There are great advantages to leaving the tourist path. By doing so, you gain a closer encounter with the people of the country you are visiting. Also, you leave more room for the unplanned and unexpected. Generally I love this.
Last weekend my friends and I struck off into Thai-only sections of Kanchanaburi province with mixed results. We saw a lot of beautiful scenery.
There were problems, however. I forgot one of my golden rules of travel: avoid travel with large groups. Its nearly impossible to please everyone in a large group. Decision making becomes slow, difficult, and often frustrating. I find that four people is the absolute maximum I can travel with... and only if all four people are highly compatible and very laid back. We had six in our group-- and at least two were far from being "laid back".
So through torturous and inefficient decision making (the loudest and most demanding decide), we ended up on a houseboat on a river in the middle of nowhere. This seemed to be a great decision at first. The river and surrounding rainforest were beautiful. I imagined a quiet weekend in nature-- recharging my mental batteries.
Then the motorboats kicked in. From 7am to 10 pm.... a constant parade of extremely loud motorboats cruised the river. They were so loud that we had to stop all conversation every time they passed... wait until the noise died down until we could resume our chat.
So rather than a quiet and relaxing weekend in the jungle, I spent two days in an environment even noisier than Bangkok (before this trip, I couldnt imagine a noiser place than Bangkok).
If Id been on an extended journey this would not have been much of a problem. Thats what I love about traveling for long periods of time... if things are bad, you just move on.
But I suppose I was in vacation mode... just wanting a couple of days of relaxation before returning to work. I learned that a short weekend excursion is not necessarily the best time to head off into uncharted territory.
I also learned that I prefer longer trips.