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 so with an organized tour group. 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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Why I Booked a Group Tour During a Solo Round-the-World Trip
I had never trekked before
I loved to go on day hikes, but I had never been camping. The Annapurna Sanctuary is a pretty strenuous trek. It takes seven days to ascend to base camp and three more days to come back down. Some days include as much as seven hours of walking and very little of it is flat. In fact, with all the steep ups and down 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. Since I was new to trekking, it felt important to be with a group tour where I could have quality guides and some built-in companions.
I had never been to Asia before
Nepal was only the second country outside Europe and the United States I had ever visited. Traveling in developing nations takes a different set of skills and can be much more stressful. Booking a group tour made preparing for this specific leg of my trip easier. It also meant that I could ease my way into travel through Asia by not worrying about all the logistics right away. I was able to gain some experience during the tour and work my way up to independent travel elsewhere in Asia.
Intrepid group tours employ locals
Hiring guides on your own is also a skill set and one that I’m not very comfortable with. Agreeing on a fair price, 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 Travel has built its reputation as a tour operator on responsible travel and always employs locals. On our trek, our group of 12 tourists 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 from our hike 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 tour operator.
(Side note: I’m not affiliated with Intrepid Travel. I just love their tours!)
I was booking for two people
One of the biggest I kept 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 some travel, 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 needed a break from pure solo travel
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. I’m more introverted and some people take it personally when I don’t want to socialize the minute I walk in the room. 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 craving.
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 travel, but I’m all about balance. Trekking in unfamiliar terrain was the perfect time for me to switch things up and book a group tour. I did it again in Peru with a group tour trekking the Inca Trail!
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 zero shame in it. Go forth, see the world, make new friends.
Do you prefer organized group tours or solo travel? Tell me in the comments.