Friday, August 8, 2014

Group vs Solo

My trip to Morocco took the form of a small group tour.  Long time readers will hopefully have gathered that I tend to enjoy going at it alone.  I like the challenge of learning about a new place, how things work, how to communicate, how to get around etc. 

Since this continues to be a year of new stuff, I thought, why not try group travel and see what it is all about, after communicating with a number of people who swear by this form of travel.  I chose what I felt was a good company who offered unique itineraries. 

We were a group of 11 (me being the odd one out).  Stayed at very nice establishments (also something that I don't do a whole lot of anymore, preferring apartments and smaller locally owned guesthouses), ate at nice, upmarket restaurants.

For what was supposed to be a more immersive experience, surprisingly, we were discouraged from eating street food (didn't stop me)...And ironically only 3 people did not get sick -- Two who took medication from day 1 as a preventive (?!) and one who is a vegetarian.

In the 2 weeks or so, we covered a serious amount of ground.  There were many long travel days (9+ hours) on comfortable, private transportation.  With vastly changing scenery to view and nice people to converse with, each day went by much quicker than the itinerary would otherwise suggest on paper.

By the end of the trip, I did feel like I learned more about my travel companions than the local culture.  Cost wise, it was higher than what I could have done on my own mainly due to the class of accommodations and having a full time guide (fabulous guy).  I found the amount of sitting tiring.  When I have a chance to return, I know exactly how I would do it next time.

I also learned that a large motivating factor for those in my group were to meet people first, while seeing a new place a close second.  And in my instance, there didn't seem to be a lot of advance preparation nor interest in learning the local language.  Most were quite happy to be moved along, contained within a safe bubble even though I neither saw nor experienced anything that made me feel threatened.

There were a number of instances where I did deviate from the schedule to do my own thing (I Had to -- The regimentation was getting to me), to the surprise of the others and I know some them took it personally.

Realized quickly that there was an unspoken expectation that we'd all stick together.  The first evening I decided to miss dinner, I got a call in my room from a fellow traveler wondering where I was!  She meant well.  Was concerned that I'd starve if I missed supper and wouldn't take no for an answer...

I enjoy discovering things on my own without being told what to expect beforehand.  Funny, considering how much I like control.  Along the same lines, disliking change but having no problem thrusting myself in new places.  Not sure I'll ever be able to reconcile that in myself.

Certainly I'm not saying that style of traveling is a "bad" thing.  It's one way to go about seeing the world.  And I would commend anyone who gets out there and does so in whichever form they prefer.  It's perhaps not the route that works for me the best.

Now I can say that I've tried and it wasn't for me.  It's also continued confirmation that the way I've approached my travel is still preferable even though it means A Lot of preparation.  Never hurts to question old assumptions as I intend to keep growing as a person.

Having everything organized for you wasn't so "easy" for me either.  I found it more difficult to be woken up so early every day.  To eat at certain hours.  Needing to be conscious of a schedule.  To be taken places without having to think.  All opposite from what I do when away.  I prefer free flow time.  It feels more creative and leaves plenty of room for discovery and to be surprised.  Though, I learned more history and saw places I would not have chosen to do on my own.

I did find my travel companions to be pretty great people.  Well traveled, generous, good sense of humor.  Will for sure keep in touch with most of them.  In fact, had a generous invitation to stay with a couple who have a summer home in the Adirondacks.

And after hearing me go on about how I enjoy solo travel, am working with another couple to plan their first self guided vacation to Iceland.  And the lady who called me about missing dinner is anxiously waiting for my report on Habitat once I make it back from the build, as she is interested in getting involved too.

Meeting all of them was a definite highlight.  I know that by not continuing to participate in this type of travel will mean missing out on meeting more potential friends.  However, I would not have met them if I hadn't given it a go in the first place.  So I'm grateful for the trait that propels me to try new things.


  1. Hello, long time!
    I really enjoy your travel posts and pics, and appreciate living vicariously through you :)

    1. Hi Karissa!!!

      Thank you -- Looks like you guys are making the most of the summer and your new car... I am finally able to add you back on my blog list. Whatever that glitch was has thankfully disappeared!

  2. My experiences support similar conclusions, albeit with a smaller sample size of both group and solo trips. There is no denying the fact that a planned tour can shuttle you around to an amazing array of places in a very short amount of time if the tour is done well. And you often meet nice people. However, you do not feel you are in control at all. You just go and do whatever they say on the schedule they say. Group travel does not have to be planned out, but almost always that is what people sign up for. Personally, if I'm going to travel in a group, I would rather it be planned out. Otherwise, there is still this undercurrent that everyone should be eating together, syncing schedules, etc, and yet there is no strict itinerary to be in charge. To me, that is the worst of all worlds.

    I have also been extremely fortunate in that my immediate family shares unstructured travel tastes. We all like to discover things, linger at places, explore areas, and try new things. But most of all, we don't mind changing things around as events unfold. This flexibility allows me to enjoy most of what I am hoping for in a solo experience, while still being with my family.

    1. Hi S.B. -- Always appreciate your succinct thoughts and insight.

      I had a couple of casual one on one conversations with my guide over coffee and out of those general discussions about my history, he got where I was coming from.

      Once he knew that my definition of value was not dependent upon the number of meals or having to cover every single sight, and that I was prepared with maps and language etc. to manage on my own, he really didn't need to worry about me and was fine with me scooting off.

      And once the others actually believed that my non participation wasn't because I didn't like them or that I was too shy to join in or whatever other belief existed, they stopped "mothering" me.

      I really did appreciate their efforts to make me feel included even though I never felt excluded. But it is easy project the way we'd feel onto others instead of seeing it through the other person.

      It's confusing to those used to group travel to witness someone who was OK with not indulging on every meal that was included just because I paid for it. Or deliberately miss out on things because I wanted to follow my nose to another direction. Or not want to participate in late night drinking and discussion about our own lives. To them it would have looked like I didn't really know "how to travel" and was wasting my money.