When traveling, we always try to have the most authentic experiences as possible. There are times, however, when a tour that we take includes something that is there just for tourists. They are often a photo opportunities that locals believe that the people visiting want to take home with them, but often they aren’t realistic to the actual culture. More often than not, when we end up doing one of those types of things, we literally cringe when we see what we’re about to do. It doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy them, it is just that we realize that it is a staged activity done just for tourists.
We have actually ridden camels twice, once in Morocco and then again in Egypt. It wasn’t as if we were riding a camel to get from one place to another, it was just us on a camel while someone walked us around. It wasn’t as if we saw people riding camels, although we know that they do in the desert, so it is just something that people have come to expect to do when they visit those countries. Another thing that we did when in Morocco was to see a snake charmer. Interesting as it was, it was still just a planned stop along the tour for us to take photos and tip the snake charmer in order for him to make a living.
When we were in Prague, at the end of the tour, we went to what was supposed to be a medieval restaurant, complete with cobwebs on the ceiling and waiters dressed in garments from the period. Having a meal at a wooden table in a dungeon, while fun, is probably not the way it would have been hundreds of years ago. When we visited Warwick Castle in England, one of the towers was set up as a torture chamber. It was basically a haunted house experience with people jumping out at you. Again, fun, but not anything representative of turn of the century Europe.
When we were in Cabo, we swam with dolphins in a large aquarium. It would be quite fascinating to swim in the wild with dolphins, but that would be a completely different experience than swimming with a dolphin that has been trained to do tricks. We took a cruise on a pirate ship in Puerto Vallarta where they put on a show and entertained the guests throughout the tour. Clearly these activities are a little different, but still very touristy. Obviously it is hard to completely avoid all of these types of activities, so when they happen it is best to just role with it and have fun. The camel rides were probably the most touristy of all of the activities that we’ve done. What is the most touristy thing that you’ve done when traveling?
As you head into the mountains of Colorado, you will find that most of the towns have grown quite substantially and are surrounded by condominiums and private homes. There are, however, a few historic towns that still exist and we truly enjoy visiting them. Leadville is a little unique as it sits at over 10,000 feet (over 3,000 meters) high and can be difficult to reach during the winter as the roads that reach the pass are often closed. There are some snowmobile tours that you can take around the area, which are quite interesting and can even take you to an old ghost town in the area.
Even if you visit during the summer, it is important to remember that it can be quite cold in the high country, especially at night. We were there in September, so the scenery around the town was spectacular with all of the colors of autumn. Walking through the town is like stepping back in time where you can see buildings from the 1800’s. Probably the most iconic building on the main street is the Silver Dollar Saloon, which has amazing character and was supposedly frequented by Billy the Kidd back when he was in the area. There is a lot of memorabilia on the walls and the bar is original to the building.
The old railway station is another place that should be on your list to visit if you make your way into the mountains to see Leadville. The train still operates out of Leadville and during the summer months you book a ticket on one of their daily trips. Seeing the mountains from an old train is something that you will never forget. Leadville is located about 2 1/2 hours outside of Denver, which makes it an easy day trip and you will be rewarded with wonderful views of the Rocky Mountains.
Visiting the historic town of Leadville is certainly worth the time if you are visiting Denver or even spending time in the high country of Colorado. Even if you don’t make it to Leadville, it is worth the effort to get away from the large resort areas and seeing one of the historic old western towns that still exist today.
We had been taking vacations for years where we would visit interesting locations throughout the United States. We even traveled abroad and to Mexico, but as we look back now, we were tourists not travelers in those days. The trip that changed everything for us was when we went to Chennai, India. That was the trip where we really learned to immerse ourselves as much as possible in the culture and push ourselves outside of our normal comfort zone. That experience has changed the way that we travel, the way that we view the places that we visit, as well as the choices that we make on where in the world to go. We are now travelers, not tourists. We don’t just want to go to the most famous sites, we want to grow as global citizens and learn as much about the world and the people who inhabit it as much as possible. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Wanderlust, which made us reflect upon our time in India. We tried to select a couple of photos that we may not have shared before to capture the experience that changed us.