The popularity of offbeat travel is on the rise. Whilst most people will share some of their must-visit countries with thousands of others, there will be plenty of places that offer an authentic experience that appeals to them, but not always the masses. That’s great news for you.

If you want to get off the beaten track and get involved with local life, you’ll be rewarded with an experience unlike a typical tourist. That’s how some of the best travel memories are made, when we throw ourselves into the unknown rather than sticking to the same places. To get such an opportunity, try visiting these four countries:

1.   Mongolia

  East Asia

If you like adventurous travel, then Mongolia is for you. It’s a huge country, full of pristine landscapes, and home to nomadic people whose lives have barely changed in the modern day. Their survival depends on the wide-open spaces, untouched wilderness and fresh water supplies – all of the things that make Mongolia such an amazing place.

Mongolia, one of the last remaining countries for a truly authentic offbeat experience
Nadaam in Mongolia   //   bernd_thaller

Head to Mongolia’s best-known national park, Terelj. Here, The Secret Traveller says, you’ll be able to spend a night in a traditional yurt, watch demonstrations of archery and horse riding, and hike through some of the most spectacular scenery the world has to offer. What better way to experience local life? It’s no beach holiday, but that’s exactly why it’s great. You can get actively involved.

2.   Poland

  Northern Europe

Europe has a lot to offer keen travellers, but we love Poland because of its friendly population of hospitable people that are welcoming and genuine. The country boasts UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the popular Krakow’s Old Town, amazing food, an abundance of castles, and a musical heritage they’re proud of to this day.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site in Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine, a truly unique UNESCO World Heritage Site

You can easily find concerts for jazz to medieval to opera music – particularly impressive in the warmer months when they’re held outdoors in parks and squares.

According to Go East Europe, one of the best things about Poland is how each city in Poland has a distinct feel and social culture. From Warsaw’s urban pulse to Krakow’s historic pride, to Wroclaw’s whimsy, to Gdansk’s stately maritime heritage, each city has its own appeal. You’ll probably want to head to more than one.

3.   Brazil

  South America

Unless you live under a rock, you’ll know Brazil throws the best party in the world – the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. Full of colour and energy, it’s best described as an explosion of culture – but you’ve got to experience it for yourself. Whether you’re looking for a party experience or some relaxation, Brazilis a great place to visit. In this list of 100 reasons to visit Brazil (yes – 100), they point out it’s in the culture to greet everyone as if they were great friends.

Mongolia, one of the last remaining countries for a truly authentic offbeat experience
Rio De Janeiro   //   photographingtravis

So find a spot on one of the over 2,000 beaches along Brazil’s shoreline, and relax with great company, as well as a cocktail and some amazing fresh seafood. You could even watch the sea turtle hatching season in the village of Praia do Forte between October and March each year – such an experience is a once-in-a-lifetime sight, so don’t miss out.

4.   The UK

  Northern Europe

The UK’s capital city, London, might be the most popular spot for tourists – but it’s not the best place to go for an authentic experience. We promise you not everyone in the UK is as grumpy as those in London, who are constantly in a rush to get somewhere else. Nor is everywhere in the UK full of the same tacky souvenirs you’ll find on Oxford Street.

Mongolia, one of the last remaining countries for a truly authentic offbeat experience
Brighton   //   ben124

Stay out of the busy commuters’ way by heading into the countryside. Here, the UK really excels and people tend to be much friendlier. Amongst the suggestions for an authentic English experience is a trip to the Pantomime at Christmas time, a hike along the South Downs way, a visit to Brighton for some fish and chips or just heading to a traditional pub for a pint.

  What countries have you recently visited?   Share your suggestions for an authentic, offbeat travel experience.

Published in Travel Tips
Don’t let them fool you!

Before traveling to Brazil people may tell you not to miss out on an amazingly healthy bowl of açai berries, that the pão de queijo and tapioca are gluten-free, and the farofa (toasted manioc meal) is delicious. I’m here to tell you otherwise!

Now I don’t care if you’re a self-proclaimed foodie or a college student living off of mac-n-cheese on the reg, eating the local cuisine when you’re on a trip can be pretty damn exciting. Eating in Brazil is no exception: it’s fun but can be frustrating and overwhelming if you can’t read the menu in Portuguese, or have dietary restrictions (think vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.)

During my trip I had the chance to eat at many different types of restaurants ranging from cheap local favorites to pricier tourist-traps, and unfortunately, not all of them were pleasant experiences. I’ll divulge the best restaurants I went to in a later post, but this will focus on eating gluten-free in Brazil. With so many breads, pastries, and fried food at every turn, eating gluten-free is going to be tricky if you’re in a hurry. Such was my dilemma the first few days in Brazil as I traveled from a wedding in Bauru (a city 4-hours from São Paulo) –> São Paulo –> Rio de Janeiro –> Buzios. This meant a lot of convenience foods in airports, bus terminals and gas stations.

