Jillian from A Couple Vagabonds recently asked me, “I’m curious how you would compare organized tours with solo backpacking (not with a tour group)? Which do you prefer? Solo travel vs group travel?”
Solo Travel vs Group Travel
Organized tours are a great way to get your feet wet if you’re new to traveling or if you’re a solo traveler. Even now that I’ve traveled solo, I still find certain tours necessary like the trek to Machu Picchu or an overland excursion through Africa.
However, once I started traveling solo (and later as a couple) I did prefer it to group travel. It’s much easier to travel alone than most people think. I like it because you have a chance to get to know yourself and other people too. You have the liberty to do as you please and you’re not forced to go to “designated” shops, sights, and restaurants.
To elaborate on my answer:
There seems to be a huge controversy between solo travel vs group travel. It’s almost sacrilegious to take a tour if you want to be considered a “traveler”, not a “tourist”.
After four years of travel I do prefer to travel alone or without an organized tour. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt exploring a city alone for the first time. It was exhilarating and freeing. I felt like I was on top of the world.
However, I do think that tours offer benefits to new travelers.
When I started traveling, I took tours. Not only did I not know about backpacking but I was also afraid to travel alone. I didn’t even know it was an option.
If I hadn’t started by taking tours, I might still be sitting behind a cubicle dreaming of faraway places like Egypt and Thailand.
The first tour I took alone was a Yoga and Spirituality 17 day tour in India, March of 2008. I wanted to go to an “exotic” destination but none of my friends wanted to go with me. With the comforts of a tour group I embarked on an adventure that changed my life forever.
Participating in the tour allowed me to get out of my comfort zone. My eyes opened to something bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. Mesmerized by the sights and sounds of other cultures, I experienced a sensory overload that became an addiction.
As an American, sheltered from a world other than Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe – I fell in love.
The tours that I took that year allowed me to meet other travelers that inspired me. I learned about the possibility to travel alone as a backpacker and go on journeys that would take me around the world. Two years later, I embarked on a round the world adventure on my own and graduated from tourist to traveler.
When it comes to the controversy between solo travel vs group travel, I say if it’s your first time traveling and you’re afraid to travel alone, start with a tour. Do whatever it takes if it means that you’ll leave the comforts of home and get out there to see the world. You’ll never regret the decision to travel!
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