Normally when we travel, we visit the best places, see the best sights, and eat at the best restaurants. We research everything in advance, look at Yelp reviews, and worry a little bit about the price. It’s fun, but since what ‘best’ usually means is ‘most popular’, some would say it’s not very fulfilling.
You’re always in crowded areas, trying to find the best deals, you do things everyone’s seen and done before. And if you travel often, after a certain point all tourist spots start to feel similar. You see the same things – crowds, cameras, glowing reviews – and you start to feel a bit tired of it all.
If you want to really see a place, to plunge into its culture and to have a longer trip for less, nature travel is an excellent option. If you’re a nature-lover, I very strongly recommend trying it out at least once in your life.
So what is nature travel?
Nature travel is when you simplify things and step out of the city. You stay in small towns or villages, cook your own food or eat local food, and your sightseeing spots are forests, rivers and mountains. You travel for nature and stay away from ‘popular’ areas, in short.
Staying in a village is necessary because you won’t find unpolluted nature near a city. Wildlife sanctuaries and zoos aren’t the same as a virgin forest. They’re managed and…constructed, almost. If you can find a city that provides great value nature-wise, go for it!
Cooking your own food isn’t a requirement either – it’s a sort of side effect. I’ve found that hotels in small towns aren’t usually very nice, but for some reason Airbnb has some great listings. There are clearly others like us who seek out such places, so property owners have capitalized on this idea. When you stay at an Airbnb and have the option to cook, it’s safe to assume you’ll cook at least some of your meals. It’s enjoyable – and it’s a good option for picky eaters like myself.
I’m a big fan of the concept of nature traveling. I’ve travelled widely throughout the country this way, staying at small, unknown places. I’ve stayed with locals, had funny local food, fed pet goats and chickens, watched the starry sky at night, and done it all for half the cost I’d have expected. I didn’t get to pose with monuments, but I had plenty of fun nevertheless.
So now, let’s discuss why this is so awesome!
9 reasons why nature travel rocks
There are so, so many reasons why this is a great idea. In my opinion, the reduced price and the sights are enough, but if you want some more reasons here they are:
1. It combines the best of two things
If you like to travel and nature, this concept basically combines the two in a way that ensures maximum efficiency. You get maximum immersion for minimum cost. That is, you get to enjoy everything you like and have an intense, memorable experience for very little cost. More about that in the next point, which is…
2. It’s relatively inexpensive
You must have noticed that airfare and hotel rates go up during high season. If you’re in a big city and close to the center of the city, the rates go higher still. So it makes sense that when you step out of the city and get to a remote area, the prices will be dirt-cheap. The maintenance and property costs there are low, so people are willing to rent their place out for less. If you want to cook at ‘home’ and go shopping for veggies locally, you’ll find their prices pleasantly low too. No more shrink-wrapped, sprayed bananas!
3. You experience the real culture
Cities are a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. If you visit Holland, you won’t find only Dutch people around. Tourists love that place, so you’ll find lots of them, along with immigrants and others. In a small town, however, you’re almost certain to find only locals. So if you really want to experience the local culture, this is your chance.
4. You experience new things
I don’t just mean the culture and food – I mean things you couldn’t possibly experience in the city. You’ll see farms, virgin forests, rare birds, and the beautiful night sky. I live in a moderate-size city and the light pollution here is shockingly high. The first time I went on a nature trip, I almost cried. I sat outside in the cold till my throat hurt. The night sky is just so beautiful – and I could see it from my bloody balcony!
5. You get to ‘live’ there
In a village that’s small enough for nature travel, you’re not likely to find a good hotel. You will, however, find some excellent Airbnb places – usually out in the outskirts. It’s funny how this works. So you effectively ‘rent’ a place and get to make your own meals and lock up the home when you leave. It’s different from having a room in a hotel. You feel like you’re actually living in the village.
6. Language barrier – frustrating or amusing?
When you go to Italy, you imagine you’ll have to “si, si” your way through the country. It can be a letdown when you find that Italians speak perfect English. In a village, that won’t be the case. Of course, it can present a difficulty when you’re at the store saying ‘two eggs’ loudly over and over and frantically making chicken sounds, but isn’t that the sort of thing you secretly wanted? A language barrier is fun – it means you’re in a foreign place. Do make sure you have a translation book, though. Just in case.
7. You have a longer stay
I went on a 5-day trip to Singapore back in 2015, and imagine my surprise when I found that for the money I spent on that trip, I can spend 12 days in a Belgian village! Since you’re spending less money, you can extend the trip’s duration.
8. It’s so darn peaceful!
Nature travel feels incredible, seriously. The area isn’t crowded, there is minimal traffic, the natural landscape is beautiful and unpolluted, and the food is healthy – since you’ll often be the one cooking it. It’s a great feeling. When compared to the noise, speed and pollution of the city, it feels like heaven. Make sure you log out of your email and Facebook account, though. Don’t want your phone pinging while you’re nature-gazing!
9. It’s different from anything you’ve experienced before
Sometimes you feel like you need a change. If your trips are all starting to feel the same, if you want to do something different that you’ll remember, to experience something new – well, here you go! If you like nature and travel, this is the best combination I can think of, apart from perhaps an adventure sports trip.
A summary of nature travel
So we’ve been through a quick explanation of the term and the benefits it offers, but what are the ingredients of the perfect nature-based trip? What factors are crucial and which ones are variable? Here’s a summary.
– A sparsely populated area that’s away from major cities
– If it’s an international trip, make sure the language, cuisine, weather and political situation are all okay
– An area that’s easy to reach from the airport, and preferably one with a lower airfare
– A good place to stay – look on popular travel websites and Airbnb, ask any questions you have
– A beautiful natural landscape. You are traveling for nature, after all. Make sure there are things to see and do.
– Learn snippets of the local language (‘yes, please’, ‘no’, ‘sorry’, ‘I don’t speak Russian, I am a foreigner’, etc.) and conduct some final research
– It’s booking time!
I would say finding a ‘good’ place and cheap airfare are variable. When you consider the big picture, these are two things that don’t matter very much. If you’re spending thousands on a trip, saving a couple hundred on airfare won’t make a huge difference.
Secondly, the place where you stay doesn’t need to be particularly ‘nice’. It improves the experience, but I find it’s not strictly necessary. If I were in a shack (which was safe), I’d still enjoy talking to locals, roaming through the forest and making my own food. The other points, I think, are fairly crucial.
– To experience the place and its culture
– To spend as much time as possible exploring the place, watching nature and talking to people
– To relax and come back refreshed
I am planning a nature travel trip to somewhere in Europe next year – a trip where I rent an Airbnb in a small town and spend all day outdoors, meeting the local folk and observing nature. I’m a birdwatcher, so I expect I’ll be one busy grasshopper. Stay tuned for travel tips as I plan for the trip, and an update with my travel experience! Interestingly, I don’t speak any languages except English, so this should be fun. “Ja, ja. Bitte eine wassermelone.”