December 6, 2011

The birth of an independent traveler

Some people use to travel with agencies, while another ones like to organize everything for themselves. I like to do everything on my own but as all of us, as a beginner diver I joined groups. After some disappointments I decided to be my own travel agent. Here is the story of becoming an independent traveler.

When I was a newbie diver there were two possibilities: travel with a big agency who couldn't help at all in diving so I had to organize that on location or join a dive instructor who organized trips for smaller groups. Nowadays there is a third option, the handful of travel agencies specialized in dive tourism- there are only a few in Hungary, most of them were independent instructors in the past who made a professional company. In my country the way as the instructors did organizing was quite illegal, but we didn't have too much choice.

So with my about 10 dives I joined a man who offered a 4 days long to trip to Croatia. We discussed all the details. He suggested me to travel with a couple in their car. I decided to stay in a camping and eat the food I bring- I didn't have too much money in those years. We arrived after 10 hours driving and I realized there weren't booked accommodations. For me it wasn't a problem because I knew I had to sleep in the camping. Or at least I prepared for that: the instructor came back in 2 hours and he said "I booked a room for you as well!" I felt a kick from my pocket, my wallet sent me a message: "Say NO, you can't afford that!" But the instructor said it was cheap and much better than the camping, OK... Later he said to the group he ordered meal for all of us for 3 days, it's so cheap and delicious. I asked kindly how cheap was it but he didn't tell. I later found the price list and I knew I had to live on a tight budget somehow. I needed money for the accommodation, the food so I didn't have enough on diving. I was in Croatia, prepared for diving without too much money to spend on diving.

The instructor promised boat dives- they were expensive as boat diving is pricier everywhere in the world. We knew the prices, the plans, the possible locations- and we had to drive to a bay where we made shore dives for the same price. The way as he led the dive was terrible, he sent the divers to the surface one by one, I remember a girl who wasn't even certified, she had about 3 dives under her belt when after reaching 60 bars she had to make a controlled ascent from 30 meters, followed by a long surface swim. It was far from safe practice... By the way on the next day the group really sailed on a boat- without me. I simply didn't have enough money and I was shy to ask from the other guys. I was on the shore when they left the harbor waving to me and because it was a daytrip I had just enough time to think about this situation. It wasn't my mistake at all. But on the other hand I felt if I should be more careful next time.

A few months later I traveled with another instructor to Croatia again. This time the apartments where we stayed were miles away from the sea, in a village without a pub or a shop, and my room was the kitchen of an apartment in the basement. The diving was OK but I knew if I would had organized that trip it had been much better. Or if it would had been as worse as that the only one to blame have been me. Since than I always look for offers on air fare, try to find discounts on diving and accommodation, book our own rental car and so on. All of the trips were much better than those terrible Croatian excursions. And when somebody join me I never want to cheat or book an useless expensive extra service to make money. I still remember the moment when I realized I spent my hard earned money on a dive trip where I had to stay out of the water instead of being under. I try to do my best when organize trips: I hope nobody collects disappointments but nice memories.

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