The Journey and the Destination focuses primarily, although not exclusively, on independent travel.
So what is independent travel, and who is an independent traveller?
The essence of an independent traveller is that they are a traveller who organises their own itinerary – they plan the details of their own trip and make their own bookings for accommodation, transport, attractions, and the like. They do this rather than getting a travel agent to arrange everything for them, or going on a package tour, or a cruise, or taking holidays in a resort.
Like a tourist who relies heavily on a travel agent or who always goes on package tours, an independent traveller may organise every detail of their travels before departure: every accommodation, every transportation and transfer, and every attraction they will visit to create a complete itinerary. More usually though, an independent traveller will put together a broad outline of their travels, will book the essentials, and will then fill out the details as they go – they won't have a detailed complete itinerary that covers their travels from the beginning to the end.
Of course, my definition of an independent traveller is not hard and fast, and there is no need to be obsessive about it. While an independent traveller mostly books directly for accommodation, transport, and attractions, it may be more convenient, or even essential, to use a travel agent or to go on a package tours under some circumstance.
For example, in 1989 we visited Russia when it was part of the USSR on a package tour . Back then, it was only possible to visit Russia on an official package tour, just as it is now if you want to visit North Korea. The tour package included all of our accommodation, transfers, and attractions; although, we did have free time in both Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and Moscow – we even got to independently travel on the Moscow Metro. Here are a couple of my photos from that tour, taken in 1989:
As well as such unavoidable package tours, sometimes travel agent or package tour developers really do have great deals that are worth taking; nevertheless, an independent traveller will mostly eschew package tours in their travels.
Of course, there are risks to independent travel. The people who develop package tours are usually successful at ironing out most of the kinks in their products so that things go smoothly, and if things don’t go smoothly they’re the ones that sort it out. Travel agents are trained to avoid creating problems for travellers – if they get it wrong and ruin your holiday, at least you have someone else to blame.
Perhaps the biggest risk in being an independent traveller is travelling internationally and finding that the immigration at your destination won't let you into the country for some reason. Reasons may include that you need a visa that don't have, you don't have your flight home booked, you can't prove that you have sufficient financial resources to look after yourself, you don’t have required vaccinations, or some other reason. If you’re doing it all yourself, you need to be sure that you’re getting it right.
There’s also the risk that some service you need maybe all booked out when you come to access it at the last minute. This is pretty annoying if it’s an attraction that you really wanted to see, but it’s more than annoying if you find can’t get any accommodation for the night, so you have to be sure that you cover these things effectively.
Finding out how this all works and taking responsibility for your processes gives you a great feeling of self-reliance and independence, and more rewarding travel.