What is an Independent Traveler?

January 10, 2012 in Travelogue

How I spent my 33rd Birthday... at a resort on a "work" trip for my husband

I just booked my very first “packaged” travel deal: A long weekend in Iceland, air, hotel and a glacier exploration/northern lights hut tour included.  

It feels a little weird.

Sure, we’ve taken tours before. We’ve even gone on packaged trips before as “reward trips” through work. Days spent floating in swank resort pools, nights filled with “mandatory joy,” as my husband calls the pseudo-business events that are supposed to feel like vacation even though all anyone does is discuss work and inevitably someone ends up posing for photos with the boss after one too many drinks. Remind me to tell you about the time the #3 guy in the company begged me to drink out of my shoe… but I digress.

That’s the extent of our experience with packaged tours. “Vacations” with twenty of our closest…er… co-workers.

Admittedly, we did things on those trips we would NEVER have done on our own: Like stay at the Four Seasons Hualalai, eat 100 year old balsamic vinegar drizzled lavishly over vanilla bean ice cream and help run up a four digit bar tab. Being who we are, in our quest to travel more, we always took another week, thanked the company for the free airfare and did our own thing before or after.

It was fun. But we quit that job so that we could really travel.

It’s not my fault that I can’t sit on a tour bus comfortably, or that my initial reaction when the bus doors open is to bolt, as far and as fast as possible from the “safety” of the guided “experience.”

It’s my Dad’s. He ruined me.

  • He camped me on the south coast of Mexico for a few months when I was eight and let me run amok in three languages.
  • He turned me loose in a mercado at 12, with my little brother as my sherpa, to do the weekly shopping while he sat in the van and read his book.
  • He pulled the van off of the road twice an hour to examine interesting cactus, or to act as crossing guard for a tarantula meandering across a desert two lane highway. Tour buses don’t do that.
  • Sure, he took us to the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, like all of the big tours do, but he negotiated with the parking lot attendant so we could camp there for the week.

What’s the definition of an Independent Traveler?

I suppose there are a hundred, maybe a thousand.

To me, an independent traveler is someone not afraid to go it alone.

  • A traveler who reads the guidebook, but then ignores it more than half of the time.
  • Someone who finds her own path, and often off the beaten path.
  • An independent traveler expects the best but isn’t surprised by the worst, and can laugh in the midst of it.
  • A world citizen who finds the similarities as often as the differences and celebrates both.
  • Someone who will take the tour, if it suits her, but who isn’t afraid to make her own tour, if it doesn’t.
  • A person for whom travel is a facet of his person, not an outfit pulled on like a Hawaiian shirt on vacation. 

 An Independent Traveler is who you are, not what you do.

So, the Iceland package is booked. How could we say, “No,” to a price like that? Especially when it’s been on our bucket list and we so badly need the honeymoon (that’s right, the kids are staying in North America!) But being me, I couldn’t click “Confirm Payment” until I’d confirmed a few other things: The tour will take up only one afternoon and evening, the other three days are free and clear, a car can be rented, fjords, waterfalls, thermal springs beg to be explored, and winter picnics on lonely sea cliffs can be had.

You might take the Independent Traveler on a tour bus, but you just can’t take the “Independent” out of the “Traveler.”

What’s your definition of an Independent Traveler?