Travel Snobbery and a Tour to Bali

Apparently, it’s easy to be a travel snob.

Independent travelers can look down on tour groups as not being “hard core” or “authentic” enough. Luxury travelers can look down on backpackers as cheapskates one notch above street riffraff. Holiday-makers looking to relax with a cocktail on the beach are not “real” travelers while those who are trying to live on $5 a day are “escapists.”

I could go on and on with the stereotypes and slurs that I’ve heard fly in all directions, but that’s not the point. One thing travel can teach you – if you allow it to – is that the world is made up of people whose goals and preferences differ. And those differences — they also apply to travel.

When we announced that we were joining a G Adventures tour of Bali, several friends and readers cocked their heads (literally and virtually), questioning what was going on. After all, we are independent travelers and Bali is a pretty easy place to travel.

The echoes of judgment reached their zenith (or nadir, depending on your perspective) when a follower on Twitter replied to our announcement with: “Why ANYONE needs a tour of Bali is beyond me.”

In truth we didn’t need a tour of Bali. I’d argue that with the exception of a few difficult-to-reach places where specialized transportation or technical expertise is required (e.g., Antarctica, Mount Everest, etc.), you really don’t need a tour anywhere.

So why take a tour?

We knew our reasons, but to understand some others we approached a few people on our tour and asked them.

Tours: A Few of the Reasons to Take Them

A few solo female travelers felt more comfortable – for safety and companionship reasons – traveling in a small group. Others saw the tour as a way to explore parts of the island that they might not otherwise discover on their own in a short time.

Walking Atop Mt. Batur - Bali, Indonesia
Bali High: Above the clouds on Mt. Batur.

Others with busy work schedules commented: “I work a lot, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of time booking hotels and managing logistics.”

With logistics taken care of, they could focus on the substance of the trip.

Tours: The People

And who were the people with these reasons?

There was a young Canadian woman who received a G Adventures tour for her 21st birthday and used it to travel outside North America for the first time. There was also a well-traveled couple honeymooning from Britain, a Swiss event planning manager, a Peruvian-American New Yorker working at a bank, and two (yes, two) operating room nurses from opposite ends of the planet. This was just the beginning.

Friendly Monkey - Ubud, Bali
Friends. Ubud Monkey Forest: He was not on our tour. She was.

Some people came to Bali exclusively for the tour. Others, like us, incorporated it into a longer trip around the island.

In other words, there was a diverse group of nationalities, ages, professions, travel experience and reasons for joining the tour. And frankly, this is what made it interesting.

Our Reasons for Taking a Tour?

Our reasons were pretty straightforward. Bangladesh, and all the organizing we did to travel through the country independently for almost six weeks, had sapped much of our energy. So we came to Bali to relax, do some yoga and have some fun.

We wanted a vacation — to enjoy the island and sample what it had to offer — but we had little interest in all the logistics arrangements.

Above the Clouds at Mt. Batur - Bali, Indonesia
Atop Mt. Batur volcano at dawn

Some of you may be thinking: “Your tour was free so it’s easy to make a decision to take one when you don’t have to pay for it.”

Fair point, but for two things. We joined this particular tour because we wanted to. And in the end, we spent a fair bit of our own money on optional activities — again, because we wanted to.

Autonomy on the Tour?

While G Adventures provided the framework of the trip by arranging logistics (hotels, transport, temple visits), it was the tour participants who decided how to fill in the body of their trip.

Balinese Cooking Classes - Ubud, Bali
Balinese Cooking Class in Ubud

For those who wanted to chill at the pool and get a massage, that was cool. For others who wanted to wake up at 3:30 AM and climb a volcano, good on you. Want to shop? All the more power to you. If you wanted to join the group for dinner, great. If not, have fun on your own. (Note: Optional activities are not included in the price of the tour so be sure to ask ahead about costs so you can accurately budget your trip).

Basically, the idea is do what you want to do. This is your vacation after all.

Small Group Tours or Independent Travel?

