Suzanne Fluhr, a passionate traveler, has advice for boomers and midlife folks about traveling alone or in a group. Read more from Suzanne on her blog, Boomeresque.
I am not averse to independent trip planning. Sometimes I even enjoy spending a few hours (or days) in a TripAdvisor induced reverie, but it is also time consuming and can be frustrating. For example, even if finding and booking the perfect flights to an airline hub city is relatively painless, you still have to figure out where to stay, where to eat and what to see once you get there.
There are some travel purists who feel superior to people who opt for a mass market cruise, an all inclusive resort vacation or a big bus tour. In their view, people who “travel” to take these types of holidays are in fact isolating themselves from the very language and culture of the places they are visiting, so why are they bothering to travel? I love to travel and I love to travel both ways: totally immersed and close to the ground in the places I visit (even if there’s a tarantula in the shared bathroom), AND, leaving the driving and planning to other people – “Just tell me when to be there and what to wear.”
If you’re a person (let’s say a Baby Boomer) contemplating leaving your native country for the first time, a guided tour might be the way to go because if you feel overwhelmed at the daunting prospect of figuring out your own itinerary and logistics, you might give up and end up vacationing back at the beach 100 miles from your home for the umpteenth time. For a relatively newbie traveler, a guided tour provides the chance to stick your toe in the water and wade slowly and comfortably into the world of foreign travel. A guided tour provides the security of traveling with a life jacket. Once you experience that many people in the hospitality industry all over the world speak English and that all the amenities you need are readily available on certain itineraries, maybe the next time you travel abroad you’ll feel bold enough to strike out on your own. There’s nothing wrong with baby steps!
Then there’s the option of taking a cruise or flying to an all-inclusive resort. There are times in the dark gloom of winter in the northeastern United States that I just want to be outta here! I want it to be warm. I want there to be 12 hours of daylight (or close to it). I want someone else to make the bed and cook for me. I don’t want to drive (not on the wrong side of the road NOR on the right side) and I don’t want to lug a suitcase around with me from hotel to hotel. I want to unpack once. I want to be able to go to a show or not go to a show, to dance or not to dance. If I decide I need a break from sitting by the pool with the book I’ve been waiting forever to have the time to read, I want there to be an excursion desk with smiling helpful people who will make it a seamless experience for me to climb a pyramid, to conquer my fear of heights on a zip-line through the jungle or to swim with dolphins.
Actually, there’s no rule that says your travel has to be one or the other type of travel. Sometimes I opt for a “hybrid” trip—-part independent adventure and part recovering at a nice all inclusive resort or on a cruise. I submit that both kinds of travel have a “place” and can be nourishing for the body and soul.