical figures and musicians have been buried six feet under Nashville. Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, and James Robertson, one of the founders of Nashville, all are found in one of the cemeteries scattered around the city or Old Hickory Lake. My personal favorite was the Suicide Rock tombstone.
As the story goes, in 1836 Ann Rawlins Sanders jumped off a rock ledge to her death. Upon learning this, her boyfriend broke off the ledge so no one else could use it to commit suicide and somehow transported the large boulder into town, where it became Ann's tombstone, or so the story goes. Check it out for yourself at Old City Cemetery -- you can't miss it, it's huge!
Ready to visit Nashville? Check out Hipmunk for cheap Nashville hotels and other travel guides I've written.
See More! Offbeat Travel Guides
The beautiful island of Ko Samui is one of Thailand's most popular islands with tourists. As such, it's important to know a few key details when planning your trip, such as the right time of year to visit, where to stay and how to avoid the crowds. And that's exactly why I am here!
Ko Samui was a self-sustained island with no roads at all until the 1970's, when the first few adventurous backpackers started arriving one at a time via local boats. It was in the 1990's that the island started to gain an international reputation as a beautiful luxury travel destination, a reputation that has only gotten stronger since.
The weather in Ko Samui is slightly different from the mainland of Thailand. During April through September, when its monsoon season throughout the bulk of mainland Thailand, Ko Samui receives very little rain. Their rainy season is October to December. January through March is the sunniest time of year, and the peak tourist season. Consider planning your trip around the beginning or the end of the wet season to avoid the crowds and save a few dollars by paying off-season prices.
The easiest way to reach Ko Samui is via plane. There are daily flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and several other prominent Thailand destinations, as well as international flights available. However, ticket prices for these flights are noticeably higher than flights to and from other Thai destinations.
An alternative option is to travel to Ko Samui from Surat Thani, on the southern mainland of Thailand. Tickets are available at both the train station and airport for around 300-500 Bhat and include the bus ride to the Don Sak Jetty and 45-minute ferry ride to the island. (Find out more information here.) Or for those who like to take the scenic route, consider departing from Chumphon. The combined bus and fast boat ride takes close to 12 hours but passes through both Ko Tao and Ko Phangan. It is definitely an enjoyable option for photographers or anyone not in a rush.
The bulk of Ko Samui hotels and resorts are located on the northern and eastern sides of the island. So, when choosing a location the first thing to consider is do you want to be in the heart of the action, or further away on the more subdued, peaceful western side of the island.
As Ko Samui is a primarily luxury travel destination, there is no shortage of high-class resorts and hotels from $100 on up to $1,000 a night. Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa is one of the island's most popular and highly rated accommodations, and is a steal of a deal at around $200 per night.
There are also quite a few mid-range lodging options throughout Ko Samui that range from $35 to $100 a night, and a few budget options even cheaper than that (for all you backpackers out there). Check around online for the best deals.
Few cities are as entertaining -- or as overwhelming to first time visitors -- as London. The sheer amount of sights and activities can be mind-boggling. However, aside from obligatory tourist attractions, London has a lot of unique sights, foods and activities that all foreign visitors to London should partake in. Here's what to do on your first trip to London to get the most authentic experience.
London has history like Hawaii has volcanoes. To visit London and not take a gander at the history and culture is akin to heresy. Although there are no shortage of sights located in the heart of the city, such as the Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the National Gallery, the real history and culture of Olde England lies just outside of the modern city. Stonehenge, the Unesco World Heritage Site of Bath and the historic cathedral city of Salisbury are just a few of the nearby attractions, all of which are accessible via a full day tour through the legends and lore of Olde England.
Like all great metropolises, London has plenty of quirky and unique corners that remain known only to longtime residents. One such offbeat location is the Whirled Cinema. Tucked away in a side alley and with an entrance that appears to be an abandoned warehouse, few if any tourists stumble upon the Whirled Cinema without being tipped off by a local. The cinema is well-known and well-loved for showing unique and offbeat independent films in a cozy 60-seat theatre that is, of course, stocked with a small bar and restaurant as well.
Anyone who has ever seen Harry Potter knows that London is where it all began. Parts of The Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hallows were both filmed in London, and parts of the set are visible on the Harry Potter London Bus Tour. Or for the real Potter enthusiasts there is the Harry Potter Tour of Oxford and Lacock, which takes guests out of London to some of the country's most historic and beautiful sights.
One of the best combinations in life besides chocolate and milk is food and alcohol. Thankfully London has an abundant selection of restaurant bars that serve the best food, drinks and entertainment all wrapped up in one nice little package. Take for example Circus, which is exactly as the name indicates: a full-on entertainment experience for all five senses. While guests dine on their delectable food and drinks they are treated to a wild show featuring acrobats, fire dancers and magicians. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience!