There can be a time for both. Whether or not you decide to take a tour anywhere should depend on your travel goals and your resources (i.e., time and money). Keep in mind that if you travel independently one day and take a tour the next, that’s OK too.

When it comes to travel, do what suits you and brings you satisfaction — so long as you do so respectfully. After all, travel is about exploring, adapting, learning, and understanding others.

Here’s to respecting our travel differences and enjoying the journey!

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The experiences above were from the G Adventures’ Classic Bali Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

G Adventures Tours to Asia

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Disclosure: Our Classic Bali Tour was provided by G Adventures in connection with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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Comments

  1. says

    Audrey, this is a great post because I, too, am tired of the travel snobbery.

    We also like to incorporate some tours into our independent travel. Frequently, we’ll take day tours because the guide will have excellent insights into the local culture or history (for example, I think that having a tour guide through the Roman ruins really helped us understand and “see” beyond the rubble to what the palaces/monuments/temples used to be like). We took a 3 week organized tour through Namibia and Botswana after spending 5 weeks driving on our own through South Africa because we wanted to save costs.

    Both of us enjoy mixing tours into independent travel because touring offers a different approach to traveling. And, isn’t that the whole point of traveling anyhow – to expand our minds and give us an opportunity to try different things?

  2. says

    Wonderful defense of group tours Audrey. Like you said, there is co much judgment within the travel community.

    I have never been on a tour, but I can imagine would be nice to travel to a destination without spending all the time and effort researching and planning the trip.

    If I plan my own independent trip I feel like sometimes a lot of the surprise and spontaneity is killed.

    But, when I head out with no plans and having done no prior research (usually the case), I almost inevitably end up in various crisis and misadventures–which are fun to retell later but which can be incredibly stressful at the time.

    It seems like your GAP Adventure tour struck exactly the right balance!

  3. says

    I love this topic. Great blog. We travel in an eco-RV and we love talking to travelers of all sorts. We have interviewed cross country cyclist, walkers, backpackers, RVers, and bus tourists. Everyone has different reasons for getting out and about. We want people to explore and learn different cultures and enjoy history and nature. That should be celebrated and encouraged, not nick picked on.

  4. says

    There are visas that some people couldn’t get unless they’re on a tour! I still don’t have my Jordanian and Egyptian visas because I’m an independent woman traveler. I am willing to book a tour but there’s none leaving from my country. I booked from Gap Adventure but they don’t have the visa application service which the consulate required of me. So sometimes you just CAN’T go at all.

  5. says

    Really good post. I recently stated my on my travel confessions post that I don’t like tourists. However, there is a time and place for all of us to be tourists. As a traveler, I have traveled solo, as a couple, on a tour, and on a vacation package. Stayed in places like luxury hotels to hostels. I prefer budget travel but I realize there are all kinds of travelers and there is nothing wrong with that. I like tours and independent travel. It’s a good balance so there is nothing wrong with the way people travel. I definitely don’t agree with all the ways people travel but understand we are all different in our approaches.

  6. says

    Ah, travel snobbery… I’m with you there. :) Good article!

    I think there are as many reasons and ways to travel as there are people. As with any other aspect of lifestyle, it’s OK to have your own ideas and strict values when traveling, but it’s another to impose them on others or judge them because of their differences.

    Personally, I travel ‘independently’ (not a fan of the world – I still depend on a lot of kindness and resources) by choice, both personal and ethical. Generally when there’s a tour involved, it means an attraction has gotten big enough that 1) it may be affecting the local economy, and most of the times in a bad way, e.g. by leaking money to international companies; and 2) because businesspeople everywhere smell tours a mile away and will usually overcharge the heck out of everything. Traveling outside a tour allows me to make my own discoveries and mistakes, forces me to socialize with local people instead of other foreigners, and allows me to move about much slower than a tour would force me to move.

