I have learned how to travel independently from taking Rick’s tours and from the kind people on the forum. Also, I meet regularly with a group of friends in our Rick Steves Travel Group who either have lived in Europe or traveled extensively there. They have taught me. By the way, I posted notices on the forum of our meetings and that’s how I met these lovely friends.
The reasons I still go on Rick’s tours are that I’m usually a solo traveler, occasionally I have friends who want to go with me somewhere so a group of friendly tourmates adds to the enjoyment of a tour when I’m by myself or with my friends who are taking the tour with me.
I still work so planning a trip takes time I don’t have now.
Even so, I have planned a couple trips with a friend where I make the arrangements and itinerary with her approval and incorporating the things important to her on the trip. One time we spent 10 days in England, 4 nights in London, then train to Bath for 2 nights, train to Oxford and 2 nights. Back to London for 1 night then fly home. I made so many mistakes (I didn’t discover the forum until a couple years later) but we still laugh at the hilarious adventures we experienced.
The second trip I planned was 3 years ago in 2018 with the help of the forum and my RS Travel group. This trip to Paris and Amsterdam went off very well but it was in April during a heat wave in Paris and very cold in Amsterdam. This friend has trouble with the heat, so I felt badly for her but you can’t control the weather. We had a great time nonetheless. 10 days again.
I plan to continue traveling with a mixture of RS tours and independent travel because, after all I’m a female solo traveler and while I travel on my own for a few days before and after a RS tour I don’t relish the idea of being alone for 10 days. And, after I retire, I likely will travel more independently because I like the planning process as I gain more confidence and understand the resources available for planning.
My point here is also for the OP: RS does teach you about independent travel; his tours are not about holding your hand like other tour companies my friends tell me about. An example, your guide will show you how to use public transport and how to order in restaurants and certain polite phrases to use in speaking to the locals in that specific country.
I hope you take the Sicily tour and enjoy!