There are as many approaches to travel as there are travellers. Everyone has their own answers to the big four – Where, How, When, and Why.
In truth, we all wear many travel hats. In my opinion, the great debate between independent and guided travel can be resolved with a simple “let’s do both.”
Independent travel is often a life changing experience. In truth, it’s an experience I wish everyone were fortunate enough to enjoy. I’ve seen much of the world from the perspective of an independent traveller and plan to pursue many similar adventures in the future.
Although independent travel can be highly fulfilling, it is only one slice of the tasty travel pie. In certain cases, the offerings of guided adventure holidays can either augment or exceed the offerings of independent travel.
Enjoy these 10 reasons to participate in guided tours. You’ll find that even the most independent of travellers has a thing or two to gain from the guided experience.
1 » Guides
Missed opportunities for adventure are rarely disclosed to us. Only when we find them do we know they’re there. A guide can provide these opportunities and turn “what could have been” into reality. Many independent travelers use guidebooks. These are great, but also lead to beaten paths that many travelers want to avoid. Adventure guides are your golden ticket to cultural and physical experiences you’d otherwise never see. Utilizing personal relationships with locals, unparallel knowledge of community amenities, and extensive experience with outdoor activities, guides immerse you in culture guidebooks simply cannot provide.
2 » Friends
The friends we make abroad drastically affect our experience. For those of us working with constrained vacation time, developing meaningful relationships is difficult. Group guided tours offer immersive social experiences amongst like-minded travellers. Often times, the people you meet on your guided tour make for fun travel companions on subsequent independent travels.
Try beginning your travels with a guided tour before taking off on your own. You’ll find the two approaches complement each other by adding a foundation for your independent travels.
3 » Hassle Free
As fulfilling as independent travel is, it comes with its share of difficulties. Common hassles associated with unaided journeys include scheduling, transporting, cost, equipment, misinformation, backtracking, safety, etc. Whether you’re a business professional looking for a quick escape or a seasoned travel vet looking for a break from the nitty gritty, guided tours provide a chance to see the world without the unwanted baggage.
4 » Safety
A feeling of safety while travelling abroad is an important component of a successful trip. The vast knowledge and experience synonymous with local guides provides a level of safety foreigners are otherwise unable to obtain. In addition, group tours offer safety in numbers via a large support group of fellow travellers.
5 » Money
Contrary to popular belief, guided tours can drastically cut down on travel costs, especially with group tours. Guided tours allow travellers to split the cost of transportation, equipment, and lessons. This is especially true for travellers looking to test numerous activities in a short period of time. Imagine a couple independently renting a raft, bikes, kayaks, climbing equipment, and transportation. They would quickly find that tour operators have a necessary place in the world.
6 » Encouragement
Among those of us who want adventure, some still need a little push. Sometimes the only thing keeping us from letting go and allowing ourselves to experience something new is a little encouragement. Guided tours do just that. With a trusted support system in place, we find ourselves thrown into excitement and pushing our own limits – all in a safe environment.
7 » Time
It’s an unfortunate truth that most people’s holiday time is minimal. Although independent travel is highly romanticized, it is also time consuming. As nice as it is to find your own way around a foreign city, you’re bound to make more than a few wrong turns along the way. Most people simply don’t have the time to take the long way around. Guided tours specialize in providing a worldly experience without the injury time.
8 » Orientation
If you are blessed with an abundant amount of time to see the world, guided tours can start you off with a bang. A guided tour can serve as a great orientation to your destination. I once did a weeklong guided trip in La Alberca, Spain. It was a wonderful introduction to rural Spanish life. From that tour I made contacts all over the country. I spent the remainder of two months visiting and travelling with my new Spanish friends. This “locals experience” was a direct result of the initial connections I made on my guided tour.
9 » Opportunities
In some situations, guided tours are the only option for (inexperienced) travellers. For adventurous souls looking to try whitewater rafting, caving or canyoneering, tour operators provide guides, equipment, and transportation. Without these three essential components, only experts with substantial resources can partake in these activities, let alone numerous activities strung together in a jam packed multisport adventure.
10 » Sustainability
Many adventure travel companies are committed to using local adventure guides. Combined with commitments to local dining and accommodation, these efforts help boost the economies of the destination.