Off the Beaten Path

Have you seen all the "must see" sights in a city where you are traveling?  Would you like to  see how the locals live? Or, maybe you would like to discover another side of the city where you live. Several companies offer opportunities to gain unparalleled insight into the culture of a city you may be visiting.

Vayable is a year old company that connects adventurous travelers with "seasoned experts" and "savvy locals"  who have signed up to take visitors on tours that promise a unique perspective of their city or home location. Travel expert Arthur Frommer describes a few of the tour options -  "In the south Pacific, the 'king' of a particular island will take you fishing. In London, a street artist will show you the best of the graffiti found in urban areas; another will take you shopping in Paris; still another will lead you to small, off-beat restaurants where the chefs will invite you into their kitchens to explain a distinctive approach to cooking."

In New York, the launch of Sidetour also offers similar off the beaten path experiences. Through Sidetour, you can choose from a variety of opportunities such as stepping into a high-profile recording studio to see how stars lay down tracks and capture vocals, creating and sharing a meal alongside an up and coming chef, or visiting New York's hottest contemporary art galleries with a professional art adviser.  Currently, Sidetour is working to bring their custom experiences to other cities as well.

For the tourist who is looking for something more in-depth and thought provoking while visiting a typical tourist destination, Context is a personal favorite of mine. Their tag line is "Walking Tours for the Intellectually Curious".  Scholarly small group and private tours are led by architects, historians, art historians and other specialists in 18 cities around the world.  I have had the opportunity to take Context walks  at the Uffizi in Florence, the Vatican in Rome and in New York City's Greenwich Village which allowed me to gain a much more in-depth understanding than I ever would have been able to discover on my own.  Whether it's a Tea Tasting in Hangzhou, China, a Chocolate Walk in Paris or a Private After Hours Tour of the Vatican Museums, you can count on Context to provide you with unique and scholarly insight.
The next time you travel, try one of these singular experiences. It will take you beyond hourdes of tourists and endless souvenir shops and allow you an insider view into the city where you are visiting.