    But really, it would be ridiculous of me to judge anyone for not doing what I do. And besides, I’ve met independent travelers who were real disrespectful a**holes, and package tour travelers who were kind and open-minded. To each their own! Respect and open-mindedness are much more important. :)

  7. says

    Although I don’t think I would like the fast pace of tours (and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to travel that way all the time), I can see the attraction of not having to worry about logistics. When we stay at guesthouses and hotels in remote locations that include all meals it’s wonderful not having to worry about where we are going to eat that night.

    We also met a tour group in India that had learnt more of the local language than us, as they had an Indian guide. It must be a big benefit having someone on hand to ask about the local culture.

    I agree that everyone travels in their own way and we need to stop judging those who do it differently to us.

  8. says

    I’ve been on a few tours (even in my hometown!) and I enjoy them because it frees me of dealing with the details … and I’m really bad with planning the details! I’ve done things on tours I wouldn’t have thought to do on my own, and I’ve met lots of interesting people on them as well.

    I’m glad you enjoyed your tour in Bali. It sounds like fun!

  9. says

    Wow, great & thoughtful comments here. Thank you!

    @Akila: The longer that we travel, the more the travel snobbery gets under my skin. I know that I’ve been judgmental about travel styles in the past, but now I really realize that everyone needs to respect everyone else’s ways and reasons for travel.

    And, like you said, it’s fun to mix things up when you’re traveling long term. We’ve also had really great experiences picking up local guides and tours along the way to understand more about the culture and history of the place we’re visiting. It’s all about being open and respectful of each other.

    @Melanie: I agree that there is too much judgement and almost “competition” in the travel community. There will be times when we enjoy going on our own and times when it’s be on a tour where someone else is organizing the basics and you can enjoy the substance of the trip. Also, when you have a good group of people, that’s fun in and of itself.

    Some of our funniest travel moments have also happened when things just happened without planning or any expectations.

    @Nikki: Really love this line from your comment: “We want people to explore and learn different cultures and enjoy history and nature. That should be celebrated and encouraged, not nick picked on.”

    Some of the most fun people we’ve met on our journey have been the over-60 crowd with a love of life and travel, but with experience and perspective.

    @Wanderlass: I’m really sorry to hear about your continued problems with Jordan and Egypt visas. Have you tried booking tours with local tour companies for the visa support? This is what we had to do when we went to Turkmenistan and also for Uzbekistan. I have the name of a few local tour companies from Jordan if that helps. Good luck!

    @Jeremy: Well said. And I think everyone should try different styles of travel to find out what suits them and their travel goals best. We also prefer budget travel because it provides us other learning opportunities. But, it is nice from time to time to splurge and have a little luxury. Like you, I just want people to travel respectfully – meaning that they treat the place and the people they are visiting with respect.

    @Daniel: Like you, we’ve also met independent travelers with huge chips on their shoulder who are incredibly disrespectful of the place they are visiting, just as we have met people on tour groups who are the most curious and open people we’ve come across. What’s important is to remember that not everyone has the same time, resources and preferences. So what works for one person may not work for another…and that’s OK.

    While I do think some tours only go to big sites, there are actually quite a few tours out there that go rather “off the beaten path” (to pardon the overused expression). We’ve come across small tours in the most remote places (Pamir Mountains, Turkmenistan). The trick is to actually research the tour company to be sure that the money spent actually benefits the local economy. One of the things I liked about the Gap tour was that we spent an afternoon at an NGO where we ate lunch there to support the organization and learn about its people.

    @Erin: You’re right – for long term travelers (or digital nomads), being constantly on a tour would not work because of the pace. But, it is nice from time to time to shake up the routine and do something like this for a short period.

    One of the things that I really liked about the Gap tour was that it hired local guides in certain places so that we could really learn about the culture and place from a local expert. I had so many questions about Balinese Hinduism that I wasn’t able to ask at our previous homestay because of the level of English of the family. The local guide was actually really happy to have someone so interested in his religion that he took great efforts to answer everything. Really fascinating.

    @JoAnna: Confession – we’re also really bad with planning the details. We put things off until the last moment and then play hot potato on whose job it is to do it. Like you, we’ve also met some great people on tours (multi-day and day) that we would have never met otherwise.

