“If you spend too much time thinking about it, then you miss it! Things come. Keep looking, meet different people, and exchange ideas. There is no rule.”
“The first step is in your head. So don’t think about it, buy a flight ticket tomorrow and then worry about it on the plane. This is the hardest step.”
Ian Wright, Host of the TV Show “Globe Trekker”
Of the different ways to travel I prefer the simple and cheap way. While this is probably the only way I could afford a 2-year trip, I wouldn’t do it differently even if I had all the money in the world. Traveling cheap means carrying a backpack, staying in hostels or cheap hotels or camping, cooking your own meals or eating in cheap restaurants, and taking local transportation instead of renting a car. I could list many more examples but the key point is that it is not about spending less but the true goal of your trip.
Are you traveling just to relax? Are you traveling just to brag about having been to certain places? Then by all means stay at the 4 star hotels and eat out at nice restaurants 3 times a day. But if you really want to immerse yourself in the culture, if you are really interested in the people and the customs of the place, you have to mix it in with the locals, and you won’t find many locals at the Sheraton. If all you want when you travel are the comforts from home (big bed, TV, familiar food, people who speak english, etc), then what is the point of going to other countries?
I’m also against large tour groups that rush everything, trying to cram as many sites as possible per day without giving you any time to absorb what you are experiencing. I once saw this tour group walk by the East Wing of the Louvre museum in Paris. As they walked by me the guide pointed out as they kept walking: “… and on my right we can see many of Da Vinci’s famous paintings …”. They never stopped one second to admire the masterpieces. This one other time I saw this guy get off the tour bus with his camcorder to check out a cathedral in Vienna. He was so concerned about the video he was capturing that he never lifted his head to actually see the cathedral with his own eyes. All he saw was through the LCD screen on his device. I will never understand the purpose for this kind of travel.
For me, traveling is all about freedom. Freedom to wake up any time you want to and not have a tour guide knock on your door at 5 in the morning. Freedom to stay 10 minutes or 10 hours at the Louvre. Freedom to sit all day on a bench reading a book in some park in some city and country without having to worry about schedules. Traveling is also about the unknown. The feeling of getting up everyday and not knowing what you are going to see or eat or who you are going to meet. Not knowing where you are going next until you meet a cool fellow traveler and decide to tag along and go together to the next destination. All of this would be impossible when traveling with a group or when too much planning have been done.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having other purposes for traveling. If you are really stressed out from daily life and all you want to do is relax, then going to a resort in the Caribbean sounds like a wonderful idea. On the other hand, if you are really adventurous, if you are genuinly interested in other cultures, then I suggest that you travel independently and on a budget. When it comes to traveling, spending more doesn’t translate to a better experience.