It was when I found myself standing on the very crowded beach of Phi Phi Island, Thailand, trying to fight the masses to snap one simple picture of the natural wonder found there, that I realized there had to be other incredible places in the world to visit that aren’t swarming with tour buses filling the area with their contents. With the influx of accessible information made possible through the internet, more and more people are learning about the quiet corners of the world and are flooding them for their very own snapshot of it. Tourist spots are more and more crowded, making the whole experience of enjoying the sight increasingly difficult.
Where do we go for a solution? Creativity combined with knowledge of current events, political science, and geography yield alternative destinations for the adventurous traveler. Places like Colombia, Russia, war torn countries, and the open seas sift out those looking for a photo op from those looking to explore the globe and have a truly unforgettable experience.
Explore a lost city
Deep in the dangerous jungles of the Sierra Nevada in Northern Colombia lies a city so untouched, it was named La Ciudad Perdida, which in Spanish translates to, the Lost City. The city was originally discovered “in 1972 by a gang of looters on the hunt for Pre-Columbian artifacts” when they stumbled upon the twelve hundred steps of this lost and abandoned city.1 The reason a road hasn’t been constructed to accommodate an express shuttle bus to the top and an ice cream cart to reward you for your long bus ride is because there’s more that has protected this city than time.
This city was referred to by those that discovered it as the “Green Hell” because of the “heat, mosquitoes, and arduous trek required to reach it.”With more recent problems in Colombia, the most dangerous and “most violent” drug cartels in the country have found these thick jungles to be suitable trade routes to move their merchandise. 1 With all of these elements combined, the site is reserved for the qualified adventure traveler.
Colombian entrepreneurs have provided guides who will carry your pack and guide you through the machete-chopping jungle. The five-day trip costs a mere $270 USD while part of your charge is claimed to pay off the drug traffickers in the area so they don’t kidnap you.2
Experience the Apocalypse
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine exploded in the April of 1986, while controlled by the former USSR, releasing lethal amounts of radiation into the air. This disaster affected much of Western USSR and Europe. Since then, the city has been completely evacuated and left to deteriorate. The explosion “resulted in significant public health impact with reports of cumulative cancer fatalities in the affected region ranging from 4,000 to 25,000 until 2011.” Twenty-five years after the disaster, the area is still rated at a 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).3
Because of the absolute destruction this area has experienced, it has been untouched by your common tourist market. It is a city left desolate breathing poisonous air. But the locals are making something incredible out of destruction. You can tour the grounds in a hazmat suit snapping pictures of the melting city. Equipped with a guide and a radioactivity detector, you’re essentially safe from any danger—as long as you don’t touch anything. Tour the deserted playgrounds, see the power plant, and even see the effects of radioactivity on animals in the area.4 With all the gear protecting you from the atmosphere, this could be the closest thing to walking on the moon.
Fight Off Scurvy
Despite the incredible technology we have today, global trade still uses the simplest mediums. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) estimated that about 90% of global trade is carried by sea.5 What does this mean for us? It means that there are hundreds of vehicles traveling around the world, competing with one another for the cheapest shipping costs—a cheap adventure traveler’s dream.
Many shipping companies offer a spot on their ship as it travels the globe for a fair price. Some offer pretty luxurious accommodations while others might require you put in hours helping out on deck; it all just depends on how much you’re looking to spend and the type of adventure you’re wanting. The ride ends up being around $80—140 a day, but if you consider the charge part of the experience of life on a cargo ship, then the price is fair for a unique experience.6
CMA CGM, one of the companies offering a more luxurious option for stowaways, advertises their 396 meter long vessel which they describe as “longer than the Empire State Building.” It has five large modern cabins, a lounge with an entertainment system, library, gym, and swimming pool.7 It will carry you from basically any corner of the earth to another. Just make sure to take care of your booty and avoid scurvy.
See a world without the US
Burma/Myanmar has taken quite a beating in the past few decades. Because of a complicated political past, Burma has gone unvisited and untouched by western (specifically American) influences. Just recently, in August of 2009, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia became the first member of the US congress to visit Myanmar in ten years.8 Recently, the boarders have been opened to US and foreign citizens making this a unique tourist destination. Because of this disconnect from American influence, Burma currently survives on very little technology, internet communication, and foreign companies. You won’t find a McDonalds, Starbucks, or KFC during your adventures there.9
Part of the fun of visiting this country is the challenge to survive without the commodities that make traveling today so simple. Phone’s aren’t common which puts emailing and online reservations out of the question. Access to US banks is non-existent since ATMs are slowly making appearances in the cities, so be prepared with the correct cash. 10 With the recent open boarder, you can expect this untouched environment will soon be “touched” by the massive and nasty hand of commercial tourism, so the sooner you can make it to Burma, the better.
The adventurous spirit will have no problem finding their own corner of the globe to explore with options like these. The backbone to adventure of these destinations is the principle of finding beauty and wonder in the hidden and forgotten, the decimated and deformed, the rusted and war-torn. The world we live in is made more incredible as long as we are capable of looking in the right spots. We just have to be willing to step out of our corner and explore another.
1Muse, Toby. Lost City. Archaeology. Vol. 57, Issue 5. Sep/Oct 2004.
2Retherford, Brittany. Find Colombian Ruins. Outside Magazine Online. March 2011. http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/south-america/colombia/Find-Colombian-Ruins.html.
3Srinivasan, T.N. and T.S. Gopi Rethinaraj. Fukushima and thereafter: Reassessment of risks of nuclear power. Energy Policy. Singapore. Vol. 52. January 2013.
5Maritime Knowledge Center. International Shipping Facts and Figures—Information Resources on Trade, Safety, Security, Environment. International Maritime Organization. Section 2.1, page 7. March 2012.
6Brones, Anna. How to: Travel by cargo ship. Matador Network Online. March 2008. http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/how-to-travel-by-cargo-ship/
7www.cma-cmg.com (Products & Services, Cargo Cruises)
8Profound Moment in the history of Burma calls for clear decisive action. Military & Government Collection. EBSCO. April 2012.
9,10 Price, Gemma. Myanmar: Is now a good time to go? CNN Travel Online. November 2012. http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/escape/myanmar-now-good-time-go-680954