Being in a state of near constant travel, a state I like to call being “locationless,” often makes me think that I can be completely self-reliant as a traveler. That I don’t need help or someone to hold my hand. Sure, I’ll grab a guidebook to give myself a frame of reference, but I use Lonely Planet as a jumping off point, not as a blueprint for a trip. Mixing with locals, making friends, finding out about the places the locals go, these are the ways to travel and experience an area. This requires a certain level of social skills, pantomiming, and having a nose for finding an English speaker. It’s a challenge to travel this way, and it gives one a feeling of self-reliance that more touristy travel doesn’t. I think it also gives one the feeling of being a cultural explorer, and can fulfill the same desire in today’s modern youth that once made young men and women climb on board ships headed to the new world, or even crazier, join an expedition that was simply exploring, charting unknown territories.
Of course the world has no more unknown territories and the fact that you can usually find English speakers anywhere you go speaks to how un-exotic the world has become as globalization spreads. (This is not a bad thing, we can travel everywhere now, this was not possible until very recently). This is not to say that travel is unadventurous, just that it doesn’t always have to be adventurous, and to always try and make it that way is silly. There are amazing things to see in this world, and a lot of them are in the middle of very safe cities. That is why I don’t think it’s some sort of sell out move to take escorted tours
(as long as that’s not the only way you travel.)
The fact of the matter is that there is no bad-ass, adventurous way to see the Roman Coliseum or the Louvre or the Pyramids. And yet, you should see these things. You’re going to have to play the tourist game to see these things, and that’s the way it should be, that process of waiting in line is what helps preserve these treasures for future generations. So taking a guided tour, getting expert information, experiencing a place as millions of others have and will is not something to fear or dismiss as not adventurous enough. It’s better to see something in an escorted tour than never see it at all. That being said, if you haven’t ever stood on the side of a highway, thumb out, with no particular destination in mind, then that’s another thing millions have done that you should too.