    We’ll be posting shortly about what we actually did during the week on the tour. It was fun!

  10. says

    I love it! Great post. The real question I have is…which dishes did you make in the cooking class?? Thoughts of $1 nasi goreng making my mouth water. I heart Bali.

  11. says

    I took a tour in Egypt with Intrepid a few years back and it was one of my best travel experiences to date. I still keep in touch with friends on the tour and it was soooo nice to not have to worry about logistics or getting ripped off, etc. Even though I really love solo travel, I’d do a group tour again. When the group dynamic works out it can be such a great experience :) Plus, it doesn’t hurt having a local to make suggestions.

  12. says

    I think this sounds like a great experience. I would love to try it! It is hard to see a lot of Bali when you don’t have someone to help you get around because transportation is limited and it’s hard sometimes to know where you’re going. And I loved your mention of travel snobbery– snobbery of any kind is so disappointing!

  13. says

    I rarely take tours as I prefer to discover things on my own, but I do take the occasional tour when it is going to be beneficial to me. I took a tour of the Vatican museums and learnt a lot more than I would have by myself, and it meant that I could skip the lines!.I definitely agree that tours can be a part of any independent traveler’s trip. Great post!

  14. says

    I don’t understand travel snobbery at all-what makes it right for me does not make it right for someone else. I am not much of an organized tour person either, but if someone else is than who really cares? We all want to see the world and we each have our own way of doing it. Bottom line is, at least we are not sitting at home, too scared or too snobby to leave our own comfort zone. Looks like you two had an amazing adventure.
    (I’m with you on Bangladesh…it can sap the energy right out of you!)

  15. says

    It’s easy to be a snob. Travel snob. Fashion snob. What’s-the-best-city snob. I, myself, am a complete and utter empanada snob.

    It’s much harder to look at things in an even handed way and find the value in whatever it is we see.

    But you still won’t convince me that you’ll find an empanada better than in Salta.

  16. says

    I took a Chinese package tour of Bali a couple years ago while living in Shenzhen. My wife and I really didn’t want to, but somehow the whole package was cheaper than the plane tickets if we booked on our own (plus we stayed in a really nice hotel). Fortunately, we had one day free to explore on our own and we managed to find a great driver to take us around for 12 hours for about $35.

  17. says

    @Jacob: We’ll be doing a whole piece on Balinese food soon (and focusing on the cooking class), but just briefly here’s what we learned to cook at the Bumi Bali cooking class: Basa Gede (spice paste), Sayur Urab (vegetables with sambal/coconut), Tuna Sambal Matah (seared tuna with raw sambal), Tempe Manis (fried tempe with sweet-spicy sauce), Opor Ayam (chicken curry), Bali Sate Lilit, Sambal Udang (shrimp with sambal).

    @Laura: Glad you had such a good experience on a tour in Egypt. We were also really fortunate with the group we had on our tour and I’m sure we’ll be in touch with some of them for many years. It’s nice to mix things up between solo/independent travel and group tours.

    @Jenna: While there are buses that go to major towns in Bali, you really need to book a private car or rent a motorbike if you want to go anywhere outside of major towns. As for getting lost, it’s definitely very easy as signs are either non-existent or inconsistent. Was quite nice to have a bus to take us to all corners of the island :)

    @Dean: There’s a time for tours and a time to go on your own. We’ve also had really great luck with tours of certain sites – I can’t imagine how our visit to Kuelap in Peru without the knowledge of the tour guide.

    @Claire: It would be great if all travelers took the same approach to not caring or judging other people’s travel styles and choices. Traveling through Bangladesh was a great experience and we learned a ton, but needed a vacation after that :)

    @Leigh: I agree that it’s easy to be a snob in so many different topics – so many people think they are “experts” and that their standard is the “right” one. Have to let go of assumptions and look within to try and be free of judgment. Not easy to do.

    I’m with you on Salta empanadas though :) Were the best we found in S. America!

