Back in August, I ran across this article on The Huffington Post: These Are The Most Overrated Vacation Destinations, According To HuffPost Readers; although, I’m reluctant to call it an “article” since it’s little more than a list of places with stock photo illustrations.
While I believe there is a larger conversation to be had about top-travel-anything lists, this one really got to me. Google “most overrated travel,” and you will find an abundance of articles and people who want to tell you where you should or shouldn’t travel. Because who wouldn’t trust a Huff-Po poll of people on the Internets filling in the blank for, “The most overrated place I’ve ever vacationed is__________”? These wise poll-takers flagged the entire state of Florida. That’s right. The entire state.
Sure our travel destinations don’t always meet or exceed our expectations, but can you really exclude an entire city, state or country because someone on the internet had a crappy experience and answered a one-question survey?
So do this. Sit back and think about the most overrated place you’ve ever visited.
For me, it was Cafe Buza in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Nestled on the outside of the city walls of Old Town, our friends had raved about this bar and said WE HAD TO HAVE a drink there.
And so, while in Dubrovnik, my husband and I made our way to Cafe Buza. We meandered through Old Town, avoided the women who were making doilies on the street, sidestepped some tchotchkes, finally walked through the hole in the wall (literally, in that word’s purest sense), and found ourselves at a cute little seaside bar with a nice enough view of the Adriatic Sea. While I wasn’t really into the Old Town vibe (no GoT tours in 2011), I was happy enough to settle in for the afternoon.
At least until my husband ordered the drinks.
I had a Sprite. He had a beer.
Our total was $15.
At roughly the same time that we were hit with our $15 tab, a long line formed to get through the hole in the wall into Cafe Buza. Tourists from far and wide were making the pilgrimage to have their $6 Sprite and $9 beer.
My husband and I decided to skedaddle.
We were without a car, so we walked as far away from Cafe Buza as we could.
First we wandered down the hill away from the city walls, where we ran into a couple who thought we were locals (apparently my husband’s Louisville Cardinals shirt wasn’t a dead give-away), but we were able to provide them directions nonetheless…to Old Town. From there, we made our way through the business district, where we stopped at one of the small restaurants catering to the folks in suits. We were a little out of our element but managed to order some type of sausage sandwich. Then we started following the signs to “Lapad.” We wandered through some beautiful beachfront neighborhoods, picked out the house we were going to buy when we won the lottery, and before long we stumbled upon Lapad Beach.
The waterfront had a tourist vibe, it was a beach afterall, but it had a much more local feel: leathered bodies tanning on the beach, the smell of cigarettes wafting through the air, screaming children kicking up the rocks along the surf.
We walked up to the little shack of a bar on the edge of the water and ordered two beers. We had counted our money beforehand, and thought we could afford it. The bartender handed us the beer and said, “That will be six [mumble mumble] kunas each.” My husband and I looked at each other in horror and exclaimed, “SIXTY?!” Cafe Buza had been expensive, and this was looking to be just as pricey.
That’s when the bartender started laughing. He shook his head and said, “No. No. Sixteen! Sixteen!” (which was less than $3). Then he kind of tilted his head sideways, peered down at us, laughed again, and said, “Guess you two have been to Old Town.” He smirked as I made a face and then walked away to play guitar with his friend on the beach, and we were left at the bar by ourselves.
So back to places being overrated.
If someone asked me if Dubrovnik was overrated, would I say it was because of my experience at Cafe Buza?
I would say, know what you’re looking for in a travel destination. If you go to the Acropolis, Vatican Museum, Trevi Fountain, or heck, Disney World in Florida, don’t expect to have an authentic experience. Expect to have an experience tailored to you as a tourist. If that’s your thing, great! By all means, do it. Enjoy it. It’s your vacation. You shouldn’t feel guilty about being a tourist when you’re being a tourist because some silly list says so.
But if it’s an authentic local experience you’re looking for, then check the boxes and move on:
☑ Walked to the top of the Acropolis
☑ Threw a coin in Trevi Fountain
☑ Took a picture with Mickey Mouse
☑ Had a drink at Cafe Buza in Old Town
☑ And then walked as far away as possible