These days, travel is so focused on ticking off the ‘must see’ spots, which clog up every traveller’s social media feed that the real gems of a country are left hidden.
If you’ve been to Thailand but haven’t experienced the Full Moon Party, many travellers will be shocked that you missed out on such an ‘unmissable experience’. In reality, you missed out on rubbing up against a sweaty Brit abroad in a wife beater and the chance to get burnt alive by a dodgy firework.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to not fall into this trap. I have on many many occasions and each time have kicked myself for contributing to cluttering and ruining these once peaceful areas of natural beauty.
For me, travel is no longer about getting wasted on different beaches (but I completely understand those who do, I’ve been there). It’s about uncovering a country’s culture, getting to know the locals and eating everything in sight. I no longer live by FOMO and instead thrive to discover places a bit more off the beaten track.
There’s always a more picture-perfect, undiscovered counterpart to a tourist-trap-fuelled area and half the fun is being the one to uncover it.
Here are the spots, which are on most backpacker’s ‘must visit’ list but are now on my ‘I wish I’d missed’ list.
Gili T, Lombok, Indonesia
Gili T, a small island off of Bali and Lombok, is a place where a lot of travellers just seem to get stuck. The constant offering of drugs, happy hour, a stunning yet, crowded beach and the opportunity to get ‘that’ swing photo seems to be irresistible to many.
Personally, it was a little lost on me. The beaches were postcard-perfect however, the music and the people there left a lot to be desired.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
The notorious island of Koh Phangan on the South East coast of Thailand is loved by many and loathed by many more.
Every month thousands of backpackers flock here to douse themselves in neon paint, drink their body weight in budget booze and dance the night away on Haad Rin beach.
I’ve now been to the Full Moon Party twice and, although I had a heck of a lot of fun both times, the annoying rowdy groups, extensive rubbish and lack of respect on both the locals and tourists parts has put me off ever going again.
Koh Rong, Cambodia
Koh Rong is a small island located in the South of Cambodia. With its pearly white beaches, translucent waters and vibrant nightlife, it’s understandable why it draws so many tourists all year round.
However, as soon as you arrive at the main ferry port on the island it becomes very apparent that this island is now overrun with boozed-up backpackers, garish beach bars and grimy accommodation.
If you’re looking to party then Koh Rong is the place to go but, if you’re after a blissful break with a beautiful beach as your view, stick to Koh Rong’s smaller and less developed sister island, Koh Rong Samloem.
El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines
Controversial but hear me out. El Nido, the creme de la creme of The Philippines, boasts jaw-dropping protruding limestone cliffs, mesmerising emerald-green lagoons and blinding white powdery beaches.
However, due to the extortionate price of private boat hire and environmental entry fees, this area of fascinating natural beauty is now swarmed with boat tours and bobbing life jackets for as far as the eye can see. Not quite the ‘hidden gem’ it’s perceived to be in the Insta pics.
Instead, head to Coron, an 8 hour boat journey North of El Nido that offers the same unbelievable scenery but with a quarter of the tourists.