When I was trying to get from Greece to Croatia, finding a route wasn’t easy. Flying was expensive as heck, and plotting an overland trip was basically like getting a PhD in neuroscience.
So then I randomly entered a Facebook contest for a trip around Bosnia & Herzegovina, and freaking won it. Like, it happens. Weird, right? I hadn’t heard of the group before (Med Experience) but they seemed legit, and the age range was 18-35.
I’ve done several group travel trips with the likes of Contiki and Moose Network, which I LOVED and hope to do again in the future. But it hadn’t occurred to me until then that I hadn’t done a group tour before – at least not with non-media people. We’ll call them normies.
My Albania trip was lovely, although I never REALLY connected with the people on it. They were all travelling with partners or friends, and I was the odd one out. But somehow in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I ended up with the most perfect array of characters one can hope to find on a tour group: three lovely Australians, and one German. All of us travelling solo.
Better yet, our guide Mustafa was a Sarajevo local (much like my Albanian guide, Dennis), and he was practically bursting at the seams with information. He lived through the siege of Sarajevo. He was one of those rare citizens who walked through the Tunnel of Hope. I remember the day he led us around Sarajevo, pointing out the roses painted on the sidewalks where bombs had gone off, and the marketplace where the biggest massacre had happened. He told his personal stories all candid-like, while I stood underneath a shop’s awning seeking shelter from the rain, crying about the reality he had lived through while at the same time on the other side of the planet I was a seven year old who spent her life drawing with Crayons and writing stories on an old Smithsonian.
And our ice-cream crawl along the river. And that night out in Sarajevo when we ended up at a disco with some high school prom kids who didn’t know where Canada was (but fully accepted the Aussies).
So there are a few good reasons to love group travel.
1. The ease of travel when you have a limited amount of time
2. Awesome local guides who know their shit
3. It’s a fine icebreaker for introverted losers like me
I always thought of myself as an extrovert, or an ambivert. But it’s become increasingly obvious to me that I’m indeed an introvert, or at least I err more to that side. I’m not the type of person to walk up to a table of travellers and strike up a conversation, but when you’re in close quarters with other travellers on the same bus for a week, well, magic happens. People are awesome like that.
There’s a lot of snobbery around tour groups and “how to travel.” There’s no right way to travel. As long as you’re respectful of your surroundings and the people in it, and as long as you love it and it changes you and your eyes are opened to the world…who cares how you do it? It’s a great idea to question these things. This post itself is inspired by the lovely Amanda Williams’ and her blog post titled “Am I a Lame Traveler?”
It’s not for everyone, but I’m here to tell you: You don’t need to feel like a crappy traveller just because you opt to hop on a guided tour. Your style is your business. And I, Candice Walsh, love group travel just as much as solo travel.