You decide where you go, when you go, what you eat, where you stay and what you experience. It is normally the cheapest way to travel, always the most flexible and certainly the most authentic since you are put in direct contact with a population and culture that the understand and emersion in is the very essence of travel (or so we think).
For many this is a big thing and with huge uncertainty – not to mention a gigantic pain to get their head around and do some basic preparation. Equally, if you believe what you see on the television or read you may also feel the world will eat you alive the moment you step outside your home country.
For this and many other reasons the alternative to independent travel is booking tour before you leave and being locked into a group, transport schedule, accommodation, experiences and even food, that might not be the best choice. What's more, since joining a tour can make the cost of travel much more expensive the other option might be not to go at all (if you cannot afford it).
Well not going of course, but if this (tour or not going) is a decision you are seriously considering now, rest assured travelling independently is well within your capacity as an adult with enough gumption to find and read this page. If you are still worried, this site will teach you what you need to know.
The world is a scary place, we get it, and the news perpetuated with terrorist attacks, natural disasters and plane crashes does not make it seem any safer. However, it is fair to say that news reporting is not objective or in the business of putting risks and stories in perspective. The human mind is terrible when it comes to making sweeping classifications and disregarding one risk over another (risk of car crash travelling to the airport verses risk of plane crash). Do a little reading, check your country's travel advice website - for the final word on safety - and you will see that if a tour would travel to the same place, you will be fine.
The truth is that tourism is the world's biggest industry and the vast majority of travel happens along a well-trodden route of countries with simple visas, great support facilities (accommodation, food, transport). If there is a great beach with a hotel on it (easily discovered and even booked on the Internet these days) or an attraction that looks pretty neat from the photo, then you can be certain there will be hundreds if not thousands of other visitors heading the same way. You can also be sure there will be a developed local industry to support your travels as much or as little as you need. This will including plenty of tours that can be booked locally and in an informed manner if you need!
The reality is independent travel is not only more fulfilling, more interesting, more exciting, and cheaper – it is really very easy. It may sound daunting and daring by the embellished stories of those that travelled when the world of travel was very different (not so long ago), but today your elderly grandmother would handle it with ease. In fact, you will see plenty of elderly couples travelling independently in parts of the world seen as exotic and difficult, along with adults and parents with young children.
There are many types of tours: some are excellent, some are terrible, some necessary. Some are booked locally to get you somewhere that it is hard or expensive to reach independently, others are booked before departure for pure fear of the fictional hardships and challenges of doing it yourself.
What a tour booked before you depart for the entire duration does is provide a fictional ‘better safety and/or 'no thinking' safety net. A net of having someone look after you and of not having to think about where you are staying, what you do or what you eat. This is great for some, not for all and in many cases totally fictional. You still need to think about taking money, getting a visa, not getting sick and safety - most of the same considerations as if visiting independently. Therefore, if you consider you could handle a tour, but would prefer to have independence – you have made your own decision.
Furthermore those (naturally not all) who tend to travel by pre-booked [whole trip duration] tour are not the most positive, open and interesting people you would ever come across and you are stuck with them! Take it from us - we have many contributors who work or have worked for tour operators. Travel independently and you will come across people of all types with a positive, confident outlook on the world that made them travel independently in the first place.
There are many reasons for and against a tour and many degrees of tours, some of which are highly recommended in certain circumstances. Booking somethings from home before you go purely because you don't know how to travel or are worried about your destination without making some effort to understand it, is never one of them!
Not everyone has someone to travel with and many consider being alone on a tour is better than being alone independently. Well the truth is if you are, alone you are alone no matter how you travel with the potential to change that circumstance down to you alone by making friend and socialising. Outside of a tour you have just as much chance, if not more to meet people and have fun – just pick a popular destination, put yourself around people (guesthouse/hostel social areas) take traveller tailored transport and local tours. Travel alone is a pain, but there are many degrees of tours you can take to put you in more contact with people such as hop-on, hop-off transport and specific tours you book during your travels.
Understand the nature of your destination, the reality of travel today in the Internet age (how easy it is) and the practicalities of independent travel (that you have already found a great resource for) before you book any tour!
"My girlfriend told me sex when travelling was so much better - that was a hell of a postcard to get!"