Editor’s note: In my humble opinion, traveling solo is truly the best way to travel, whether you are joining a tour or setting out on your own. But when the thought of traveling alone becomes too overwhelmingly intimidating, turn to an organized tour. They aren’t as bad as you think.
But I think you’ve heard enough from me lately, so I asked an expert on the subject – one of my favorite people and a great friend from high school – to explain how she’s used organized tours to satiate her traveling appetite as a young, single woman. Giovanna has gone from slight isolation in our small town in the southwest corner of the US, to pursuing international adventures on her own through the help of a great tour agency. And she even managed to meet me for dinner in Florence.
I’m from a small town in southern California where most people only travel to another country because we live in a border town 20 minutes from Mexico. So when I took my first trip across the country to Syracuse, NY I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack (I’m joking because I’ve never had an anxiety attack, but I’m sure that what I felt might have been a borderline attack). That first trip was for a continued education course just for a few days, but it encouraged me to be adventurous and explore other countries – countries on different continents, not just the one 20 minutes from my house.
My friend found a trip to Italy with a tour company named Contiki, which specializes in tours for young adults, and I thought it was perfect! I would be traveling to another country with a group of people my age (safety in numbers), hotel and transportation would be taken care of, I didn’t have to learn a new language to get around (although leading up to the trip I did listen to an Italian CD over and over for months to learn common phrases), and I would get to see all the tourist attractions. That first trip was absolutely amazing and the only thing that was disappointing was how quickly we ran out of time in such a beautiful place. Since then I have traveled with the same company several times, including several other land tours and a cruise. I’ve felt so safe on those trips that last year I decided to take a tour of Europe and this time I went alone – eeek (I was nervous and excited at the same time)! I made some wonderful friends while on the trip and learned a lot about myself and finally began to realize all that my traveling has taught me about culture, religion, art, music, FOOD, and respect for people.
Although I have enjoyed traveling with tours, it certainly isn’t for everyone. If your idea of traveling is to have freedom with sites you visit especially in respect to how long you will be there, or you prefer to travel without an itinerary, or to travel alone or with a few friends, then tours may not be for you. The tours I have been on tend to be fast paced and you may not spend much time in any one city or town but you will find that you spend enough time to know if it is somewhere you would like to come back to and visit again. The tour guide will also inform you of the tourist attractions and interesting facts and any relevant history related to the area along with tips and suggestions for meals and exploration. You will be given some free time to roam and explore but the tour is on a time frame and will not wait for those who wander too far. If you are unable to make it to the pick-up point at the appointed time you will get left behind and it is your responsibility to catch up with the tour group at your expense and I am a witness people DO get left behind!
Tours seem to come in all shapes and sizes, so it is never impossible to find one suited to your interests. Here are a few resources for choosing a tour that’s right for you: