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Random Travel Experiences: Are They The Best?

Random Travel Experiences: Are They The Best?

As great as certain tourist attractions and landmarks can be, there’s always a level of expectation surrounding them.

If the attraction surpasses your expectations, your experience is guaranteed to be positive. As you’ve probably established over the past few months, we’ve had many of these experiences.

However unfortunately as travelers, too often we visit a destination and unrealistically expect it to blow our minds and/or change our lives.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Is it romantic or ugly?

After arriving at the attraction, the reality is quite different which leads to disappointment.

Travel Talk on Twitter, a weekly social media travel event, last week asked, “What’s the most over-rated landmark in your experience?”. We saw answers such as:

“The Leaning Tower was pretty overrated… too many tourists and it’s a bit in the middle of nowhere.”

“I’m gonna say it…Notre Dame. It pales in comparison to La Sainte Chapelle just down the street.”

It’s safe to assume that the negative perspective towards these landmarks is due to the attraction falling well below that traveler’s expectations.

To some, The Leaning Tower of Pisa is simply a building constructed on the wrong foundation rather than a sight to see. Notre Dame Cathedral might be considered small but perhaps only to those who aren’t familiar with the building’s architecture and history.

That’s why we think random travel experiences are the best.

We’ve read about travelers who purposely get lost in a city so they can have a fuller, more in-depth travel experience. For the two of us, we visited more developed nations which made it hard to get lost but even while we were in the USA, we still managed to find several things we weren’t looking for that became some of our travel highlights.

Here are three of our favorite random travel experiences from our around-the-world trip in 2011.

Riding in a Limousine in St. Louis

First ever limo ride

My first ever limo ride - ignore the soda cup, please.

After a 6-hour bus ride from Chicago, we arrived at Union Station in St. Louis and tiredly searched for a cab to bring us to our hotel downtown.

The two of us wandered around for a few minutes before finally approaching the doormen at the Marriott Hotel attached to the station. We told them where we were going and they said they could do it for $10. Overpriced, sure, but all we wanted to do by now is get to our hotel and relax!

We thought that they had a taxi waiting, but as we walked past a couple of cars the only one left for us was a stretch limousine. Bingo!

If only they had given us a room upgrade after arriving in such style.

Seeing Michael Jordan in Chicago

Michael Jordan Steakhouse Opening

Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player of all time?

I grew up in the 90’s obsessed with basketball and although my favorite player was Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan ranked a very close second.

As we finished up exploring the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, the two of us were walking towards the closest subway station when we saw a somewhat large crowd forming. Intrigued, we headed over to the crowd to see what was happening.

Michael Jordan was opening his brand new steakhouse tonight.

Despite having dinner plans, we couldn’t miss this! So we stuck around for over an hour until Air Jordan arrived in his black Bentley and rushed inside. It was a shame he didn’t stop to acknowledge the crowd (and let us get a better photo!) but it was still an awesome experience regardless.

The Today Show in New York City

With the Most Popular Personality in Australia, Karl Stefanovic

With the Most Popular Personality in Australia, Karl Stefanovic

The two of us headed into Times Square to see the Lion King on Broadway but had a few hours to waste beforehand. Again we were drawn in by a crowd forming and were surprised to see a live recording of The Today Show – a popular Australian breakfast television program.

We’d been on the road for nearly 3 months and the only face-to-face contact we’d had with family and friends was via average quality Skype chats. We excitedly called and texted everyone we knew in Australia and several of them managed to see us in the front row of The Today Show singing along with the crew to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”.

Pretty cool, huh?

What’s the best random travel experience you’ve had while on the road?

14 Comments

  1. Posted January 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Random travel experiences ARE the best! My last day in Mexico City, on the way back to the apartment where I was staying in Doctores, I stumbled across an unexpected Lucha Libre fight less than a block away. It was one of the highlights of my time there!
    Sara recently posted..4 Rookie Traveler Mistakes

    • Posted January 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      That’s awesome Sara! We had a similar experience in the Philippines where there was a local fight but unfortunately for us it was a gruesome cockfight so we decided just to keep on driving.

