For many, the idea of sharing a precious two week holiday with a group of complete strangers is unthinkable. I am someone who has been on many ‘group holidays’ of various types over the years, most of which, if not all, have been truly positive experiences.
I like to consider myself fairly independent and adventurous. I have done lots of independent travel, backpacking and otherwise in many parts of the world. I love the challenge of finding a new place, and working out how to navigate it via a Lonely Planet, google translate or even a smattering of the language. However for some trips, I would argue there is another way, and dare I say it sometimes even a better way.
With my husband I have travelled in a group to China, Vietnam, and Jordan, I have cycled around Cuba, trekked in Nepal and more recently The Alps with groups of people we had never met until we all arrived at our starting point for the trip. For me group travel comes into its own when (a) Embarking on a particularly strenuous physical challenge or (b) Travelling a little bit off the beaten track with only limited time to do so.
Travelling in a group, in either of these scenarios brings with it a shared sense of adventure. One of the greatest experiences of my life was trekking to Everest Base Camp with my husband and the other 7 travellers we we trekked with. Apart from being the trip of a life time, with the most spectacular views imaginable it was at times really hard, the trekking was arduous, the altitude was at times brutal and the least said about the toilet facilities the better. However all of these challenges were shared challenges. As a group of strangers we had come together to achieve something big. Very quickly our individual goal became a collective goal, and we supported, encouraged and helped one another along. There was a genuine desire to see everyone achieve their goal. And we did, despite one or two struggles with altitude and illness, each one of us made it to Everest Base Camp. And of course after the collective achievement comes the collective celebration.
Many (and me too) feel a certain amount of trepidation about their fellow travellers. Lets face it the person who knows everything and needs to share it, or the person who has been there and done that 3 times before , or the person who complains about everything is not the person we want to spend our holidays with. Mostly I have found my fellow travellers to be good company, interesting people and usually lots of fun too. I feel fairly confident when booking a trip that involves a particular type of challenge or activity that I will come across other like minded people. I have never come away from a group holiday of the type I have described, not feeling inspired or motivated to see more, do more and achieve more. Many of the trips I have done in recent years have been the direct result of shared travel stories on group holidays. On our first group trip to China about 10 years ago we met a couple who had recently quit their jobs and were travelling through Asia, and Australia. We were so inspired by them, and excited by their stories and plans that a year later we did the same, taking sabbaticals from our jobs we spent 6 months travelling through South America and New Zealand
Bonds can develop very quickly on these kinds of trips. You are sharing unique experiences and are relaxed and away from home. It is easy to become close to people in a short period of time. I certainly know of people who have formed such strong bonds on group trips that they have gone on to become firm friends and even shared further holidays. Mostly, however I would argue that the relationships formed are of the moment, are of that time, they are the result of a shared adventure and won’t be carried forward in to ‘normal’ life. I certainly wouldn’t suggest going on a group trip with the sole purpose of finding life long friends.
If you are reading this I don’t need to tell you how much information there is out there for anyone planning any sort of travel. The internet is full of websites and blogs dedicated to travel of every kind, and to every place imaginable. Most trips these days can be done independently in some form or another. However, if you have a very limited time and want to travel more remotely or to places where the tourist trail is less established, spending the whole of your precious two weeks with you nose in a guide book as you try to negotiate another bus route or train journey, can be exhausting. Sometimes its just better, having an expert guide. A guide who lives in the country you are travelling, knows the area, speaks the language and is brimming with information and knowledge can really enhance a trip with stories, local knowledge and endless recommendations. A good guide is like a good teacher, you remember them. We will never forget our intrepid guide Jenny who carried a bottle of Champagne in her back pack all the way to the summit on the final day of the Mont Blanc Trek so we could toast our success!
So if you are someone who enjoys a challenge, likes that shared sense of adventure, enjoys meeting fellow travellers, being inspired by others, and want a more intimate knowledge of the place you are visiting, I would suggest that a group holiday may just be for you.
What are your experiences of group travel?
If you have never been on a group holiday, is it something you would consider?