    @ChinaMatt: Sometimes tours do end up cheaper than going independently because the tour can negotiate lower rates. When we lived in Prague we used to do this for “Euro Weekends.” What’s nice with these arrangements is that you had some time to explore on your own. Good to have that balance.

    @Jill: Travel snobbery really gets under my skin as well, especially when it’s dished out by people who claim to be about “real” travel yet are not willing to be open-minded about fellow travelers. And you’re right – it is nice to have someone else take care of the logistics. Provides a nice break from time to time.

  18. says

    In the traveler/tourist dichotomous spectrum, the traveler is seen as searching for authentic culture whereas the mass tourist, to which the Lonely Planet backpacker is increasingly seen, by ‘real’ ‘travelers’, as a form of mass tourism and therefore anti-authentic.

    “Touristy” in this context is the anti-authentic, well on its way to losing its cultural authenticity and therefore somewhere the ‘intact’ or ‘real’ culture can no longer be seen. With the spread of globalization and its perceived powers to standardization, there is a perception that authentic destinations and cultures are increasingly under threat and will inevitably become “touristy”

    Many tourists attempt to shed themselves of the label “tourist”, and self-define themselves as “backpackers” or from “backpackers” to “travelers”, which it is believed is more in tune with their own search for authenticity.

    The traveler believes experience has led them to a profound appreciation of culture and the ability to discern and seek out “truth” and “authenticity”. The tourist, from the perspective of the traveler, is the anti-authentic “who never really experiences the culture”. While the traveler ventures “off the beaten track” in order to experience authenticity, the tourist remains ensconced in their own environmental bubble.

  19. says

    Great post, guys.

    I sometimes feel guilty for taking organised tours! I’ve travelled with Gap and Intrepid and one other company I won’t name because I thought the trip was awful, but my experiences have largely been positive.

    Although group travel can be frustrating, it’s great for if you only have a couple of weeks off work and want to maximise your time. You get to meet like minded people, have huge group meals where you try all sorts of food and the headache of organising your transportation and accommodation is someone else’s! You can also visit destinations or participate in activities you might not be able to otherwise. I would not have been able to trek around Mt Kailash if I hadn’t been on a tour.

    I’ve also travelled extensively independently, and while sometimes when I’m on tour I get frustrated because I know I could have organised things cheaper/better on my own, I will take short group tours again in the future when I don’t have the luxury of several months or a year in which to travel.

  20. says

    I tend to feel sorry for snobs because they seem to think there is only one perfect solution for any problem. That’s very seldom the way things are, but it can feel that way. Snobbery can creep into anyone’s mindset if they aren’t vigilant, especially if there’s an ethical component to the topic.

    As a vegan I have to constantly evaluate the way I’m thinking to avoid making too many assumptions about other people’s lives. It’s hard not to drift into the realm of snobbery when you’ve made such careful choices about how you want to live your life and you see someone else making the “wrong” choices.

    There’s a fine line between being a snob and wanting to make sure people are educated. I hope I come down on the side of education.

    I’m trying to apply the same thinking to travel as my wife and I set out to travel the US in 10 days. It’s going to be a wild rid.

  21. says

    @aspiringnomads: Ah, the never-ending traveler-tourist debate. While I definitely understand the difference philosophically, the challenge is that people wrap themselves up in a label to identify themselves whether it matches their travel approach or not. As you note, some backpackers who call themselves “real travelers” never leave the cocoon of the hostel while some people who call themselves tourists and do tours are super engaged with the local environment — which is what creates the confusion.

    One of the things that I always find amusing is that in many countries, the locals call something they feel is worth seeing “touristy.” At first, my reaction was to go away from that, but I realize that it’s also worth understanding what locals feel are their city or countries top sights, nature or activities.

    @Megan: You bring up a great point here. When you only have a short time on vacation, you don’t want to spend a lot of that time planning logistics and trying to figure things out. You want to arrive and be on the go. The short amount of time that most people have to travel is something many long-term travelers forget and lose perspective about. I was really glad to be able to gain this perspective again after talking with the other people in our group. And, we had a really great group which always makes things fun.

