Travel With a Tour Group or Go It Alone? Part 1 of 3

Travel with a tour group or go it alone. Happy tourists on a bus admiring the sites.

 

Travel with a tour group or go it alone?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the chance to travel with my classmates to Europe for a 14-day tour. I grabbed the opportunity, scraped any money I could find and went off on a trip with 20 others, that ended up changing my life forever. I learned a lot that summer, as we bused our way across England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein

How did this trip change me? I’ll tell you.

I’ll share what my take away was from that trip and how it helped shape all my future trips.

#1 – Travel with a tour group or go it alone?

My high school trip was very much planned out with a detailed itinerary. We had an awesome and friendly tour guide. He guided us to not only well known touristy spots, but also to lesser-known places that were just as unique and photo-worthy. Professionally run tours can really help the novice traveler learn a great amount of information in a short period of time and that would be it. 

Getting an overload of information in a short period of time. You won’t be able to linger and “hang out” to really soak in what you just learned. I didn’t realize this at the time, but hurried tour groups was not my favorite way to see and learn new things.

Solo female admiring very large artwork on the wall in a museum.

Often we are in such a hurry to see so much with so little time and we never stop to ask why? I am not talking about the questions you ask the tour guide as you enjoy the sites. I am referring to the lingering questions you’ll never get to ask or learn to answer on your own by just staying in one place long enough. I can’t tell you how many times I have visited places on my own and have lingered for hours for no reason at all. Sometimes fate brings us to a place with no planning and helps us in learning to ask questions we never knew we had. 

It could also be that you won’t have any questions and may just want to enjoy the scenery for just a little longer. Just because. These are the moments that I am talking about. The moments that truly make up the true value of your trips. These moments stay with you forever.

So the next trip you plan, make an effort to balance the trip agenda to also include time away from tour groups, especially for the sites you have at the top of your list. Because the places that you will truly enjoy alone or with a partner as you linger will really be the places that you’ll find most memorable. I promise you. Give it a try on your next trip and make it a truly enjoyable trip without the hustle and bustle of a tour group and see all the things you have been missing all along. 

Continue on to my next post “Should you travel alone or with friends?” where I go more in-depth about the joy of traveling alone and why some people fear traveling lone at all.

 

 

 

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Should You Travel Alone or With Others? Part 2 of 3

Welcome back curious one. This post is part 2 of a series of posts that talk about traveling with a tour group or not and if you should take the plunge and travel far at all? In my last post, I advocated for creating a balance between tour groups and going at it alone. Create your own adventure versus letting someone else do it for you. I mean, c’mon planning is half the fun and you are going to just let someone else do it for you?

#2 Should you travel alone or with others?

This question, as in most questions is a personal one for many. For some, the thought of travelling alone terrifies them. The big unknown is always a fear factor, even for the most experienced traveler. Managing that fear level with information and confidence is what separates the strong lone travelers from the rest.

I believe we are often very influenced by our backgrounds which includes experiences alone or with others. These experiences have summed up to conclusions and have resulted in our subsequent decisions. Those decisions include asking ourselves how far we are willing to travel away from home, if at all and why? Since I was young, travel had weaved its way into my DNA through trips alone, with family and friends. I often believe the urge to travel comes from within. A yearning for more that keeps itching at you until you satisfy it by clicking that confirm button in order to book that next adventure!

Whether you are single or with a partner, traveling alone can have its soul benefits. When you travel alone there is a peace that comes with it. That peace brings with it clarity that develops throughout the trip and long after. There are a few aspects to traveling alone that I think is important to point out.

First, the thought of going far far away from home alone can be scary for some. This fear can stem from observing negative news in your environment. The news mentions shootings, gang activity, robberies, rape culture and terrorist attacks, and you no longer want to travel away from home. When in reality its not as bad as you are thinking. Actually not even close. Is the world a big and scary place and you should always use caution no matter where you are? Yes, most definitely. Not only should you always use caution, but using common sense and conducting your own thorough research about a particular location should always be at the top of your list when it comes to travel.

When I research a place I would like to visit, the first thing I do is check for travel advisories on the U.S. Department of State’s website, second, I visit other travel blogs and forums where I can learn from the personal experiences of others. I usually gravitate to solo female travelers because they have, like me, experienced a particular destination and have stories to share. Third, I begin to research more about a particular city both on their official tourism website and on travel booking sites. On hotel booking websites it’s often easy to learn quickly about the different neighborhoods in a city and what other travelers have shared when they have stayed in those neighborhoods. Were they safe and family friendly or not? Once I pinpoint my desired city, I then begin making my plans including sharing my trip dates and location information with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

After all your research, you can still decide to go with friends if you aren’t quiet sure if you’ll be happy traveling to a particular city alone. Traveling with friends often helps eliminate the fear in being alone no matter where you are traveling to. At home or away. Learning to be alone is not easy, but has many benefits that most never experience and miss out on. I will share more on this specific topic in another post. In the meanwhile, I’d recommend finding one or more friends who you would trust enough to travel with and most importantly get to enjoy the joint travel too!

