Ohio there, from Columbus!
I’ve just returned from an incredible group tour through the Greek Islands with REI and seven strangers. REI released a line of adventure trips that are more affordable for those of us who are 35 and under. Now, you may be wondering why a solo traveler would join a group tour full of strangers and a set itinerary. Sounds like a solo traveler’s nightmare, right? We’re independent traveler’s who don’t need no tour(or guide), right?
Well, here’s the thing: I’ve traveled the world alone for the past few years and it’s led to incredible experiences BUT I’m constantly trying to step outside of my comfort zone. Solo travel was a HUGE challenge for me when I first started but I’ve since become accustomed to it. Why not switch things up?
I first visited Greece in 2015 with a group of strangers and had a blast. Way back in 2015, travel was just a far-flung dream. I had no idea how to plan an extended trip in a foreign country and I def wasn’t ready to travel alone. So I signed up for a 35-day group trip through Europe with 30 strangers in hopes that it would help me ease my way into solo travel. I figured that I’d is able to travel solo without feeling like I was completely alone. I figured that I’d have a perfect balance of planned experiences and free time to explore on my own terms if I truly wanted to. That trip felt like REAL WORLD: EUROPE, but I left with life-long friends and endless memories.
I’ve since joined several group trips and I truly believe they’re the ultimate way to ease your way into solo travel without sacrificing your freedom. Despite the fact that I’ve been to Greece twice before, this trip led me to new adventures and discoveries. We visited the islands of Paros, Santorini, and Amorgos. We spent hours trekking across these islands, which allowed us to witness dramatic landscapes from a different perspective. We took cooking classes together and even learned a few traditional dances. We visited Greek churches and got lost inside traditional white villages. This trip made me fall even more in love with the country and its culture. It was made even more special by the group of strangers that I can now call friends. Here are some reasons you should consider giving group travel a try:
MEET NEW PEOPLE
I always feel nervous before group tours. There’s something scary about the thought of being stuck with strangers for an extended period of time. However, this could be the perfect solution for those of you who wish to travel without waiting around for others to get on board. You’ll have the support of a group while also having the freedom of a solo traveler if you truly wish. You’ll also have a solid group of like-minded people who share the same love for travel. In my opinion, there’s no better way to ease your way into solo travel. We ended up liking each other so much that we decided to extend our trip together! You never know!
GET LOCAL GUIDES
There’s nothing like being led by a local. If you want to truly immerse yourself in the culture and discover more about a country, then a local guide can help you do just that. These guides know the country like the back of their hands and they’re able to answer every question you may have. They’ve led countless groups and lived in Greece all of their lives. When it comes to multi-day treks and outdoor activities, knowledgable guides become a necessary safety precaution - especially for women traveling alone. I would have been reluctant to hike some of those trails on my own. Our guides cooked, partied, and danced with us until the very last day.
Some of us love the trip planning process, while others prefer to show up and have a good time. Trip logistics can be a pain, especially in certain destinations. If you don’t know where to start or simply prefer the convenience of a curated trip, then a group tour is likely the best option. All you have to do is arrive and let the guides lead the way. They’re on-the-ground experts that have taken the time to create dynamic itineraries. I was able to discover the island of Amorgos, which I’d never heard of or seen before. There’s no way I would have visited on my own if I weren’t on this trip. I saw sites that I probably wouldn’t have been to by myself. Transportation, boat transfers, accommodation, and even most meals were included in the trip total. This can release the pressure that most of us feel to plan the ‘perfect’ trip!
Despite my initial reservations, I left this trip connected to myself and the world around me. I pushed myself both physically and socially. I got the chance to see Greece from a completely different perspective and I’d happily do it all over again. The daily hikes were exactly what my mind and body needed while the new friends I made were the icing on the cake. Head over to my Instagram to see behind the scenes of this trip and stay tuned for more blog posts about my time in Greece.
Click here to learn more about REI UNDER 35 ADVENTURE TRIPS