Love to travel, but hate tours? This blog offers insight on how to go it alone, from safe accommodations to seeing the best, and maybe the worst. After all, independent travel is an adventure. Flexibility and traveling on a budget are critical. No five-stars or all-inclusives. So hop aboard. Learn to enjoy travel at your own pace and price. Meet other adventurers like yourself and mingle with the locals. Remember: You may travel alone, but you wonʼt be lonely. firstname.lastname@example.org
The “Land of Enchantment”, New Mexico, Pecos National Historical Park. - 9/22/2012 4:27 pm
All border crossings are not created equal... - 8/19/2012 7:58 am
Avoid Interstates, enjoy travel through middle America... - 8/12/2012 6:12 am
Right now is the best time to travel the Alaska Highway. - 8/4/2012 5:45 pm
Fifty Shades of Grey becoming a travel phenomenon. - 7/29/2012 6:46 am
Winners of the annual Independent Traveler Photo Contest... - 7/21/2012 10:00 pm
Independent Traveler photo contest, submit your favorite travel photo here... - 7/1/2012 10:38 am
How to get a good seat on your next flight. - 6/24/2012 9:26 am
Posted: April 17, 2011 - 2:25 pm
A World Heritage Site, the Taos Pueblo just north of the town of Taos, New Mexico is definitely worth a visit. I found the Native American Puebloan tribe a welcoming people eager to share their culture with interested visitors.
The Puebloan people have worked hard to preserve their way of life and their lands. They have a rich artist community that is highly ritualized and connected to the land and heavens.
Western culture has made an impact as evidenced by many reservation residents who have converted to Catholicism.
Posted: April 2, 2011 - 6:50 pm
I feel guilty when I write negative travel posts, but I also feel really letdown when my expectations are not met. Given my posts are not driven by advertising dollars as travel magazine articles are, I can tell it like it is. At least, according to my observations and my experiences.
My visit to the Bocas del Toro Archipelago and Bocas del Toro Town are disappointing and not worth the money I spent to get here and stay. Granted I have not traveled to every island or even many of the islands, I've seen enough to make a lasting impression. I don't plan to come back.
Bocas del Toro Town is a disappointment. It's a destination that is confused. It's major draw is that it is a jumping off sport for outer lying islands. It's not the tropical paradise that it's cracked up to be.
What didn't I like? It's a dirty town. Accommodations and restaurants are overpriced. Too many rich Americans are here trying to make a quick buck on what they see as a great investment. I know that this is not something normally mentioned in a travel article or review, but since I ran into so many Americans seeking their fortune here, I feel it worth a mention.
I really enjoy meeting the local people and viewing things from their perspective. I find it offending and embarrassing when others are here trying to take advantage of cultural differences by imposing their own.
So if I you are looking to go to Bocas del Toro given the hype it has been given by the travel media, give it a second look. There are many other destinations more worth your traveling dollar.
Posted: March 26, 2011 - 5:11 pm
It is so hard to tell what a place is like before you get there. In general, I feel that the place you stay sets the whole mood for a visit. Bocas del Toro in general gets rave reviews by many, but that could be because people are staying in five-star accommodations.
According to the price we paid, our accommodations should have been five-star. I rate it two at most. In reading the reviews on TripAdvisor, we noted that some said Al Natural was overpriced, but outrageously overpriced was not mentioned.
Our hut for $385 a night was dismal. Torn mosquito nets, backed up toilet that we had to flush with a bucket every time, occasional hot water, overall dirty and no change of linens for five days. A real disappointment.
The saving grace was that the chef was superb and there was plenty of food. Day tours were costly, unlike the built-in cost at Yandup. Suffice it to say by comparison to Yandup Island Lodge, it was a rip-off.
After what is going to be a long, expensive four-night stay, we are off to Bocas del Toro town hoping for a better experience there.
Posted: March 19, 2011 - 5:20 pm
Part of my absolute delight in travel is getting to know the local people. Panama’s native Kuna Yala make that task easy and delightful. A gentle, proud and dedicated people, they also have an amazing capability to integrate into modern society while preserving their culture.
The Kuna own Yandup Island Lodge where we are staying for a week. They handle everything from making reservations through their Panama City office to the daily running of the lodge. They do the job seamlessly making me painfully aware that many western cultures could do well to learn from them.