In summary, don’t remain closed off from the world and not experience the wonders it offers because of reading or watching a negative sound bite only. There are many more factors that go into safe traveling and I have only scratched the surface for you. Stay tuned as I share my personal safety tips on a future post!

Stay tuned till my next post “Must you really SEE everything? Part 3 of 3″where I discuss the craze that surrounds traveling to every city in every country and why you don’t have to see everything.

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Must You Really “See” Everything? Part 3 of 3

Finally we arrive at the ultimate question on the subject of travel…

#3 Must you really “See” everything? I’ve recently started asking my friends this question and I have to say everyone’s reply has been different. There are a few reasons behind the desire to travel and not to travel. Unless you are living under a rock, it has been easy to observe an endless news feed of delicious reads on social media posts that promote both domestic and international travel. Inspiring words, images, and videos that beckon us to dream, hope, wish and find a way to book that flight ticket.

It leaves a person wondering if maybe we are missing out on something. Perhaps we should be imitating what the members of the wanderlust groups are also doing? or perhaps we shouldn’t. You see, it comes down to what you want? What your desires, wishes, dreams, and goals are.

“Travel is the movement of people between distant geographical locations” according to Wikipedia. As the wiki explains, travel can be local, regional, national or international. So which one are you meant for? Only a few or all of the above? After giving this some thought I personally concluded that I am more of a local and international traveler. It’s either visiting local hot spots or I book that flight ticket and travel across the ocean to another country far far away. This is more my style. Why I do what I do is another question and I hope to answer that next.

Reasons for travel can fall into the following categories:

– Travel to see someone special – There are some who will book a flight out to a new place across the ocean for that special someone. Sometimes that can turn into an exciting trip where the local you are visiting will be very hospitable and show you around the sites. Thus you won’t have to do much researching, planning and reserving. You just grab that flight and go ๐Ÿ™‚

– Travel out of curiosity to a specific place that has piqued your interest – Sometimes there are places in the world where our hobbies or personal interests may be located. You could for example be a deep water diving enthusiast. This type of hobby requires travel sometimes to exotic far off locations where it would be best fitting for deep water diving. I mean kitty pools can only be used for so long until you are tired of them. Often this type of traveler will learn about a handful of locations where diving waters are located and continue to revisit them throughout their lifetime.

– Travel for work – This might be the least favorite for some, depending on how much you enjoy traveling for your company. For some, this is the most opportunistic way of traveling on the cheap and mostly on someone else’s dime. The downside is that you end up with a lot of work and don’t get any free time to explore your surroundings while in a foreign place. However you still get to enjoy some of the local authentic cuisine and get at least one or two days off to enjoy the sites. I often hear of people adding to their work days abroad a few vacation days before work begins or after in order to take advantage of the opportunity they have been given to stay in a foreign country.

– Travel for no reason, with no clear goals and no real understanding of what is being observed – Because I am a firm believer in taking your time to really take in the sites, I am often confused as to how some visit so many places for the sake of seeing so many places and yet have no real understanding of what was just observed. What was observed and learned was left behind in that brief moment that it was seen in. I’ve often made friends during my travels and during random conversations, they are mentioning a very long list of places they have seen, most all in a short period of time. When I ask why they saw it and what it meant to them, the answer I usually hear doesn’t really make sense. Often it’s related to just checking off a to-do list. The “just because” answer is what I hear often.

Before I travel far off I always ask myself why. Why I want to travel to that specific place and what will I be getting out of it? Will it potentially enrich my life in some way? Will it feed the curiosity that I’ve had about that place?

– Travel that feeds the soul – Last but not least, the best travel is the one that feeds the soul. When you take your time to save for that trip, something must have inspired you to begin with. Something sparked your imagination. Something told you deep down you gotta go no matter what. So you save, take time off from the daily grind, research, plan and go make it happen. You create a schedule for your trip and leave lots of time left over with no schedule on purpose. That time away decompresses all that pent up stress and frustrations from daily life. You learn and remember to unwind and let it all go.

When you return from a trip done right, you return almost a new person. You returned with a soul discovered and nourished with a new beginning. A reset in a way. You may have discovered a new talent or a new favorite spot. For me, I may have already discovered that special spot. Once I am ready to share it with the world, I will! So to answer the ultimate question in travel, no you don’t have to see everything. It is not necessary or needed. What you can do, is discover the places that speak to your soul and continue your journey from there. Trust me, it will be time well spent.

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