To Fly Solo or Join the Flock

Traveling to a new, unfamiliar place can be as exciting as it is nerve-wracking. Many travelers rely on travel agencies to help plan their vacation for them and ensure a safe trip, while others choose adventure and spontaneity. Group travel brings together a diverse crowd of individuals that will get the opportunity to experience a new world together. Venturing overseas with a large number of people can be comforting, but it also has its drawbacks.

The summer of 2011 my mother and I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland and England with a lovely group of people. A teacher of mine introduced the idea to me and I could not turn it down. Our crew had at least 20 people in tow and I was looking forward to getting to know each and every one of them. After all, we were on our way to sharing a spectacular experience that none of us would ever forget. The trip itself was nothing short of amazing and I am itching to go back to the beautiful country of Scotland and the exciting, fast paced city of London. From this vacation I know that traveling in a large group has both pros and cons, but overall I would not trade the experience for anything.

Cons: While it is a relief to know that everything has been arranged, the trip tends to lose that element of spontaneity that a lot of people desire when traveling. There was a specific itinerary that had to be followed: we knew where we would be, when we would be there, and how long we would be there. I enjoyed visiting the palaces and seeing the wonderful landmarks that are so recognizable, but I believe that everyone experiences a trip at their own pace. There were times that I felt rushed and I didn’t get to fully immerse myself into a building, painting, garden, or whatever it was that I was exploring. The journey was filled to the brim with new places and new things to see, so I cannot say that I am not thankful that I was able to experience so much in such a short amount of time. The cons are really nothing when compared to the trip as a whole, but for those who enjoy a great deal of spontaneity when traveling, going with a group may not be for you.

Pros: There are a substantial amount of pros to group travel that would take a lot of time and space to list, the first obviously being the people. Traveling with others is great because each person has a story to tell and getting to know them is an important part of the entire experience. By the end of the trip friendships had been formed and millions of memories had been made together. We are able to stay in contact with members of our travel group through social media and if we see them out and about we say hello and ask them how they are doing. Another upside to group travel is the fact that there is no stress about booking hotel rooms, purchasing and keeping track of various tickets, and deciding where and when meals will take place, because all of this is already done. The purpose of a vacation is to relax and when someone else is organizing the necessities of travel, there is nothing to do but breathe easy. While the time you have to yourself is limited, there is free time away from the group to do what you please. Taking this opportunity to do something that is not on the agenda is the best way to truly experience a new country. Breathing in the culture and losing oneself in a new city is an exciting, unforgettable experience. It is important to stay safe and not wander off to far, but take the time to visit an area that may not be a tourist attraction. Dine at a hole-in-the-wall café that exudes the right atmosphere and you’ll feel like a local in no time. If structure and great company appeal to you, then group travel is an amazing choice and a great way to experience something without the hassle of planning.

There are many ways to experience the great unknown, whether you travel with a group or backpack across Europe by yourself with no plan at all. The journey should not be counted by how many pictures fill up a camera, but instead the memories and fun times that will be remembered and forever documented by those images. Group travel may or may not be to everyone’s liking, but exploring a new place is an incomparable adventure that should be on everyone’s to do list.

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