Going in, I thought it would be a breeze. I had read in numerous tourist guides and blogs that pão de quiejo is naturally gluten free, and you can find it almost anywhere in Brazil. Tapiocas, which are similar to empanadas, are supposed to be made with yucca starch and naturally gluten-free as well. Haha, jokes on me. Every single cafe I asked (there had to have been at least 15) gave me one of two answers: [list class="triangle yellow"]
  • 1) There is wheat/gluten in it.
  • 2) I don’t know, but there is probably wheat in it.
  • [/list] Way to crush my dreams guys! So what did I survive on while I was in transit? Bun-less burger patties from Bob’s (similar to McDonalds and there seems to be one on every corner), banana candies, and grilled chicken-flavored potato chips.

    In Brazil packaged foods are required to state whether they have gluten or not on the label, even bottled water. So you’d think everyone would be hyper-aware of gluten allergies, right? Nope. Most people have no idea what gluten-free means.

    What can you do if you need to eat gluten-free? [list class="list-icon checklist red"]
  • A) Eat only packaged foods so you know what’s in them (YUCK)
  • B) Only eat rice and beans**
  • C) Download a Gluten Free Restaurant Card in Portuguese to hand to your waiter
  • D) Get really familiar with Portuguese words related to gluten:
  • [/list] [list class="triangle red"]           
  • sem glutén = without gluten
  • contén glutén = contains gluten
  • não contén glutén = doesn’t contain gluten
  • farinha de trigo = flour of wheat
  • malte = barley
  • aveia = oats
  • trigo = wheat
  • centeio = rye
  • [/list] **NOTE for vegetarians: most of the beans in Brazil (feijoada or caldinho de feijão) are cooked with chunks of meat for added flavor, so don’t assume they’re vegetarian.

    One final tip: I was assured on numerous times that the farofa(toasted manioc flour that comes on the side of many dishes) was gluten-free, but frankly it wasn’t that good. It’s like eating breadcrumbs with a little seasoning. Sure, it can add a tiny bit of flavor and texture to your food, but it’s nothing incredible. So if you’re a strict celiac and uncertain of the ingredients in farofa, just avoid it and you won’t be missing much.
    Published in Brazil
    Brazil is a magical place, in one sentence I would say we spent three amazing and psychedelic weeks. Everything is in profusion in Brazil: food, nature, caïpirinhas, … EVERYTHING! We found white sand desert, blue lagoons, sand dunes worthy of Aladdin, uninhabited island, we also discovered the jungle, paradisiac beaches and fresh coconuts! We have seen sea otters –we could definitely call them sea hyenas!- , caimans –a lot of caimans, like a lot: we did try to count them and stopped when arriving at 200 caimans around a small river, this is a true story-, toucans, aras, papagayos, capivoras… we fished piranhas and gave them to feed the sea hyenas, we did our first gallop…with a mule and no riding helmet, we have faced an ants invasion in one of our pousadas. Half short-sighted and without our glasses, we are quite sure we’ve seen a two colours anaconda. We lived in the middle of nowhere, spoke Brazilian Portuguese, we discovered a natural pink-clay cliff, we danced with butterflies, we’ve met crows in a Jesuit island, we were speechless in front of the kilometres of Iguacu waterfalls. Brazil, it is also girls with g-strings who assume their amazing body, muscled and tattooed surfers from Ipanema and the highest buildings from Sao Paolo, Capital. We can’t count caïpirinhas : lime caipi, mango caipi, pineapple or strawberry ones, we can’t count neither the hours spent in buses, the frozen beers or the kilo of amazing meat we ate. We count the feijoiada, the best mocqueca, the fried snacks and the too quick lunch breaks from our bus-drivers. We want more hammocks, more breakfast on terraces, we want to drink more half liter of fresh juice, read our Lonely Planet and be amazed by landscape. We want another samba lesson and we wish we could be lost one more time between all havaianas shops. We want to go back there saying Bom Dia to everyone! Brazilian people are so friendly and they have an amazing sense of rhythm – we really don’t. Sometimes we did not eat a lot because we were lost regarding our budget and sometimes we bought the best Chile and Argentinian wines because we were good with money. Brazil is so huge we’ll need six months there to discover everything. To conclude, these three weeks were perfect and we want to recommend to everyone who get the opportunity to go there. Actually these three weeks were so perfect we decided to go back to Brazil this summer! But this time, we will travel around a proper project: Let’s Cheyenne- Around the world and we will spend some time with an Indian Tribe in Amazonia… thanks to the amazing people we met during this trip! More info? Here!
    Published in Brazil

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