I really pride myself on being an independent traveler. Some call in indie travel, some vagabonding. This simply means that you do all the legwork yourself. You don’t use travel agents or take tours. You often don’t go to mainstream destinations. There is also a budget component, you usually stay in hostels, couchsurf or stay in cheap hotels. Buses, trains and hitchhiking are the norm for the vagabonder. On the menu is street food and cooking at the hostel. I’ve even taken food from other tables when they left the restaurant, I call it tablesurfing.
Something I’ve heard on this trip is comparing types of travelers. My favorite is, “I’m not a tourist, I’m a traveler.” As if there is really a difference. There is even infighting among groups, “I’m a real backpacker because I only hitchhike.” Or, “I’m a real traveler because I eat <insert exotic food>.” I’m sure the first class type of traveler looks at us all as dirty hippies.
I try not to judge, if you have the means for the Marriott and five-star restaurants that is awesome. If you are the headphone wearing, double-decker hop on, hop off bus tour kinda person, great. Even if I had lots of money, I would still travel in much the same way. I love vagabonding.
So you can imagine my internal struggle when my Mom said she was going to come visit me in Europe and the idea of a cruise came up. I hate tours and being herded like cattle. I hate such a set schedule when on the road. I hate the ridiculous prices. However, Mom was helping with the finances, I do love the sea, it would be nice to have a real bed, and the food is unlimited and so good. Okay, I can set my indie travel manifesto aside for a minute.
The cruise turned out to be amazing! It started and ended in Copenhagen, Denmark and had stops in Rostock, Germany, Tallinn, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Russia, Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden.
We took tours in St. Petersburg and Helsinki and I tried to enjoy it, I did like certain parts. The food and room didn’t disappoint, I think I gained close to 10 pounds.
After the trip we stopped by London and Copenhagen and I could show my Mom my “travel skills.” I could be the guide in London as I’ve been so many times.
It was a really great trip. (Although the customer service of NCL was awful.) I’d do it all over again. If that makes me less of a “real” traveler, so be it.