Check out more Cool & Unique London Restaurant Bars
Experience the breathtaking fusion of the modern and historic London via a full day tour designed for photographers and history buffs alike. You'll cover some of London's most historic sites, from Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Buckingham Palace -- just in time for guard change!
Certain locations are known all over the world for their biggest pastime. Las Vegas and gambling. Hawaii and surfing. New York City and sitting in traffic. And of course Nashville and country music. As anyone who has ever visited will tell you, country music is the soul of Nashville. To visit Music City even briefly and not experience its musical side -- even if, like myself, you are not a fan of country music -- is akin to heresy. Between history, food and nightlife there is something musical here for everyone, so c'mon and join me on a whirlwind tour of the authentic Nashville.
This is where it all began. The Grand Ole Opry is the weekly country music radio show. It has run for 90 years and all of country's greatest have graced its stage at some point in their career. As such, a visit to the Grand Ole Opry House on the outskirts of Nashville is a must for all first-time visitors. It will give you a sense of the history and spirit of country music. The offer daytime and post-show tours, as well as a backstage VIP special for the serious country music fans. After all, in the words of Garth Brooks: "No offense at all to the people sitting in the seats, but the real show is backstage. That's the Opry."
This unique little café is as known for their food as for their music. For over 30 years the Bluebird Cafe has been a favorite among Nashville locals, however few visitors stumble upon this hidden gem. It is the perfect place to enjoy an evening meal and an intimate show from one of Nashville's countless talented musicians. Of course due to the small size of the place, it's best to call ahead or place a reservation via their web site.
Now that you are well-fed, throw on your cowboy hat and dancing boots and get ready to go honky-tonkin' on Broadway, another Nashville must for first-timers. The giant ten foot guitar marks the home of Legends Corner, the perfect place to start a night out. Over repeated trips to Music City I've found that this bar consistently has the best live music and the strongest drinks -- a winning combination!
Located just a few doors down from Legends Corner, The Stage on Broadway not only has great music but the cheapest beer on all of Broadway too! Maybe that is why this place is the more popular of the two with younger crowd. They have nightly shows from Nashville locals, both veterans and up-and-comers, and don't stop rockin' until 3am. However the coolest thing about the Stage has to be their giant mural of country music stars past and present.
Like most of California's cities, Anaheim can be a fun, cool, quirky and offbeat destination -- even more so if you know the right places. For example, did you know that, according to the folks at Guinness World Records, the nation's skinniest house is located just a few minutes from Anaheim? Or that the area is home to the production company that built the official "Saw" haunted house, and it does tours?! The next time you visit Anaheim, make your trip more memorable by checking out these incredible off the beaten path sights and activities.
Think of an amusement park combined with a strange trampoline world, and the end result would probably look something like Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park. Opened in 2012, Sky Zone bills itself as the world's first trampoline park. From ultimate dodgeball to trampoline basketball, this place is pure bouncing madness! It's also a great way to get some exercise while having a truly unique experience.
Sinister Pointe is a haunted house production company. It has created sets and animatronics for attractions all over the world, including the official "Saw" and "Silent Hill" haunted houses. However, their home studio is in north Anaheim, and they do tours! Ultra-secret tours that forbid you to talk about what you witness. Now tell me, that doesn't sound interesting?
Measuring just over 9 feet wide and less than 50 feet deep, this thin little three-story 860-square-foot house on Gladys Avenue was built in 1932 after the owner of this tiny parcel of land was bet that he could not build a house on it. Not only did he win that bet, but 50 years later the house became a historic landmark after attracting the attention of Ripley's Believe It or Not! and Guinness World Records. Although ownership has changed several times over the decades, each owner has been a friendly host to curious visitors. After all, when you live in a historic landmark, you kind of need to be ;)
Imagine a drive-thru bakery shaped like two giant doughnuts, and the cars drive through the donut holes. Doesn't that sound amazing? Oh yeah, and their doughnuts are delicious too! This, my friends, is The Donut Hole in La Puente, a suburb of north Anaheim, which has been a local landmark for more than 50 years. Although the original doughnut shop went out of business in 1979, this one location has withstood the test of time, thanks to its unique design. It now is home to a different bakery. Over the years, the shop has become so beloved by locals that it is actually a tradition for newlyweds to pass through the doughnut holes. Now that's the best reason I've ever heard to have your wedding in Anaheim ;)
Millions visit Hawaii every year for the beaches and volcanoes, however there is much more to the islands than that! Even in and around Honolulu tons of offbeat activities abound -- if you know where to look. So the next time you find yourself on a crowded Waikiki Beach and want to break free of the masses and do something uniquely Hawaiian, here's where to start:
Places like Manoa Falls and the Maunawili Trail are beautiful, however they are also overcrowded. To find somewhere less touristy but still beautiful, head on out to Likeke Falls just a few miles northeast of Honolulu. Although the falls are not as big as Manoa Falls, the view along the hike more than makes up for it! Just bring shoes because it is always muddy.
