The most memorable travel experiences are often those we come upon by chance. This isn’t to say that planned excursions and day trips can’t be fulfilling, but there is something to be said about having zero expectations.
As you can imagine, I’ve made several such accidental travel discoveries of the past several years. Some are attractions thousands upon thousands of others travelers have seen, but I would like to think a couple are places only myself a few adventurous others know well.
Care to reminisce with me?
My Own Personal Cliff in Palolem, Goa, India
I was initially disappointed upon my arrival in the coastal state. This is because I made the mistake of starting in North Goa, at extremely commercial Candolim Beach.
I was delighted heading south to idyllic Palolem Beach, whose half moon backed up to a veritable palm forest, as sparsely inhabited by locals as the beach itself was by tourists. To be sure, being at Palolem Beach alone for the week I spent there would’ve been enough.
But one day my curiosity got the better of me, and I walked all the way the the northern end of Palolem Beach. Although there was a relaxing-looking bar there, I’m not one to settle, so I decided instead to climb the rocks that rose behind it.
It took about 30 strenuous minutes but once I reached to top, I knew I had made the right decision. To my south, I enjoyed an unobstructed view of the entirety of Palolem. To the north, I saw dramatic, sheer cliffs I previously didn’t know existed.
Wat Suthat, The Giant Swing, and The Golden Mount in Bangkok, Thailand
My first trip to Bangkok was accidental in and of itself. Until my camera broke, I’d planned to use the Thai capital only as a transit point, as just about every person I knew who’d visited beforehand had recommended.
I fell in love with Bangkok and here’s why. I was staying on Khao San Road when I decided to take a walk. I had no map and no particular idea what I wanted to see, but I did have my new camera, so I went off on my way.
As luck would have it, I stumbled upon The Giant Swing, a relic of Bangkok’s 17th century Golden Age, and Wat Suthat, a barely visited temple where I would end up meditating on more than one occasion in the future.
But most lucky of all was my having discovered (and scaled!) the aptly-named “Golden Mount” just 10 minutes before it closed. I enjoyed a panorama of Bangkok with the sun setting over it, having expected only to take an uneventful walk!
An Abandoned Hillside in Chefchaouen, Morocco
I set out to Chefchauen Morocco in search of the town’s famous waterfall.
The bad news is that I would not see the waterfall, which was just as disappointing as Adam had said it wold be, until several days later. The good news is that I ended up discovering someplace much cooler.
Once you reach the end of the Old City it’s, well, the very end. It just stops! At the same time, the mountain keeps going. And so, I did too.
Some (friendly) vagrants and potentially harmful debris notwithstanding, the hillside I happened upon was incredible. Not only was I basically alone as the sun set (can you tell how much I love sunsets?) over the indigo-washed city, but I could see the whole damn thing!
William Hack Reserve in Noosa, Australia
I didn’t intend to visit the Australian coastal city of Noosa. Rather, bus schedules necessitated my stopping there as I headed north from the Australia Zoo. I woke up the morning after my arrival (by proxy, the day of my departure) and decided, as I usually do, to take a walk.
I intended only to walk to the beach when I saw a sign that said “Laguna Lookout.” Two of my very favorite words and, indeed, concepts! I was sold, although I have to admit I was prepared for a short walk.
The bad news is that my walk would be anything but short. The good news is that I not only found the lookout, but spent nearly two hours hiking through William Hack Reserve, a plot of undeveloped wilderness that rises above the sea, then slowly descends toward it.
I remember literally bumping into another tourist who’d had the same accidental experience. “I came out for a jog,” the beautiful woman from Sydney remarked, “and found this. How lucky are we?”