How to put the thrill back into travel

The tracks have mostly been beaten.

It's becoming harder and harder these days to find those daring, adventurous destinations, harder to take yourself off the grid, because the world is changing so rapidly. Everyone is travelling. Every country is part of a global community. Everyone is in touch.

Wifi is spreading like a disease. You can access your emails on a plane. You can check your work messages from a beach in Mexico. You think you've gotten away from it all – only to find that "it" has followed you around the globe.  

And there are tourists everywhere.

You might have noticed recently that it's getting far more difficult to get away from the people you've been trying to get away from. You'll bump into a group of Australians at a hotel in Tashkent. You'll have to step through busloads of cruise ship passengers in Yangon. Hostels in Nicaragua are reviewed on Tripadvisor. The world, clearly, has become a much smaller place.

Gone are the days when the Czech Republic was an adventure into the unknown. You're not going to "lose yourself" in Cambodia anymore. You're going to find most of your high school mates.

But that doesn't mean people have stopped trying to push the envelope. Everyone's still trying to go that little bit further away than their friends (or parents) have already been. That's why there's renewed interest in travel to places such as Iran, or the 'Stans, or Central America, or even West Africa.

It's experience that's the problem. Travel is like a drug that you develop a tolerance to over time. At first any destination is exciting – London is a buzz, Bali is amazing. But soon that's not enough. You need travel to shock you all over again. So you go to India, and then you go to Mexico, and then Tanzania or West Papua.

You're searching for the next hit, the place that will wow you, the place that will offer up things you've never seen before.


And now this type of travel, adventure travel, off-the-beaten-track travel, has hit the mainstream. Last week Intrepid launched a series of "Expedition Trips", one-off adventures (for this year at least) into uncharted territories.

They're running tours in 2015 through the jungles of southern Mexico, through Kosovo, Georgia, and Papua New Guinea. The idea is to get back to the roots of group travel, back to the days when people were running bus trips from London to Kathmandu, when tour leaders flew by the seat of their pants, when you had no idea what was going to happen that day, when things could and probably would go wrong on unbeaten trails.

Sounds like heaven to me. So much of touring life and even everyday travelling life has become tame and predictable. You need to do something new and daring if you hope to repeat the chaos and excitement of your earliest travel adventures.

There's nothing wrong with, say, sitting in a tapas bar in Spain or watching live music in the USA, but if you've got some experience and you still want the buzz of something wild when you travel, these are the sorts of trips that you need to be seeking out.

I've had some of my best experiences in some of the most out-of-the-way places. A trek in search of gorillas in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo was tell-the-grandkids sort of stuff. A journey up the Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon was pretty amazing. And I'll never forget a train ride through the high plateaus of Mongolia.

Life becomes more interesting when you have no idea what's going on. Every day is a challenge and an achievement when no one speaks your language and nothing works the way it should. And you're not going to experience that in places you've already been and in which you feel comfortable.

You have to get off the beaten track. That might be becoming harder to find – but it's out there.

What have been your most memorable travel experiences in far-flung places? Do you enjoy trying to get off the beaten track? Leave a comment below.