    @Robert: I find that often people are not able (or perhaps unwilling) to really try and put themselves in another person’s shoes to understand the reasons and situation behind the actions. It’s very difficult to do, but when there are two open-minded people the resulting discussion can be fascinating.

    You bring up a very good point regarding eating choices and you being a vegan. I’ve met some very judgmental vegans and really appreciate that you are trying to educate people without judging.

    Sounds like you’ve got a good approach and perspective in mind for your upcoming travels around the United States. Have fun and safe travels!

  22. says

    I don’t think that you should ever care if you take an organised tour or not. Sure you are independent travellers but every now and again you need to just relax and recharge the batteries. Sound like Bali really did that for you :)

  23. says

    @Anthony: Completely agree! And fellow travelers should support each other on their decisions not be judgmental. Independent budget travel is great, but sometimes it is nice to relax and take a vacation :)

  24. says

    Great post! I don’t understand why some travelers have to be so judgmental about how people travel. I usually organize what we do on our trips by myself, but what’s wrong with a tour or any other organized form of travel? Some people are more comfortable that way, sometimes it’s nice not to have to worry, sometimes you have too little time to do it on your own, … so many reasons. I think it’s great when people travel because it makes you so much more open-minded. So, I am happy when people tell me about their travels – even if it’s not exactly what I would do.

  25. says

    @Sabrina: I also enjoy hearing about people’s travels that are very different than mine – different types of travelers and different styles of travel make things interesting. The goal is for people to travel and be exposed to new people, place and experiences. How to do it is a personal choice.

  26. says

    I might be a travel snob because I still have a problem when people visit generic beach resorts and never leave them or take cruises that drop you off at generic tourist sales posts – it doesn’t allow for any interaction with the country. It’s their choice, but it seems like a waste of $ and time to go out of your way to go to a new place and not try to experience it.

    I do believe in taking tours from time to time. I think when it comes to tours, people automatically imagine huge buses and being carted around from place to place with meals set and no free time. But there are SO many tour options. I’ve done a couple loosely organized tours like the one you did when I’ve found good deals on them. Making that decision really depends on where I’m going. Last summer, after hearing about other people’s difficulties when traveling in Cuba, I decided to do a tour and it was worth it. It didn’t at all detract from interaction with local people… it actually probably made it easier. I also decided to do a tour in SE Asia after reading a few stories about black people having trouble booking rooms in certain parts. It took away from the nervousness about being solo and even though I was still nervous about how I’d be received, I was assured that I would have a place to sleep at night. After awhile, I did feel like I could’ve finished the trip on my own.

    As a solo female traveler, it can be nice to have a portion of a trip organized, especially if I am not looking for that sort of challenge at the moment. Having the basics like transport and accommodation pre-arranged can free up time for other things. I think it’s important for people to understand that tours don’t have to be restrictive!

  27. says

    @Ekua: Just yesterday we met some experienced travelers who had come from traveling through a rather difficult country. When they got out, they wanted to just chill on the beach and take a break from “real” travel. I’ve had friends at home take all-inclusive resort tours to Dominican Republic because they are working crazy hours and just needed somewhere to rest physically and emotionally. Sometimes when travel, life or work dishes up something crazy and exhausting, I believe there are valid reasons – rest, relaxation, rejuvenation – why people want to just check themselves into a beach resort.

    Your point about how there are so many different tour options out there is so true. It may take some time to sift through them, but there is likely the right style of tour to match your travel preferences and budget. And many of these tours – like the one we took – offers a lot of independence so you can still go off and explore while knowing you have a place to sleep. We noticed on our Gap Adventures tour that there were quite a few people who had taken Gap Adventures tours before – if you find a company and approach you like, it’s easy to continue going with them for future tours.

  28. says

    Loved this post Audrey! So tired of the snobbery in all aspects of travel (including writing but I digress).

    I personally don’t knock tours and quite enjoy them once in a while when I find the right one for the specific travel situation I’m in – be it unplugging and relaxing or hiking.

