Most decisions I make while traveling are largely weighed on what I hear from fellow backpackers. Guidebooks are nice for attractions or highly rated restaurants, but nothing beats word of mouth!
How Word of Mouth Helped Me
While traveling through South East Asia I have come to realize many backpackers have similar routes through the countries (typically people would start or end in Thailand). Sometimes they will be going the same way as I am or sometimes they are going the opposite way. When I meet someone going the opposite way I take every opportunity to pick their brains on which spots they think are 100% worth going to and which spots they have been disappointed in. I ask where they have stayed (or would have liked to stay), and what they did. Some of my favorite places I’v been and things I’ve done weren’t in any guidebook I had read or internet search I had done. Of course, there are times when I do not agree, but usually the advice seems to pan out well. It also helps when I hear the same or conflicting things from multiple people. That way I can choose accordingly!
It goes both ways, too. As I’m getting the low down on where to go and what to do in, say, Koh Rong, Cambodia, I am also sharing my opinions/experiences about their next destination. It really is just the best way.
The Best Planning is No Planning
Word of mouth goes hand in hand with my tactic of NOT planning much of anything, short of a day or two, in advance. Once you get to one destination, the people you meet and swap stories with could sway your decision of where to go next. There were many times I’ve thought I was definitely going to a certain place then, after talking to people, realized the hostel I had picked was a shit hole, the area wasn’t the most ideal, or another place close to it would be more worth my while. I modify accordingly, and for the most part, am always satisfied!
Things To Remember
Keep in mind the time of year the traveler visited the place they give you advice about. High and low seasons, in a lot of destinations, determine the amount of people around and the attractions to see. A hostel that was full of people and crazy fun in the summer months may be pretty dead and low key in the off season winter months, or visa versa. For example: the full moon parties, on Koh Phangan in Thailand, bring boat loads (literally) of people onto the island, so, if you go during those times the place will be full of tourists and partiers (and that’s what peoples experiences may reflect), but if you happen to be able to find a time when one of the full moon parties isn’t going on, it’s one of the most beautiful and laid back islands in Thailand. You can even do detoxes and yoga retreats/teacher trainings!