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 a independent and adventurous person. 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 traveled 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) Traveling a little bit off the beaten track with only limited time to do so.
Traveling 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 travelers that trekked with us. 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 and the altitude was at times brutal. Plus, 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 is the collective celebration.
Many (and me too) feel a certain amount of trepidation about their fellow travelers. Let’s 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 travelers to be good company, interesting people, and usually lots of fun too. I feel fairly confident that when booking a trip that involves a particular type of challenge or activity, 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, to do more, and to achieve more. Many of the trips that 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 traveling 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 traveling 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’s 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, and are the result of a shared adventure that won’t be carried forward once returning 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 your nose in a guide book as you try to negotiate another bus route or train journey can be exhausting. Sometimes it’s just better having an expert guide. A guide who lives in the country you’re traveling to, a person who 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 backpack 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, who likes that shared sense of adventure, who enjoys meeting fellow travelers, who enjoys being inspired by others, and who wants a more intimate knowledge of the place you are visiting, I would suggest that a group holiday may just be for you.
About Angela Vincent
Angela is a 40 something fully paid up bookworm and a regular contributor to The Black Lion Journal. She lives and works in London. By day you will find her working in a busy hospital as a Macmillan Palliative Care Nurse Specialist. Her aim is to do those things which make her heart sing and spend time with those who make her smile. A love of books, reading, and writing has always been a big part of her life.