Not a backpacker!
I’m not a backpacker. Not anymore! I traveled this way in the past which was really cool. I once hitchhiked along the southwest coast in Turkey. It was so much fun.
Backpacking doesn’t only mean carrying a backpack and staying in the cheapest hostels of the town with other youngsters from all around world. Under the traveling style “backpacking” I understand being spontaneous and not knowing where to go next, which means not knowing where to stay, what to do and see in your destination.
This is a good way of traveling if you don’t have only limited time. But now I have a full-time job (yeah yawn) and have only 25 days off per year. Each year I plan a long-distance destination for 2-3 weeks, and a couple of 2-3 days city trips around Europe to where the flight is no longer than 3 hours. And I try to visit my family in Istanbul every 3-6 months. At the sunny summer weekends (very rare in Hamburg) I try to have day trips to explore the area around Hamburg, Baltic Sea, North Sea, etc.
So as you see my main challenge is to find TIME to travel as a full-time employee. Therefore I always plan in advance and choose very carefully where to go, when to go and for how long. The time I have in a new place is so precious that I don’t want to spend it for stuff I could actually prepare in advance. For example searching for accommodation or list of things I want to do and see. Besides, gathering ideas about next travel destinations is so awesome and inspiring which keeps me busy with the topic “traveling” all the time even when I’m not on the road.
I don’t like staying in resorts. All these “let’s get drunk in the pool” people… “I play volleyball day and night” guys… “I gym everyday after breakfast” gals… “I get up at 5am to reserve chairs with my towel” grannies… “You wannaaah plaaaay boouuules?” animators…
I go to a new place to see that place, to meet the locals, to eat and drink local food, to hear local music. Simply to get an idea of the local lifestyle, culture and history. For all this I need to travel around that place instead of getting stuck in one huge resort hotel.
Group tours! No way!
I maybe plan my travels in advance but I plan it how I like it and not how a tour operator thinks I should like it. I never did it but I know I would hate following a colourful umbrella of a tour guide with 30-50 other tourists.
It’s called individual!
I plan everything myself individually how I and my partner would like it. And I love the planing part. Reading blog posts from fellow travel bloggers, getting inspired by the photographs and videos from and about the places I’ll visit soon. I read reviews in TripAdvisor and the travel guides from Lonely PLanet, which are the best for individual travellers as recommend routes depending on the length of the stay, such as 10 days, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, etc. I never sticked on a recommended route for different reasons but they are definitely great to get inspired.
All this preparation part is to me half vacation without even being there.
Why I’m so fond of “individual travel”? Because this way I have the full power of how to shape my travel adventure. The difference to backpacking is, first of all I don’t stay in hostels and share a room with strangers. Secondly I know the route I’m going to follow and I book most of my stays already. If I need to arrange domestic flights within that region, I do so in advance, in order to get the best rates. Because if you’re not flexible in terms of time, being spontaneous could get expensive.
As said, one of my biggest challenge is to find time to travel and the world is huge and full of surprises. It is very unlikely that I visit a region/country sometime soon again. Therefore when I’m in my long desired destination I want to make the best out of it, which means to plan everything you can in advance. I simply don’t want to spend time looking for a stay when I arrive in a place. I also don’t want to have bad surprises to find out that there is no bus or flight connection from one city to another. So I define my route in advance taking into consideration these details.
I don’t try to see and do everything!
I’m not one of these people who has more fun in checking a “seen it” list than actually seeing those places. Plus, I hate being hectic and stressed. I simply want to enjoy my time I spend in my travel destination. And as a full-time employee I very so need to relax before I turn back to the office.
So, I take it slowly. I know I can’t travel through whole Mexico in only 3 weeks. This is simply unrealistic. I try to be realistic and smartly prioritise the things I want to see and do.
The balance is everything!
A well balanced trip is important for me to avoid my travels getting too one-sided. I want my travels to be enlightening, enjoyable and relaxing. I want to see the important landmarks but I also want to be in the nature. I want to learn about the culture and history, but also finish that book I started weeks ago but couldn’t find time to read it. For at least couple of days I just want to get lazy and do nothing. My travels mostly end in a coastal town of that region, where I can enjoy the sun, sand and the sea or ocean while swimming, snorkelling, parasailing and hopefully soon diving.
How I plan?
I think I need to write another blog post to explain this. But briefly, the steps I follow:
- First, I decide for a destination (continent, region, country, city, etc.) based on different factors
- Then, I decide on the season I want to travel to this destination
- And then I book the flight tickets
All these tree points actually happen more or less at the same time. For example,
- I always wanted to go to Central America to visit Mayan cities.
- The best time to visit this region is from November to May
- I explore cheap flight tickets via Skyscanner or Kayak and find quite affordable flight ticket to Mexico. Here I come Mexico!
Sometimes I start with exploring cheap flight tickets no matter which region, if I know I will travel in a specific season like Christmas, Eastern, etc.
- Then I book the hotel stays for the first and last 2-3 nights depending on the city where the arrival and departure airports are.
- Then I decide on the route (though, it might be good to already know the start and end point before you book the flight tickets) and how long to stay in one place approximately.
- Finally I book all the stays on the route. Here I always book the ones with “free cancellation” option (booking.com has this nice option), just in case something comes up and the plans change on the route and I don’t need to worry about the lost money.
Writing about planing my travels reminded me that I need to finally book those flight tickets to my next travel destination.
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