At six in the morning departing guests leave the hotel by boat for Playon Chico to catch a 7am flight. After safely depositing the guests, the boatmen next meet the new arriving guests collecting their luggage and ticking them off the list. After the boat ride back to Yandup the arrivals are treated to a full breakfast. The help has already cleaned their rooms and now serve them.
At 10am guests are taken on a tour to a nearby deserted island to snorkel. They return around 12:30 and are served lunch at 1pm. At 4pm guests may take a Playon Chico village tour or hike through the neighboring countryside returning about 5:30 in time for sunset and dinner at 6:30pm.
After serving dinner and cleaning, most of the help return to Playon Chico around 7:30pm where they live with their families. The following morning they return at 5:30am.
All of this takes place with efficiency, smiles and graciousness. I have no clue how they do it, but they do it well. I would be so lucky if everyplace I stayed were like Yandup Island Lodge. To say I’m impressed is a gross understatement.
Posted: March 15, 2011 - 2:01 pm
This just in: Our Internal Review of Yesterday's Flight 241 (Mexico City to Los Angeles)
by Alaska Airlines on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 9:26pm
Shortly after Flight 241 departed from Mexico City bound for Los Angeles yesterday, flight attendants observed unusual behavior from three male passengers that continued during the four-hour flight. Out of concern for the safety of all of the passengers onboard, the crew erred on the side of caution and authorities were notified. The crew did not realize at the time that the passengers were Orthodox Jews engaging in prayer ritual in Hebrew.
Here are a few of the issues that concerned the flight crew:
Flight attendants instructed everyone to stay seated with their seatbelts fastened as the aircraft flew through turbulence shortly after takeoff. The three passengers disregarded repeated requests, however, and stood up several times to retrieve objects from their luggage in the overhead bin that the crew had never seen, including small black boxes fastened with what appeared to be black tape. The crew learned after the plane landed that these were tefillin boxes worn during the prayer ritual.
The men prayed aloud together in a language unfamiliar to the crew while wearing what appeared to be black tape and wires strapped to their forearms and foreheads and wires on their chests. Their actions and behavior made some other travelers and the crew uneasy. The three passengers responded, but provided very little explanation, to a flight attendant’s questions about the tefillin boxes and what they were doing.
Later in the flight, two of the three passengers visited the lavatories together while the third waited in the aisle and continually looked around the cabin and toward the flight deck door. Flight attendants thought he appeared anxious, as if he were standing guard.
The safety and security of our passengers is our top priority. While
our flight crews must be vigilant in watching for suspicious behavior,
they are also trained to be aware and recognize the personalities and
practices of a very broad and diverse group of travelers. Out of an
abundance of caution to protect all of our customers, we
misinterpreted the behavior of the three passengers who were praying
and wearing tefillin.
We embrace the cultural and religious diversity of our passengers and employees. We apologize for the experience these three passengers went through after landing in Los Angeles as well as for any inconvenience to our other customers onboard. To help make sure this misunderstanding does not happen again, we plan to incorporate awareness training of Orthodox Jewish religious practices into our
ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts. We’ve asked the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for their assistance to help us better serve our Orthodox Jewish customers and employees alike.
Posted: March 13, 2011 - 9:36 am
On Friday it was announced that the TSA will retest its fleet of 247 body scanners due to reports of radiation levels up to ten times higher than the TSA expected. Hopefully this poorly administered, ineffective Agency will finally be held to task.
Write your member of congress if you agree. It's time the traveling public stood up for this invasion of our privacy, the health issues involved with back scatter radiation and the ineffectiveness of the TSA's reactive policies. The American traveling public deserves better as do the taxpayers who fund this behemoth.
Posted: March 10, 2011 - 6:01 pm
Today is my day. I’m doing absolutely nothing other than reading my novel! You talk about heaven? This is it.
Yandup Lodge is situated on a tiny island, about the size of a football field. There are five over the water huts and four beachfront huts. All are stupendous, but I am staying over the water. There is a lovely, white sand beach that is virtually deserted due to the few tourists housed here.
The morning tour, 10am to 1pm, takes visitors to neighboring deserted islands for snorkeling. The afternoon tour from 4pm until 6pm takes visitors on a local village tour or a hike to the falls on the mainland. In between, lunch is 1pm. Dinner starts at 6:30pm.