    My very first trip to Eastern Europe back in 2003(?), I went with a tour because as a black woman, I just wasn’t sure how safe it would be to travel and cross borders alone there. And sure enough, I did get harassed a few times (mostly by border patrol). But now I’ve been back solo and totally cool traveling on my own.

    If people have trepidations about a place, I usually suggest they go with a tour so they can feel more comfortable and they can always return on their own.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a tour and now that I’m considering going on safari, I’ll probably take a tour.

  29. says

    @Lola: Unfortunately, snobbery sneaks into lots of areas of travel (writing, photography, gear, etc.). Luckily, there are also so many great people out there traveling and doing their own thing that rise above it.

    I agree that tours are a great way to ease into certain kinds of travel or traveling in new parts of the world that may seem daunting at first. What we saw on this tour was that the Canadian on her first trip abroad was already planning new trips, some on her own. That’s a great thing.

    For safari, a tour will make things much, much easier than trying to sort things out on your own with a car, permits, etc. We really enjoyed the recent safari trip in Tanzania with Gap Adventures because we camped at all the parks, thereby reducing accommodation costs. But the quality of the tents, camping facilities and food (had a cook with us) we had was fantastic. And, we were always close to the animals :)

  30. says

    I think the main issues I have come across myself in the last 4 years are down to people feeling they are missing out on something by “not” being part of something bit like the grass always being greener on the other side. The importance though is to always rise above it as people are people with different reasons to be there, different budgets and more importantly different reasons.

  31. says

    @Matt: I agree that the “grass is always greener” syndrome is very prevalent amongst travelers, whether it related to style of travel (independent vs. tour) or activities. The competitiveness that one can find in travel communities is kind of silly – as you said, it’s about doing what’s right for you and respecting the decisions of others.

  32. says

    I have been to many countries but have almost always done them on my own. I found when I have been in some more exotic locations, that I would take an organized tour of the area, and then go back and nit-pick the places that required further exploration.

  33. Crystal says

    I think this is a great post, I spent 6 months traveling and working last year and in many respects it was by myself. As a single female traveler I did spent time in tours in countries such as Morocco and Egypt where it was just easier to have the itinerary set and I could pick and choose what I wanted to explore by myself or with others. Then there were other parts of my trip such as NYC and Washington D.C that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring myself. For 6 months straight it’s nice to have a mix of everything so you don’t get so exhausted with all the organising that you miss out on things you really wanted to enjoy. Just recently I took my friend on her first international trip to Singapore and Indonesia and we stayed in hostels, resorts and 5 star hotels so she could experience a range of travel modes. It’s nice to have diversity.

  34. says

    @Jim: I like you’re approach of taking a tour for the overview of a place and then going back to explore further the areas or topics you really loved. It’s a great travel strategy.

    @Crystal: Couldn’t agree more that mixing up travel styles is the way to go. Sometimes a group trip suits your purpose and mood, other times it doesn’t. The key is to recognize that a combination of styles is not only OK, but it can make the entire travel experience more enjoyable.

  35. says

    I too hate the snobbery. There have been times when I’ve read a blog about an independent traveller’s experience at a place and am knocked sideways by their complete lack of knowledge, understanding or appreciation of the site (accepting that we all have different tastes) and realise it is based completely on ignorance. Choosing to not seek a guide or do some research about a destination and then to visit it and poo poo it to a large blog audience is something I abhor.
    I travel independently but have done tours to places completely off the beaten track, stayed in villagers homes etc, which I could not have done independently because they were near sensitive border areas. I also agree that some of the people I have met on tours are fantastic people, who are often simply limited by time constraints from travelling independently.

  36. says

    @Naomi: In the years since we originally wrote this post the snobbery still continues, unfortunately. In the last few years we’ve really come to appreciate what a knowledgable local guide can bring to a travel experience – providing context, background, sharing personal stories, helping to clear up misconceptions, etc. And yes, sometimes tours do provide access to people and experiences that one cannot get when going independently. The goal is to be respectful and open-minded, both towards the host country…and fellow travelers.

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