Located about thirty minutes outside of Honolulu on the original fields, the Dole Pineapple Plantation includes a museum housed in a replica of the old Dole plantation home, as well as The Pineapple Express, a train tour through the fields. However, their claim to fame is the world's largest maze, built entirely out of Hawaiian pineapple plants and certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Hidden within the 137,000-square-foot maze are six stations with uniquely shaped hole punches. Each maze-goer is given a card with which to collect these punch marks. However, if one should get frustrated or give up, the card can be ripped open to reveal a map. Those who complete the maze with all the punch marks on an unopened card win a prize if their time is one of the daily or weekly tops.
The plantation is located on the Kamehameha Highway and reachable by bus if traveling on a budget.
Lesser-known than the Dole Plantation is the re-creation of a 1900s sugar plantation, Hawaii Plantation Village. It is a detailed look at the history and development of Hawaiian plantations, crops, immigrant workers, and the modern economy. Several tours are offered, all under $10.00 per person, with the longest lasting over two hours. The museum is nonprofit and sorely in need of extra funding, so make sure to buy your bottled water there, instead of bringing it with you.
Since the 1960s, more than 50 Hollywood blockbusters have been filmed on the Kualoa Ranch, including "Godzilla" and "Jurassic Park," as well as TV shows like "Lost." Production gear and props still exist, providing ample selfie opportunities as you get a guided tour through the exciting and beautiful history of this corner of The Big Island. And because Hollywood's "Hawaii Backlot" is still used every year, there is always a chance of encountering a shoot in progress.
The food truck trend has caught on in Hawaii, and scattered throughout the city are a variety of shrimp trucks, all of which serve succulent, mouth-watering shrimp. However it's the shrimp trucks on the North Shore that are the most famous -- particularly Giovanni's -- which brings me to my next suggestion.
To truly break free of the Waikiki crowds, head up to the North Shore for a night or two. There are still plenty of hotels, resorts and beaches, but far fewer people. However, keep in mind that the North Shore is a surfers' paradise famous for its waves, which can be several feet even on a calm day. Not ideal for young children or a relaxing float.
Of course we all know that Hawaii can be an expensive destination, but it doesn't have to be if you plan ahead. Keep an eye out for flight specials by signing up for alerts with one of those airline search sights (whichever your favorite happens to be).See More Offbeat Travel Guides United States Travel Ideas
Good coffee. Stylish street art. Grunge music. The Space Needle. Seattle street-fashion. These are all things you find in Seattle that might not surprise you. But the city is also friendly, eclectic, and sometimes even a bit eccentric — which means that it is a veritable hotbed of offbeat sights and activities. The next time you find yourself in Seattle, rather than sticking to the boring and predictable tourist route, head on over and check out these unique and offbeat destinations:
Also known as OBAMA, I was lured in the by promise of good food, good music and bad art at The Official Bad Art Museum of Art. What a winning combination! The "museum" isn't as big as I'd imagined, but it was way more entertaining! Located inside of Cafe Racer, come eager for a bite to eat or to down a beer or cocktail as your peruse their collection of tasteless artwork. It's perfect for killing a half an hour or to use as a meeting place.
Sitting alone on one Seattle street corner and looking decidedly out of place is a beat-up, old vending machine that appears to have been there since the 1950s. Although it has in fact only been here for a few years, no one knows where it comes from or who keeps it stocked.
I thirstily approached it only to find that the buttons reveal no clue as to the contents of the machine. After inserting my 75 cents, I hit the fourth button and was rewarded with an Orange Fanta. Wow, I didn't even know that came in cans. To play the soda lottery yourself and see what the spirits give you, head on over to John & Broadway.
Always a fan of crazy and kooky museums, it didn't take any convincing to get me inside the Seattle Pinball Museum. Turns out this place is so much fun that it has no right being called a "museum"— it is in fact an arcade. But, it's one that is complete with vintage games from the 1960s to the 2010s. Apparently they continually rotate through their inventory too, so you never know exactly what goodies from your childhood are waiting inside.
Full of knick-knacks, souvenirs, apparel and obvious scientific necessities such as a can of Chaos, a bottled quart of "Uncertainty" and the obligatory Black Hole Starter Kit, I was blown away by Greenwood Space Travel Supply. Not only is it cool and quirky, but by shopping here customers are supporting The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas (formerly 826 Seattle,) a charity working for over a decade to actively improving the writing abilities of children.
Undeniably Seattle's most well-known offbeat attraction, the Fremont Troll has been lurking underneath the George Washington Memorial Bridge towards north Seattle since 1990. Apparently, it won an art competition and has since become an attraction for out-of-town visitors. It was definitely worthy of the five-minute stop and photo, as well as a mandatory climb up.