So you have decided that this year you’re going to take the incredibly rewarding leap out of your comfort post code and go, get out and explore some part of the world (Yep, I definitely remember you telling me that!) and CONGRATULATIONS for getting to this point. You’re about to unlock life lessons and experiences that no school or university will EVER teach you! Are you ready?
Now, no matter how much travelling experience you have had, I am sure at one point or another you have thought about and weighed up the oh-so debatable question about free travel versus organised group travel. Firstly, I want to know – or get you thinking about WHY you have considered jumping on a group tour. Does the thought of organising and travelling on your own (or with a partner/friend) scare the bajeesus out of you? Are you worried you won’t make friends easily on your travels? Does it seem like your family, friends or the media as a whole have made it their mission (intentionally or unintentionally) to put the fear of god in you about your safety in a foreign country?
Whatever your answers to these questions, I want you to hear it from someone who has spent two years globe-hopping around and getting lost in all the right directions; without a detailed itinerary, a timetable and sometimes a map (but please, definitely carry a map!). I want you to gain the confidence you need to make your travel goals a reality. I want to inspire you to go out and ignite your soul with adventure. There has never been a better time to travel than now. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips, and you have me of course, to help you no matter what stage of the journey you are on.
My guide to Wingin’ It; why I am an advocate for free travel.
Travel on your own time –
Forget the early wake-up knock on the door (especially after a big night out), forget the roll call on the bus and forget the schedule for the day’s activities ahead. So it turns out that today you want to do nothing but relax on the beach in Tulum (Mexico), surrounded by the crystal clear Caribbean ocean with a good book and a pina colada at your side. That’s all well and good but doesn’t todays itinerary include a WHOLE day walking tour through the ancient mayan ruins of Chichen Itza (Mexico)? Oh shit! Cue the huge groan and proceeding look of disappointment!
When you aren’t confined to a set schedule, only then do you really begin living the definition of freedom. Free travelling allows you to cut the ties to anything that resembles a routine. Hell, isn’t this the reason you wanted to go travelling in the first place – to escape the daily grind and weekly hustle? Being on the road and moving around constantly starts to make your holiday seem less like a holiday and more like a scheduled business trip. Allow yourself to make plans ONLY when it suits you and excites you! Travelling requires nothing more from you, and you should expect nothing less.
“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving”. – Lao Tzu
So go on, enjoy that book and relaxing day on the beach, you deserve it!
You will never really be ‘on your own’ –
Solo travel (especially if you’re a female) is often viewed as something to be feared and avoided. I want to start by calling this concept out for what it is; a closed minded statement made out of fear of the unknown (and probably by someone who has never actually moved out of their comfort post code). Being forced (gently, of course) out of your comfort bubble, whether travelling on your own or with a partner/buddy, really allows you to find yourself in the most rewarding and magical ways. Having no choice but to tackle the language barrier, or strike up a conversation with a stranger in order to get what you want or where you need to go opens you up to all the things you never thought you were capable of. The possibilities really do become endless…
The ironic thing about ‘solo travel’ is that you will never really be ‘on your own’. The whole concept of being a one wo(man) wolf pack brings such a huge social element with it that you will be striking up conversations and meeting new people just as quickly as you make plans to travel with them. And chances are… most of these people will become some of the closest friends you’ll ever make. Hello lasting friendships and a steady supply of couches to crash on all around the world!
You define your own budget –
So what type of traveller do you want to be? Get really honest with yourself about this because it will allow you to define the type of adventure you want, with a kick-ass budget to match! Do you see yourself hostel hopping, dorm-rooming it up and meeting like minded backpackers from all over the world? Or maybe you dream of eating your way around Western Europe, immersing yourself in some of the finest cuisine and waking up to the sounds of the city from your 4 star hotel room. By ensuring your dollars line-up with your dreams, you won’t be setting yourself up for disappointment later down the track when you’re half way around the world and it turns out you can’t afford the 3 course dinner and shows you hadn’t factored into your shoe-string budget.
Creating your own travel budget and free travelling will also give you the freedom to do what you want, when you want and with confidence. It’s a hard but honest truth that not every traveller will have the same budget as you. And as a result, there can often be shitty social pressures when travelling in a group that will make you feel like you have to keep up with them by makin’ it rain on a daily basis – partying, eating out and squeezing in every possible tour and activity on offer. The simple fact is, sometimes you just can’t do it all.
Don’t feel like eating out for every meal? No worries, buy a 6-pack of beer, some fresh veg from the local market and have a stir-fry cook up at your hostel. Save the left overs for tomorrow’s dinner and kick back with the new friends you just made in your dorm room.
You can change your plans quicker than you can change your undies –
Visualise this scenario…
You’re sitting at the bar in your hostel or lounging around the pool at your hotel and strike up a chat with the person next to you. They ask you where you’ve just come from and where you’re headed next. You tell them you’re going to leave Honduras and head south on a bus towards the surf side town of San Juan Del Sur (Nicaragua). It turns out your new friend has just come from that direction! They are keen surfers and it turns out you are too! “Oh dude, if you’re headed that way you HAVE TO stop into this tiny fishing village on the north west coast and stay at Rancho Esperenza (By the way this place actually exists and is amazing! Look it up if you’re in Nicaragua). The place is right on the beach, they have sweet cabanas to stay in, free surf boards to use and there’s a local guy who makes the best and freshest coconut bread on the pacific coast!” Wow! This place sounds amazing and so up your alley. And the best part is.. the bus you were going to catch to San Juan Del Sur makes a connecting stop straight to the ranch!
And that my friend, is how your plans can change quicker than you can change your undies. There is nothing better than real-life, real-time recommendations from fellow travellers who are in the very same boat as you, collecting memories rather than things and making every experience on the road count! I can’t even tell you how many times our plans changed while we were travelling. This is truly the essence of freedom and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Be spontaneous, be adventurous, be free… you never know what is waiting for you just around the corner.