I’ve opted out of the tours due to the fact I will be here seven, incredible, heavenly nights. Most people stay for two or three nights max. Equally enticing is my alone time. Members of my traveling party (hubby and daughter) are off to see parts unknown. Hip, hip hurray, I’m alone.
I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been so alone. No computer, no telephone, no tv, no car, no mail, no cooking, no dishes, no toilets (to clean), no dog, basically no nothing. Just sun, sand, tropical breezes, azure seas, a beckoning hammock and me! I’ve totally savoring the moment.
The do-not-disturb card is out!!! Bugger beware. (TBC)
Posted: March 5, 2011 - 3:38 pm
After my stay in Panama City, I’m having second thoughts about the Panama hype. However after taking a white-knuckle plane ride to Playon Chico in the San Blas Islands, I can say I don’t regret coming for one moment.
You talk about the perfect tropical paradise this is it. White sandy beachs, over the water bungalow, great food, great service and wonderful people, both fellow tourists and the native Kuna Yala.
We landed in Playon Chico at its minuscule airport. Actually I should say our plane dove in on approach between two tall highly vegetated (jungle) hills. It then touched down on a very, very short runway, giving me doubt about my sanity for even getting on the tiny Cessna Caravan with fourteen other breathing, living souls (including two nonchalant pilots).
However after the one-mile boat ride in a hand-hewn dugout and my first glimpse of this tiny island and my thatched hut over the water, all doubts are laid to rest. (TBC)
Posted: March 1, 2011 - 5:28 pm
Panama City is not a place I would recommend visiting, even for an overnight unless you want to take the Panama Canal tour. It is difficult to find a viable place to stay, but TripAdvisor does rate a few places well. (Be aware that some places get friends and family to post favorable comments.)
We stayed in Panama City’s historic section, Casco Viejo. The area for many years has been too dangerous for tourists, but is now undergoing major renovation and tourist hype. I wouldn’t recommend staying there just yet (wait ten or more years) as only a faction of the area is now renovated.
Out highly overrated, overpriced hotel in a newly renovated building was right across the street from a derelict building that is still filled with squatters in Casco Viejo. Due to the noise, we didn’t get a good night’s sleep during our three-night stay. Panama City wasn’t a great way to start our Panama vacation, but I’m sure it will get better…
Posted: February 27, 2011 - 9:02 am
My trip to Panama begins in Panama City. I’m traveling to the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side of this little country located in Central America. My flight leaves at 6am and I’m obliged to stay over in Panama City to make the connection from the States.
I’m not impressed with Panama City. The traffic is quite horrific and I’m staying in an overrated, over priced B&B owned by an American couple trying to make a buck in this get rich economic climate. The highlight of my stay is a half day trip on the Panama Canal. After being bused about an hour inland, I begin my cruise which will include transitioning through two locks and ending in a marina outside of the city.
Posted: February 24, 2011 - 5:20 pm
Many of us have suffered the indignity of TSA enhanced searches and insults from TSA personnel. Maybe if we each contact our congress representatives, someone will finally listen. It's long overdue.
Contact your representatives today and demand that the TSA stop its inhumane procedures and demand that TSA procedures change from ineffective reactive responses to proactive.
Any American with half a brain knows that there won't be another shoe bomber or underwear bomber. Terrorists aren't that stupid and we shouldn't be either...Gloria
Posted: February 23, 2011 - 5:00 pm
Yesterday I retuned from Miami, but not before going through Miami International Airport security. I decided beforehand that due to the danger of backscatter radiation and the ineffectiveness of body scanner technology that I would opt out of going through the body scanner if I were chosen to do so. I was and here’s what happened.
I shook my head no when the TSA agent on the other side of the machine motioned me through. He then yelled, “she’s an opt out”. When my husband also refused, he yelled, “he’s an opt out”. When my daughter approached the scanner he asked, “ya wanna make it three?” She did.
After passing through the metal detector I was told to stay put. I could not collect my belongings after they went through the x-ray machine. I stood for what must have been ten mins. while an agent stood guard. I was told not to move when I expressed concern about my belongings.
Finally I was handed off to a female agent took who me aside for my “enhanced pat down” and inspection of my carryon luggage. (Thank heavens no one had run off with them.) She was very professional and treated me like the human being that I am. She explained exactly how you would conduct her search. She did it with dignity.