  2. Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE random travel experiences – they’re sometimes better than the experiences we actually plan! I randomly bumped into someone in Hong Kong that used to live down the road from me at home (though didn’t know him) and I ended up partying with the Scottish Rugby Team…now THAT was a random travel experience and remains to be one of the best things of my whole trip. As a traveller, learning to love the unexpected is one of the best things about being on the road :)
    Toni recently posted..I changed my life, you can too

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      Definitely! We’ve written before about how small this world is and I know that you’ve mentioned that story a few times before so it must have been one hell of an experience. You can’t always love the unexpected but when it turns out for the better, it’s one of the best things you can ask for.

  3. Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    It is definitely the random experiences I remember more. To use your example, I don’t remember much about Notre Dame, but I remember my jaw hitting the floor when I topped the stairs of Saint Chapelle. I enjoyed walking around Washington DC, but it was standing on a street corner and having the President turn right in front of my that topped my memories from that trip.

    Problem is, it’s by nature impossible to plan random experiences. But when they happen, it’s great…
    The World of Deej recently posted..New York City in a Day – Our Perfect Whirlwind Tour

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      Wow, you saw the President? That’s fantastic! That would make anybody’s trip to DC that much better!

      They are impossible to plan, but that’s why there are no expectations around them. If they happen, they’re the best!

  4. Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    So awesome! I watched The Today Show just about every morning while living in Australia–super funny while I was getting ready for work! Totally remember all the NYC episodes, and I would love to meet Karl :) Definitely think it’s the random experiences I remember more than seeing any sight: I was walking through Paris one Sunday in July and spotted a big crowd up ahead, wandered over and what was it but the final stage of the Tour de France! And I get lost ALL the time, and I always stumble across the most awesome neighborhoods or beautiful vistas that aren’t necessarily on the map. Great post!
    Christine recently posted..Awesome hikes in South and Western Australia

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      We never really watched it but only because we were the type to always be running late to work! Haha you might have seen us on there in the last 10 minutes of the show, it was totally random but so much fun.

      That’s awesome you got to see the final stage of the Tour de France! What a massive event to stumble upon haha.

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Oh, and Karl was great. It was hilarious watching him on set – he was the one who couldn’t keep still and continually cracked jokes. And he was a really genuine, friendly guy who was more than happy to talk to us after the show!

  5. Posted February 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The best travel experiences I have ever had in my life were those for which I had no preconceived expectations. On the other hand, if you do your homework and research a place before you go, you can approach a place with a modicum of what to expect.
    Jim @NeverStopTravel recently posted..The Secret on the Queen’s Yacht

  6. Matthew Cheyne
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    The best random travel experience was when I spent five months in Sydney at the end of 2001 and early 2002. I was walking home to where I was staying in Elizabeth Street and about three blocks from home I stumbled onto a movie set where they were filming the Matrix 2 and 3. They were in between takes and I walked right past the car that was in the movies and saw Laurence Fishbourne aka Morpheous in his dark jacket. No sign of Neo at the time though.

  7. Posted February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm, I need to think long about this one. Most of my trips are very well planned.
    adventureswithben recently posted..What To Expect On Your First Liveaboard Dive Trip

  8. Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    A very random post! ;)
    Ed Rex recently posted..Why my RTW Route?

  9. Posted March 15, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    +1000,000 points on the Jordan sighting but I too considered Olajuwon my all-time fave.
    When random great experiences start piling up you begin to realise your energy and optimism goes along way, its that Yes Man attitude you’ve already talked about.
    Surely one can get lost anywhere, being developed or touristy shouldn’t change a thing right? If anything I would take it as a challenge to find the obscure in the obvious.
    30HomeGames recently posted..30HG Scans: Reebok Pulp Magazine ’98

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