Sometimes it seems like travelers’ favorite thing to do isn’t to travel, but to pass judgment on other travelers. In the months leading up to my guided trek of the Annapurna Sanctuary, I had more than one person turn their nose up at my choice to do this on an organized tour. Yes, it’s true – I booked a group tour with Intrepid Travel for an activity that others prefer to undertake independently. Here are just a few reasons why.
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I had never trekked before
Boyfriend and I love to go on day hikes, but I had never been camping. The Annapurna Sanctuary is a fairly strenuous trek, taking seven days to ascend to base camp and three more days to descend. Some days include as much as seven hours of walking, and very little of it is flat. In fact, with all the steep ascents and descents on the trail’s flagstone steps, we estimated our two weeks in the mountains to have been the equivalent of climbing 10,000 flights of stairs. Being new to trekking, I felt it really important to be with a group and have quality guides.
I had never been to Asia before
Trekking wasn’t the only area I was inexperienced. Nepal was the second country outside Europe and the United States I had ever visited. Traveling in developing nations takes an entirely different set of skills, and can be much more stressful. Booking a guided tour made preparing for my trip easier, and it also ensured that I could ease my way into travel through Asia by not worrying about all the logistics right away.
Intrepid employs locals
Speaking of guides, I never feel totally comfortable hiring individuals on my own. Bargaining prices, knowing you’ll be safe… there are just so many pieces in play. At the same time, you want to make sure you’re supporting the local economy. Intrepid has built its reputation as a tour operator on responsible travel and always employs locals. On our trek, our group of 12 had four guides and six porters, all of whom were local. Our main tour leader grew up just 75 kilometres north of Kathmandu and took a break every day to talk to his mother. This really added so much to our trip and I don’t know that I would have gotten as much out of a tour with a different operator.
I was joining my boyfriend
One of the most important ways I’ve sustained a long-distance relationship while traveling solo was by arranging for my boyfriend to meet me for part of the trip. This block of time in mid-to-late November fell close to my halfway mark and also happily coincided with his birthday. When we first started talking about him joining me for a stretch, I threw out trekking in Nepal as an idea and he liked it. While he did say in retrospect that if we were to go again, he’d prefer to do it just ourselves, at the time, I thought booking a guided tour was the way to go. It made it very easy for us to plan together, because all he had to do was press a button and then work out his flight.
I had spent months traveling on my own
By the time mid-November rolled around, I had been traveling completely solo for over four months. It was time for a change. Personally, I don’t love meeting people in hostels. Making connections that way is the exception rather than the rule for me. I just don’t think happening to book the same hostel is enough common ground. Hostel crowds can also be very transient. You might have a great night with someone and they’re gone the next day. Being with the same group of people for two weeks straight is a different kind of interaction, and one that I was ready for.
Overall, I was really happy with my experience with Intrepid. It was nice to hand over the reins for a bit and focus on just completing the trek. I love solo independent travel, but I’m all about balance. Trekking in unfamiliar terrain is the perfect time for me to switch things up and book a group tour. I’ll be doing it again next month in Peru! If you’re ever at a point where you don’t feel confident in your travel skills, organized tours are the way to go. There is no shame in it. Go forth, see the world, make new friends.
Do you prefer organized tours or solo travel? Tell me in the comments.