By Emily Morrison
When planning your next trip, where do you start? Chances are you do like the rest of us and launch a deep investigation into your destination’s offerings, poring over travel blogs, scrutinizing Top 10 lists and agonizing over Yelp reviews. Endless hours are toiled away analyzing the various combinations and permutations of your expedition’s itinerary, all in the maddening quest to work out the perfect algorithm of what is best. That is, best attractions, best shopping, best restaurants, best bars, best experience. But to what end?
You can run yourself ragged seeing all the must-sees and doing all the must-dos, then find that the thing you liked best was an idle afternoon spent with a good book in a cute café. So what’s a traveller to do? Leave room for adventure! Act on your whim and live like a local as you explore. Most often, it’s in aimless wandering with an open mind that we begin to uncover the soul of a place: its people, its culture and its heritage.
An unofficial poll of National Trust friends and staff shows that this is true. The places best-loved and most distinctly remembered were invariably the small and unexpected. Places like the Bridge Drive-In, a Winnipeg institution since 1957 that serves up a mind-boggling array of soft-serve delights like the “Goog Special,” which melds a blueberry shake, hot fudge sundae and bananas (the verdict? “Weird but delicious!”). Or the Train Station Inn, a truly unique lodging comprised of vintage train cars on a permanent station stop at a century-old railway station in Tatamagouche. You don’t find that on every bucket list!
So, plucky travellers, throw away your guidebooks, put away your phones and head off the beaten path. Follow a road sign to a nearby attraction, stop to read an historic plaque and seek out the curious, the unusual, the charming and the rare. Relish the small thrills of discovering a new place. In the end, it is your personal experience above all that makes a destination distinctive.
Do you have a favourite distinctive destination? We want to hear about it! Enter your photo of a place you love in the My Sweet Spot contest for your chance to win over $3,000 in prizes! Visit www.mysweetspot.ca
Emily Morrison is the Communications Coordinator with the National Trust for Canada.