There seems to be a taboo about traveling to places in their off-seasons. What even is “off-season”? All of the most common tourist spots have what is called a peak-season, or a time of the year when the weather is the best and the streets are filled with people from around the world. During these times, every store front is open, all the main attractions are packed, and the locals are nowhere to be found. Crowded streets and full hotels make for a very lucrative time of the year. In beach towns, or lakeside cities, peak-seasons occur in the warmer months while the ski resorts find these times to be in the winter months.
So, what happens when travel to these places at the opposite time of the year? The outcomes may vary, but in my time abroad, I have found that it can result in incredible experiences. This past weekend, I traveled with a group of girls to Lake Como. At first, we ran into closed restaurants and stores at every turn. Not only were they closed at the time of our arrival, they were closed for the season, only to open in the coming months when the tourists typically arrive. However, upon getting closer to the actual town of Como, we found that all the locals were more than excited to see us. At first they would question why we had come in the colder months, but continued to welcome us with smiles, saying they were happy to have us. The weather, which was supposed to be cold and snowy, took a turn. The sun cleared the sky, and we were able to experience a place typically over-run with tourists, in a calm and personal manner. The markets were open, but relaxed. The only people in line to see main attractions, such as the Como Cathedral, were school kids, and we never waited in a line for the ferry or busses we rode from town to town. Restaurant owners came out to greet us, and coffee shop owners gave us free treats. The owners of one cafe even asked for a picture with us.
We were overwhelmed by the welcoming nature of the locals. I have chalked it up to appreciation. They were appreciative that we wanted to see their home, regardless of the time of year. They appreciated that even without all the boat rides and lakeside parties, we were willing to travel to see the beauty of the area. For that, I think we were able to get a glimpse at an authentic side of a heavily traveled area that we would have otherwise missed.
If you ever get a chance to see somewhere in its off-season, I highly recommend it. People try to find the “local” places that an average tourist is too oblivious to find, as they try to hit all of Trip Advisors “Top Ten Things to Do”. They work so hard to find authenticity, but at a time of year when it is not as prevalent. When you visit an incredible place at a time when the “touristy” shops have yet to open, however, you will find that any store you walk in to, any cafe or restaurant, is authentic, and the people are as well. Off-season is the new peak-season if you ask me!