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 airline reservation 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 in order to make that next trip happen. Remember, you can always travel with friends to a far off place, then pre-plan with your friend that there are some places during the trip that you will be going off on your own before meeting back up with them.
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!
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 a friend or a 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 research, planning and reserving. You just grab that flight and go enjoy 🙂
– 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 to exotic far off locations where it would be best fitting for deep water diving. You could also be lucky enough to live in Belgium and have the deepest dive pool in the world Nemo 33 nearby for training. 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..
– Travel to check off a bucket list – There are travelers who enjoy visiting a long list of places in a short period of time. These types of travelers don’t always have a reason for visiting a place, except to be able to say they have seen that place now too. This is a personal decision you will make with your travel decision. Travel to places just because it was suggested in a magazine or blog, or find a balance and research the list to see what you really would identify with seeing. Remember, not everything is worth seeing.
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.
When I was a senior in high school, I had the chance to travel with my classmates to Europe for a 14-day professionally guided tour. I grabbed the opportunity, scrounged up any money I could find with the help of my parents and went off on a trip with 20 others. Little did I know that it was the beginning of my love affair with travel and how I saw its value. 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 – Pros and Cons of traveling with a tour group
Pros – Usually when we think of travel, we think of taking a trip with friends or family. So when the high school trip came around, it was logical thinking to go with a group and a detailed itinerary. On this trip, 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. It’s also the best way to travel when you have no time to plan anything yourself.
Cons – Tour groups have a habit of cramming a lot 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. Photo opportunities quickly come and go. Unless you are constantly ready to snap that photo, it will be another missed chance. Sorry. Oh and that cute little cute gift or antique shop you just passed while on the tour, no time, got to keep on schedule to get the tour moving through its agenda.
Often we are in such a hurry to see so much with so little time, 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 to keep learning or reading about something. This is what leads me to believe that some places can easily become our soul place, when the proper attention and time is given.
It may also be, you have no lingering questions and maybe you 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 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 fancy without being in a hurry.
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