When I first started travelling, I was deadset against the idea of any sort of organized excursion. I figured it would be easier to do it yourself, and in doing so I’d save money and have a more authentic experience. However, the more I’ve traveled, the less I’ve found that to be true. There are actually many advantages of taking organized travel tours, and they’re actually more fun than you think.
I was talking to Alex earlier today about how I felt we’ve been pretty touristy in our choices lately. For me, that felt a little antithetical to the digital nomad lifestyle (whatever that means), as we were relying on other people to make choices for us. Since we left Spain, I’d say that our travels have become a bit more organized. For one, we did a 3 month stint in Asia with We Roam (now called WY_CO) that was essentially an organized tour.
Although you don’t actually have a day-to-day itinerary, WY_CO organizes flights and an apartment in every city that you travel to. Additionally, they also organize community events, language classes and community service activities for you. There’s also a built-in social life, which has both its advantages and disadvantages.
Still, there is an inherent value in spending a month in each location, which is one of the big advantages of taking organized travel tours. For one, you can focus on cultural immersion (like I did in Seoul) and start to learn about the culture you’re in without having to plan every little detail. Finding a hotel or hostel is not really a huge deal, nor is booking a flight and transportation to your hotel or hostel. However, researching all of the activities, places to eat and sights to see is a bit more work. One of the other advantages of taking organized travel tours is that you often you get access to unforgettable experiences that you normally wouldn’t get access to without those connections.
For example, Alex and I, as well as some others, volunteered at a school in rural Vietnam by donating books and teaching English. While our teaching skills may not have been amazing, it was really was a unique and eye-opening experience for us. Never before have I felt like a celebrity (and I probably never will again). It was also the kind of thing you probably couldn’t arrange yourself outside of an organized tour. That’s not to say volunteer opportunities like this can’ be found on your own, but they are much harder to come by in this way without the benefit of an organized travel tour.
Since Alex and I have went back abroad for some solo travel, we’ve done a total of four tours in two countries in two weeks. In our first week in Ho Chi Mihn City, we did three. None of them costed more than $30, and each gave us a unique experience that wouldn’t have been possible to arrange by ourselves. And also, we ate chicken feet and swan with whale sharks, so that was pretty awesome.
The truth is, tours actually come in all types of varieties. When people think of organized travel, they typically think of the large stereotypical group where every move you make and every breath you take is prearranged for you. We often don’t think of the side trips or day tours we take as organized travel. But they really are. Regardless of what you consider a tour, it’s important to recognize that tours like these play a big part in travelling, and much of the experiences of travel wouldn’t be possible without them.
For me, those are the biggest advantages of taking organized travel tours. They’re also not a terrible way to meet people for a one-off social experience, and sometimes you can even see those people down the road if you connect. That’s not to say tours are totally necessary to travel, but they can often deepen your knowledge of a certain place, especially if the activity is exclusive or the history is poorly presented to tourists.
Regardless of how you feel about organized travel, I definitely recommend you try some, especially if you are a long-term traveler. After all, you’re not just on vacation — it’s your life. And sometimes, living the best life possible as a traveler is recognizing that being a tourist is ok, and that often you need a balance. After all, tourism done right can be a vital conduit into another culture, and can give you the type of perspective you never would have had otherwise.