Group travel gets a bad rap, not all trips look like Jersey Shore’s slow and embarrassing train wreck in Italy. Just because you might be stuck with some people you didn’t go to college with, doesn’t mean you can’t bridge that unfamiliar gap to share a special travel experience. You could go it alone. I’ve been doing it for years with great success. Yet, there have been countless times where the support garnered from a traveling bunch has been an invaluable comforting mechanism. If I was feeling confused by an exotic ‘delicacy’ of pig intestines in southern Taiwan, my comrades may have encouraged me to push forward with a bite, instead of pushing it forward with my chopsticks (SPOILER ALERT: I ate it and it definitely was an exotic delicacy, interpret as you wish.).
One travel club I’ve been with and loved understands the uncertainty some mild travelers face; traversing across Laos and Cambodia solo might be a bit daunting for anybody. Although you may be in a group, you won’t be missing out anymore than a modern day Indiana Jones. In fact, group travel has noteworthy advantages, both physical and emotional. Here are my top three…
Nobody wants to be looking over their shoulder in a foreign place; you’re distracted, on edge, far away from being in the moment of a dream vacation. For instance, I wanted to see a Muy Thai boxing match in Bangkok and didn’t know what time or where the fight was. I talked to three tuk-tuk drivers hustling real hard, one hotel clerk smoking Turkish cigarettes and a smiling lady frying up spring rolls. Five different people, five different answers. Needless to say, my enthusiasm for attending the bloodsport was shaken.
As a stranger in a strange land, you can always turn to your travel mates for reassurance. In many ways, they might be just like you and sharing similar anxieties. Automatically, you have something in common and in a way work together to focus on what makes this trip amazing and less on potential hang-ups. I’ve seen this hundreds of times; strangers coming together to string together plenty of ‘if they can do it, I can do it’ moments.
The More, The Merrier (Savings)
One would think that a person trekking along would save more money than a group of adventurers, right? Could be, but the majority of trips focusing on multiple travelers at a time receive incredible discounts and upgrades. Looking at it from the eyes of a hotel or tour operator, they want bodies in the beds and butts in the seats. Because of their incentive to fill up the limited spots, often they are willing to give special rates that are ONLY available to groups instead of singles. This is a win-win for both parties; better deals for the journeyers and more business for their hosts.
When I was in Vietnam, I knew I wanted to sail up the Mekong River. And that was all I had. Guide books told me to look for double-decker sampans (what?) near the Ninh Kieu pier (what?). This came up a few more times as I reevaluated my route and options, each fancy guidebook only confusing me further. I could do this at this time but I’ll miss that. Or I could do that but I’ll miss this. Blargh! I surrendered, waved my white flag and found a group trip that matched the sights and itinerary I initially planned. And man I was glad I did that. Not only did I meet great people (Americans living in Indonesia, Frenchmen on holiday, Italians working in Shanghai), everything was taken care of. Our guide, a local Vietnamese who acquired a British accent from working abroad, looked after us like a shepherd protects his flock. Additionally, I was able to ask a million and one questions that only he would know.
Being hands-off can be a blessing; I’ve spent hours pouring over guidebooks, all offering their version of an ideal trip. Each has their own ‘can’t miss’ attractions and most of the time the guidance can become a distraction. Why not let somebody else worry about the details? I studied enough for the SATs, I’ll take a free pass and let another professional take the reigns. What I love is knowing my schedule, what I’ll do, and how it will be accomplished. After completely letting go of those troublesome duties, you can focus on the reason you came to this new land in the first place – to live, to see, to love.
I am now friends with the owner of two unique travel clubs that never seem to disappoint the solo adventure traveler. After going to Australia and Fiji with them I was hooked. Well-organized adventures to worldly destinations are always on the menu. They make sure to take you to the best sites (including a few exclusive to the club) and assist you every step of the way. If you want to go by yourself and don’t have a group, they’ll put you in one, friendship is included at no extra charge! If your into off the beaten path adventure trips and like photography check out PhotoFly Travel Club. If your more into solo travel but want to meet friends the other group, Singles by the Bay Travel Club may be more up your alley.
Get out there, meet new people, and when the going gets weird, share it with your friends!
Andrew Skarvinko is an avid travel lover and explored countries in all sorts of ways. Born in Connecticut, he has lived in Australia, Taiwan, Boston, & traveled throughout South America & Europe. You can check out his blog about living in Asia here: Andrew is Asian