As I sit in my hostel, sipping a delightful banana-coffee milk shake I wonder is this non-traditional Guatemalan drink enhancing my travel experience or corrupting it? I know where my taste buds stand on the issue but as I look around the dining area at the mostly English speaking white folk, most of us on some form of electronic device I’m suddenly torn.
Currently, I’m at what I like to call a “full service” hostel. One that offers everything, including: a bed, food, drink, tours and transport; convenient right? You never actually have to leave the comforts of the hostel! Wait, wasn’t that the point of this travel thing? Try the local food, attempt to speak the language, get lost in the back streets, and meet the people? I don’t mean to take a dig at the place I am staying, and of course for newbies this type of accommodation is a relief especially in a developing country where it can be hard to organize these services.
Here comes the big BUT: If you spend your entire trip in the shelter of these types of places you will only be catching a small glimpse, and more than likely will miss out. Although I have recently come to realize that a truly authentic cultural immersion and experience is rare for travelers passing through, increase your odds by getting out and doing it yourself. It will save you money and who knows what you’ll discover!