The Lure of Rural Tourism
Rural tourism not only gives you a peek at tiny villages. It includes a variety of activities depending on your interest, capabilities and experience. If you haven't yet tried this, don't wait long.
Rural Tourism Getting High Marks
Have you ever wondered why rural tourism keeps getting high marks among the more discerning tourist crowd?
Small villages and farming communities still provide a great peek into histories and not just of other cultures, but of our own community of humans, where major chunks are still occupied by indigenous people who haven't discovered Twinkies, Cheeze Whiz or Max Factor.
Countrysides can be the last hold out against cola, jeans, Toyotas and Chelsea. As cities homogenize cultures and people, and every other destination looks similar. If you want to celebrate the fantastic differences among 7 plus billion people fitting into the world, target rural tourism and the country side.
My husband and I had a wonderful 5-day drive in the Gascon Region of France and chose to drive through and visit small villages instead of big cities. We had wonderful discoveries as we happen to see the old river docks that used to play significant roles in transport and the strategic role rivers played in development. It was a joy to encounter people who truly represent their own localities and are proud of these.
Last spring, we went to Assisi and I saw many signs for agro-tourism which ten years ago were not there. Rural tourism is a growth industry. It is not just farm stays. That's different. For a more authentic experience, do it now.
Rural tourism through untrodden pathways in Europe
We did this when we drove through France from Switzerland and we had a totally enriching experience trying out local cafes, tasting local products, and talking to the locals.
Lately, we drove through Sicily and Calabria and explored some untrodden pathways where locals wondered how we ever reached their place. We had some wonderful local produce and memories to keep.
How to Arrange Rural Tourism
Interested? Excited? Challenged? Hold on. Before you plunge yourself into the experience, make sure that you fully trust and know the people making arrangements for you.
Most countries have great local agents to set these up. But check them out with others you know. Many will give references on their web sites and if that is too remote find (on the net) a great small hotel in the major city close to the area you want to visit. Get them working for you. Always have an exit plan in place before you venture into one of these. But enjoy the surprises.and watch those chillies!
Top Rural Tourism Activities
There are various ways by which you can enjoy rural tourism especially when you take the steps to get out of your comfort zone to experience with the rural folks some of the unique aspects of their lives. Here are some of the known ways to experience rural tourism:
1. Visit rural villages
This is another popular rural tourism activity as people are interested in visiting villages off the beaten path that have not yet been hammered by Starbucks or Mr. Submarine. You get to visit the places that the villagers consider central to their traditions such as the places of worship or if you happen to be in the vicinity of beautiful parks and mountains, then, you get to visit these with local guides. You then get a more intense appreciation and understanding of these places.
You can start with agro-tourism as some organizers call it. Visit a village and know the plants, fruits, trees, flowers and animals that are typical of that place. Try eating some of those exotic fruits you have never tried before. Watch people plant rice and help them.
This small village trend is becoming so popular that guess what? It has now become a planned activity by many villages all over the world. So, if you want to see reality and not a stage play of actors by firelight, start turning your radar towards the still unexplored territories.
2. Take pathways out of the main tourist destination
When you visit a tourist destination, there are often pathways you can take that lead to the village. Take one of these and just venture out. Often, people are friendly and if they know you are interested about their village, you will be surprised at the knowledge you will get. Not what you'll read in the Lonely Plant.
3. Home Stay with Rural Families and Interact with Local Folks
In some villages, home stays are offered to tourists so they get to have a glimpse of the way folks really live in the countries they visit.
Usually, accommodations are in individual guest rooms with host families or in cold weather where there is only one room with fire for heat, then, a spread mattress in the area where the family stretches out for the night. These places are often selected by a local authority or a local group to provide clean accommodation and food from local produce cooked up in the traditional manner. Wow, heck for chillies! Actually, it's usually toned down a tad for the ferenghi!
4. Visit, Stay and Volunteer in Rural Areas
Share the life of the people in very remote areas. Access may be a day long walk to town. This takes a bit of backbone but the payoffs can change your life. This kind of rural tourism gives you a better understanding of local peoples' practices. This is better done in villages with very interesting customs and traditions that you have no clue about and are so different from your own.
Many tourists have some experiences of building wells or school building or a community building and other basic facilities. Some help villages with language teaching to improve tourism or farming ideas or irrigation or child and sick patient care.
5. Let rural folks teach you
Here I was, in one of the villages in Maldives, enjoying myself with the women who taught me how to open the local nuts using their age old way. As we did this, we got into sharing more about life and as you can see we all had fun.
6. Celebrate Local Tradition and Festivals
Not every tourist appreciates being that close to the locals so you can have a taste of rural tourism by attending some of the local events especially the really big ones. This way, you can mingle with the locals without really living with them, still hear the music, chew on the grilled corn and drink the local homebrew.
Some of the religious festivals may require that you dress properly and respect the rituals of the people. Some could be really gory but most are colorful and fun to watch.
Give rural tourism a try and enjoy your travel experience
Often, I find that I enjoy more interacting with rural folks. I learn more about the culture and get a deeper feel for the place. I feel safer in rural areas and more able to interact with people.
7. Write about your rural tourism experience
Capture your unique rural tourism experiences In a journal. This would really be interesting as many people now are starting to look for experiences in their travel over and beyond what tours usually offer.
Your experiences are unique and when documented can be helpful to a lot of people. If not for this reason, it is always fun to remember the people you have encountered in your trip and and hear their voices telling their own actual stories.
New Directions in Rural Tourism - A Growing Trend
This is now a growing trend in tours. Tours are organized to see local produce, unique flora and fauna, taste exotic fruits. But over and beyond this, you can make your own connections. Read about what is going on so you are aware of alternatives.
As this type of tourism continues to boom, rural folks have become more creative pushing the development of rural tourism. What has been in your experience the most meaningful rural tourism activity?
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