After I was dismissed, I saw that my husband was still waiting for his enhanced search. One of the eight agents standing around in front of me had on a different colored shirt and I guessed he was a supervisor. I approached him and said, “my husband is still waiting for his pat down.”
TSA supervisory agent Robert Colon responded to my comment by turning around, raising his arms above his head palms of his hands facing forward and yelled at the crowd. “Listen up folks. This is security. It’s gonna to take a long time. Deal with it!” He then walked away.
I was stunned and many in the crowd stared in disbelief at his outburst.
After at least ten mins. more, my husband was searched and let go. By this time there were several other “opt outs” waiting their turn all the while dozens of TSA agents stood around not doing a thing.
To say I am outraged is an understatement. TSA supervisory agent Robert Colon is an arrogant power monger. He should be dismissed immediately. In fact if they shut down the whole operation that would suit me fine.
The TSA is an absolute money wasting endeavor . There are better ways to achieve a sense of security than alienating law-abiding citizens who are the overwhelming majority of the traveling public. What our country is doing in the name of security is shameful, not to mention totally ineffective.
Body scanning machines don't work. Reactive responses to what terrorists have done in the past (the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber) are naïve and downright stupid. Who in the heck is responsible for these shameful ineffective practices that are a total waste of the taxpayers’ dollars? Someone needs to address this issue. After several letters to our Alaska members of congress, I know that it's not them. They both responded with obvious form letters triggered by the mention of the TSA!
We the traveling public need to stand up and say, enough is enough. I'm for a boycott of all airlines. Maybe they will do something when we hit them in the pocketbook.
Posted: January 29, 2011 - 10:08 pm
People, places and things. These three readers nail the good elements of great travel photos.
What I like about Steve's photo is the color, clear focus and symmetry of the pose. He also got close enough to his subjects so as not to lose the men to background elements or clutter. It's a nice clean shot.
Marla took an everyday subject and made it a work of art. She used the sunset to silhouette the cornstalks. She also shot from a low angle to create even more interest.
Alyssa has a great eye for creative shots. Her artful approach to a common bicycle captures the viewers attention immediately.
Thank you to all who sent photos and especially the three photographers highlighted here.
Posted: January 27, 2011 - 4:54 pm
It is estimated that over a half million computers are lost or stolen at airports. There are easy ways to make sure that yours isn’t one of them.
1. Send your computer through security at virtually the same time you go. Don’t put your computer on the xray inspection belt first to temp someone on the other side to lift it. Wait and put it through the xray machine last at the same time you go through the security check.
2. Make sure you pick your laptop up after you have gone through your security check. Seems like a no duh, but thousands of people forget.
3. Label your computer with your name. Lost or left behind computers without identification go to lost and found. If your name is on your computer and it is found, you can be paged to reclaim it.
4. Don’t travel with sensitive information on your computer. I have a netbook that I travel with and I make sure it contains no sensitive information. If you must travel with sensitive information on your machine have it encrypted.
5. Never put your computer in your checked luggage. It could get stolen or more likely damaged from handling.
6. Put your computer in your hand luggage and watch the emptying of the luggage rack after landing to make sure no one runs off with it. Or keep it by your seat.
7 If you travel often, think about getting anti-theft protection for your laptop. Check out Snuko.
Posted: January 23, 2011 - 7:43 am
I find Jan. a great time to edit my travel photos and have prints made of my favorite. If you are reminiscing as you review yours, send me a copy of your favorite via my e-mail at email@example.com (see question box to the right) and I’ll select the best three to feature reader submissions in a post. I’ll also include yours in my photo gallery where a thumbnail pops up on AND’s homepage.
Tell me a little about when and where the photo was taken, plus your name so I can you give you a photo credit…Gloria
Posted: January 20, 2011 - 5:05 pm
I have a friend, no make it several friends, who leave all their photos on their camera’s SD cards buying new ones when they run out of space. With the memory of SD cards increasing in size and decreasing it cost, it’s tempting to use this as one’s main storage method. However, it’s not the best nor safest nor cheapest way to storage of your precious photos.
Instead of just shifting photos to your computer for storage, you should get an external hard drive and dedicate it to your photos. I keep many photos on my computer, but store all on an external hard drive too. Like SD cards, external hard drives have increased in size and come down in price. You can get amazing buys, if you watch for sales.
