As I get ready to head on a new series adventures, starting with a month travel around Europe, I’ve realized I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the planning and getting ready.
I’ve spent time researching trains, flights, buses, ferries, booking apartments on AirBnB, figuring out how the RailnFly card works in Frankfurt when flying China Eastern, comparing insurance, buying theater tickets, and contacting and coordinating with friends in multiple cities in different countries. And now I look back and realize that was a ton of time and so far I don’t have that much to show for it. Actually besides my long-haul flights, I only have 1 flight and no other transportation booked. I didn’t even have to book most of the hotels. And yet I’m wondering where all the time went. Did I get anything out of all that research? And then I think there must be a better way…
The other options is packaged tours and organized trips. With these you decide which general area, research once to find the best option for what you’re looking for, pay for it and be done. Someone else does all the research, planning, bookings, and logistics and accommodation arrangements. All you do is pay, show up, and relax. There’s certainly something to be said for that. I mean its called vacation for a reason, right?
But then we get to the drawbacks of these types of trips: on the tourist trail, lots of other people, on the beaten path, a sense of this has been done before, no sense of exploration or discovery, no challenge, no thrill or anticipation or free-wheeling of what might happen next, little to no flexibility, rigid timetables, little local flavor. And then there’s the possibility of getting stuck with the wrong people–for anyone who’s traveled, you know how much having the wrong travel companions can ruin your enjoyment of a place. Or finding you chose the wrong destination but you already paid the money so you’re stuck there for your entire holiday.
I guess by now you can guess my preference… I’m totally in favor of the solo, independent travel. The freedom to choose my plan, the discovery, the sense of accomplishing something when I’ve found or done something, exploring and meeting new people, interacting with the local culture, choosing if or who to travel with, planning my schedule around catching up with my friends anywhere and everywhere. And all that time spent researching, it builds the anticipation and makes the experience so much richer when I get there. (Still would be nice to expedite some of it, though.)
Coming from someone who use to lead 2-3 week group trips of up to 16people, I would choose independent travel 10:1 over group (in most parts of the world), particularly if I have a competent travel companion. That being said, in some parts of the world, it is just not feasible. And, I’ll make an exception for cruises. 🙂
Here’s to my next adventure, all cross-coordinated to see friends, and my first time back in Europe in 7 years! Woot! Gonna be awesome!