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My family and I were having dinner the other night, discussing a potential trip to Poland for an event (updates to come!), and the coordinator was really pushing the trip package: hotel, group dinners, a fundraiser, transportation, the works. As I listened, I started thinking about the differences between organized trips and solo travel, and why I personally prefer DIY (do-it-yourself!).
First of all, I am an extremely frugal traveler, and a card-carrying hostel gal. I shop in local supermarkets, take public transportation, and enjoy scouring websites for free (tipped) walking tours. I backpack to avoid luggage fees.
Secondly, I feel exhilarated when I can get around a place that I’m not familiar with. I love figuring it out with a paper map, the tortilla guy, his cousin, and a Spanish dictionary downloaded to my phone. These are the moments that we learn how amazing and generous people can be. When I travel, I think of Mr. Rogers, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Just asking for directions can lead to connections that last a lifetime. Whether I visit Kenya, India, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Brazil, it’s nice to know I have friends. They say that home is where the heart is, and my heart is everywhere.
With an open mind and heart, I meet new people, try new things, and enjoy each moment. The logistical worries slip away.
Built into travel are countless uncontrollable variables such as the people you are traveling with, weather conditions, terrible food, and uncomfortable beds. It’s all a matter of perspective. I saw the Eiffel Tower on a gray, rainy day, while it was under construction, and yet it was absolutely breathtaking. Even to this day, that moment was thrilling. If you are excited and open-minded, all places will be extraordinary and all your experiences will be rich.
There are many options for travel. When you wing it like me, you will face the challenges of rickety buses, hostel dorms with 30 strangers, broken Spanish and hand gestures, and living off of the many flavors of potato chips around the world. The best part about organized trips is that they can be a great way to experience being a visitor in a foreign country without the stresses of the transportation, boarding, food, and deciding what to do. The assurance is that you will feel comfortable with the strangeness of a new place, that you can relax and enjoy the sights, the tastes, the sounds, the smells of travel. Having all the logistics sorted out is a blessing. Organized tours can make travel accessible for people with kids, disabilities, the elderly, and those who may be hesitant to explore on their own. The experience of travel has no limits.
And then, you may find yourself wanting more…and more…and more…
Whether you are an armchair tourist (more on this in future posts), a DIY traveler, or signing up for organized trips, the world is open for exploration. No matter how you get there, no matter for how long, no matter with whom: the world is amazing. It is our privilege and pleasure to go out and enjoy every last bit of it. When given the chance, any place you visit and the memories you make can and will be something you will cherish throughout your life.
For our DIY travelers: when looking for "cheap" flights, sometimes it's best to book directly through the airlines, as websites such as CheapOair, Expedia, and Kayak all charge a finders fee. If you have multiple flights, the finders fee can be worth the hassle of worrying about transferring luggage and potential delays, as they will most often book you with airlines that are affiliated with one another. With unaffiliated airlines, they will ask you to claim your luggage and re-check it during your layover, so make sure you have plenty of time!
The Eiffel Tower is open between 9:30 AM and 23:45 PM local Paris time. Tickets are sold to go in and up into the tower, but anyone can go to see it! See the official website for updates on weather, ticket prices, and recommended times.