Here’s how to transfer your photos to the external drive.
1. Put your SD card in a card reader that plugs into a USB port on your computer. Your computer may have a built in card reader. If not you can buy a card reader for about $10.
2. Open up the SD card when it appears on your desktop. It may automatically open.
3. Plug in the USB connection on your external hard drive in one of your computer’s USB ports.
4. Click the external drive icon to open the drive.
5. Create a file for the photos you will copy, i.e. Trip to Greece.
6. Drag photos from the SD card to the external drive into the file where they will be copied.
7. Erase the SD card after you have double-checked that all photos are on the external hard drive.
Viola you are done and now can reuse your SD card for future photos.
Posted: January 15, 2011 - 7:27 pm
Following are the most frequently asked questions through my blog and travels.
1. Do you think I should lock my lock my suitcase?
YES!!! Its crazy not to when most bags spend hours in airports en route to your destination. If the unethical want to riffle through a bag, which one do you think they will chose? One that is locked or one that just zips open. Of course, you need to lock checked luggage with TSA locks.
2.Will my hairdryer work in a foreign country?
It will if it is dual voltage. Check on the tag. It must read 110/240 voltage. It may automatically adjust or there may be a button or dial you change for the voltage. I confess to purchasing a travel flat iron assuming (you know what that means) that it was dual voltage. Not. I plugged it into a 240 outlet and it started to smoke.
3. Should I use my ATM card overseas?
Yes if you are aware of how much it will cost you. Your bank or credit card company will charge you and so will the ATM bank or credit card company. Fees can be excessive therefore, I don’t use ATM cards. Before you use an ATM card check out the fees.
4. What’s the best way to carrying cash?
Safely. I recommend a money belt and I recommend that you don’t flash money around at airports or in crowds. I ran into travelers who hid their cash in dirty underwear and left it in unlocked suitcases in their rooms thinking the thieves would never look there. Bad idea. Thieves are smarter than the average traveler. If you must leave money in your room, leave it in a non-TSA locked suitcase. This I feel is the safest. Hotel safes are dicey. I’ve had money stolen when it was supposedly locked in the hotel safe.
Any more questions? Bring 'em on. E-mail me through my question box to the right of this post or leave a comment below.
Posted: December 31, 2010 - 8:08 pm
Wishing all ADN readers a happy New Year.
I really believe that travel is one way to make the world a peaceful place. When we meet people from other cultures, we understand how much we are all alike. International travel is one way of making connections.
From one committed traveler to another, I wish you the best in 2011.
Happy New Year, Gloria
Posted: December 30, 2010 - 2:39 pm
A friend's holiday trip reminded me of how important it is to check the expiration date on your passport. The country she was going to would not allow visitors in if their passport expired within six months of their entry into the country. Hers did.
To avoid this quagmire, you need to check a country's entry requirements and make sure that your passport is valid.
Now is a great time to renew your passport or apply for a passport if you have any inclination to travel internationally during 2011.
You can apply at your local post office or other locations.
In addition to a passport when visiting a foreign country, you may need a visa. Check the specific country's visa requirements.
Obtaining visas can be easy or difficult. Some countries, like Bali, Indonesia, issue them upon arrival. For countries such as China or Myanmar you need to get a visa before you go. It can take several weeks as you will need to send your passport to the country's embassy for issuance. You should start the visa process at least six weeks in advance of your travel.
If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean region, you can use your passport, but it is not necessary. Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, other valid travel documents are accepted.
Once at your destination, keep your passport in a safe place. Make a photocopy to carry with you. And while I’m talking about copies, it's a good idea to make copies of other documents such as your credit cards and “lost or stolen” numbers as well.
Posted: December 24, 2010 - 9:50 pm
I get sentimental during the holiday season. I've celebrated so many Christmas's in places where it is only known as a Western holiday. I remember in the early 80s in China when the people were just getting into the Christmas spirit and in Morocco in 2000 where the majority of people are Muslim yet respectful of the expatriates religious practices.
What many Christmas's overseas have taught me is that everyone and everyplace has its special day to celebrate life, peace and love no matter what the day is called or what the day commemorates. Christmas is only one of many and special to me because of my upbringing and where I happened to be born.
Any day that makes us realize we all have the same goal of love and peace in the world is a special day.
Merry Christmas to everyone everywhere.