The first trip I ever technically took was to Yosemite National Park in 1968… BEFORE I was born. Yep, my mother was pregnant with me at the time. So, I’ve always had a special attachment to Yosemite, and even having traveled all over the world (seven continents, nearly 50 countries), I still think that Yosemite is about the most beautiful natural place I’ve ever been. However, when I was 4 months old (and a separate human entity) my mother and father took me to King’s Canyon, CA, in 1969. My mom tells me that I “liked it”. Not sure what that means; I probably just goo-ed and giggled a lot.  Still, no matter where I have traveled since then, or how many snafus have occurred during a trip (and they always occur because no trip is perfect), I’ve always managed to get something useful and enjoyable out of my travel experiences. In fact, I’d have to say that my years of travel have probably taught me more about our planet, other cultures, world history, human nature, and street smarts than my 22 years of education (Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees) put together. Maybe that sounds dubious, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating. One learns so much through traveling — whether with a group or independently — the benefits are practically immeasurable. And before I go any further, I want to thank my mother and father for always encouraging me to travel from an early age. They pushed me to explore, but gave me the added security of coming home. 

So, why do I like to travel independently and solo? There are several reasons:  

1) Traveling independently forces me to read up on a destination because I have to arrange everything myself. I am my own travel agent, per se. I construct my own itineraries, book my own flights and accommodations, and figure out my own local transport. But this is so worthwhile in the end. I find that I know so much about the destination once I get there, that I can more fully appreciate all aspects of the trip. I get the most out of what I do and see. It all just means more to me. Plus, when you do your homework beforehand, you are prepared for any “tests” that may present themselves along the way, and you can handle them more capably. I never forget a trip that I have planned myself. I remember every little detail like it happened yesterday. So, the experience just stays with me longer… and to me, that makes it a very good investment. Some people say that travel should change you. Well, I don’t know about whether is absolutely “should” or “has to”, but it certainly does in my case.  

2) Traveling independently permits me to be more in touch with the destination’s culture, rather than being insulated or distanced from it by some pre-arranged tour package. Some tours make you feel like you never left home at all. What is the point of that?  

3) I find I meet more people when I travel on my own. Some of them approach me, perhaps out of curiosity because they want to know why/how I am traveling by myself. Some approach me out of concern — these are usually the kindly, “motherly” types who want to make sure I will be safe… which I always find a bit entertaining since my conversations with them usually reveal that they have less travel experience than I have. But ultimately, I think my meeting more people while traveling alone occurs because I am not distracted by the presence of a travel companion. Being alone, I feel free to talk to people I meet in other countries — fellow travelers and locals alike. When I have traveled with a family member or friend in the past, I find I naturally spend a lot of my time talking with them, making sure they are enjoying the trip, and I’m so pre-occupied with my companion, that I don’t take time to talk with others. And this leads me to reason #4….  

4) It can be a total nightmare if you take a trip with a family member or friend from home and then find out that the two of you just don’t travel well together! I’ve seen friendships and even marriages destroyed by this. You REALLY get to know someone when you travel with them — you live with all their quirks, the good and the bad. And some folks just can’t handle it. I have had two experiences like this in my lifetime of travel and they taught me once and for all that I am way better off just meeting folks on the road and traveling with them temporarily until the good times expire, so that we separate on positive terms rather than nearly killing each other and ending things badly.  

5) Traveling alone and independently gives one a tremendous sense of freedom, confidence, independence, spontaneity, and flexibility. In our daily lives we must play by the rules, follow orders, keep to a regular schedule, check in with co-workers, etc. Life can be so unbearably structured. And if we live that way long enough we are bound to get ourselves into a real rut. Nothing can be more tiresome, boring, and ultimately… depressing. I feel the need to break out of this rut periodically… and that’s when I travel. Going it alone, without a set tour schedule is incredibly liberating and refreshing. You can stay for as long as you like at one location, and do as much or as little as you like at another. I know, travel agents will tell you they can replicate this for you with a customized tour… which they package up for you in advance (sometimes several months in advance)… and charge more for, by the way. But I ask you, how do you KNOW whether you will want to stay in a specific town until you get there and experience it? You don’t! So, giving yourself the flexibility of traveling independently is really the only way to go in this case.  

Ok, I realize I may sound like a foot-loose and fancy-free vagabond with commitment issues. Fine, so be it. However, it’s not like I don’t plan ANYTHING in advance. I do. And let’s face it, during high season, you do have to make certain reservations in advance if you want to have a bed to sleep in, for instance. It’s just that I make sure I know the terms and conditions of whatever I book in advance so that if I choose to modify my plans later, I have some flexibility. In other words, I formulate a clear travel plan (my ideal), but I also plot ways I can modify it if I change my mind or if the travel gods intervene and change my plans for me. That way, I still keep other options open. It’s my way of preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.  

I know I have not said anything about my personal or professional life outside of my travel life. But I don’t consider it relevant. Besides, folks have come to this blog to read about travel in various places around the world. Hopefully, in doing so they’ll catch the travel bug themselves, get the urge to visit (or avoid, as the case may be) a particular country, or learn some useful travel tips that just might save them a little anguish later on (consider me the willing guinea pig).   

I hope that this page has laid out my travel philosophy somewhat. I don’t pass judgment on anyone else’s approach to travel and I’d never assume that my way is the best way to travel. It’s not the best way for everyone… just for me. That’s all I can say. So, as you read through my various posts from countries I’ve visited just since 2006, you’ll get a taste of what I like and don’t like, what I do and don’t do on trips, and essentially how I manage to survive it all, taking the good with the bad… because that’s just how it goes. Life’s a trip. Travel.


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