In the current age of rapid technological development, globalisation and increasing standards of living in many of the world’s nations, it seems travelling is as popular and as convenient as ever. It has never been easier to book a one-way ticket around the world and set off on the adventure of a lifetime.
But with these changes in our global society, we are also witnessing changes in the way people travel. For many, it is no longer enough to buy a package tour and spend six weeks on a bus travelling around Europe.
For many, it’s no longer interesting to book two weeks on a tropical island, only to spend those two weeks within the hotel boundaries, not exploring the local surroundings.
Of course, this type of travel is ideal for some, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Each to their own. Nevertheless, many people are craving something more. They are craving freedom and adventure. They are craving independent travel.
What is independent travel? Independent travel is no frills, DIY, cultural immersion. It’s bumpy bus rides and family-run guest houses. It’s local food and locally-run tours with companies that give directly back to the community. It’s afternoons spent walking through the countryside alongside buffalo and giggling children, and evenings clinking beers with locals and chatting on broken English, or Thai, or Spanish.
Independent travel steers away from tour companies that present you with a sugar-coated, all-inclusive package that allows you to see your host country only through rose-coloured glasses. It endeavours to uncover the truth about places that are often seen as undesirable destinations due to propaganda and widely-believed mistruths/wide-spread misinformation.
Independent travel can be scary. It can mean making mistakes. It might mean spending a few nights in a filthy room because you just didn’t pick the right hotel. It might mean sitting on a slow boat for 7 hours because you heard the views were breath-taking.
It definitely means taking matters into your own hands and researching possible routes for hours on end. It definitely means taking the good, the bad and the ugly of each experience and embracing it. And it definitely means making ethical choices about how you travel.
Ultimately, independent travel seeks to understand the truth. It encourages mutual respect between travelers and locals and is absolutely vital if we are to live in our fascinatingly eclectic world in harmony.
For most, independent travel is something that you can improve on with time. It is not an absolute. It’s a scale. Your first trip overseas might see you on a TopDeck tour that involves copious amount of alcohol and minimal interaction with local culture.
But maybe this whets your appetite for new experiences. Before your next trip, you might begin to research how you can travel on your own, with total control of your schedule. And this is how independent travel is born. In no time at all you’ll be kayaking down the Mekong or riding a bike around rural Burma with no qualms at all. Because everything is in your hands.
It’s understandable that this kind of travel isn’t for everyone. And that’s perfectly fine. But for some it is the only way to travel. And as the community of independent travelers is growing, more people are looking for platforms to share their experiences and give and get advice and recommendations. If this is something that tickles your fancy and you’d like to become part of a network of independent travelers, check out our Facebook page!