To stay with or stray from the herd? That is the question.
Traveling in a large group – especially an arranged tour group – can be absolutely exhausting. You have to follow the itinerary to the minute, wait for over 100 people to use the bathroom at rest stops, and make small talk with those you don’t know very well.
So today Dave, Kim (our good friend in the choir) and I decided we weren’t up for another walking tour, and so during our stop in Slovakia this afternoon, we chose to have a long, relaxing meal instead if scarfing down lunch to quickly meet the group for our tour time. This proved to be a lovely afternoon of leisurely strolls around the old town of Bratislava, filled with wine, gelato, and cobblestone walks.
This evening was the complete opposite experience. We arrived in Vienna in the late afternoon and had some rest time in our hotel rooms before dinner. Then when dinner time arrived, we were late meeting the group in the lobby and so they left without us, which is completely understandable. But the instructions we missed in our cloud of tour-group rebellion, was that dinner wasn’t at our hotel, so the three of us had to walk to the restaurant ourselves. No big deal, (we thought).
After getting confusing German directions from the hotel clerk, we got completely lost and had no idea where they had gone, and realized we didn’t even know the name of the restaurant we were searching for. After returning to the hotel no less than four times for clarifying directions, an hour and a half later we still found ourselves hungry and walking around the streets of Vienna with no idea where to go.
We would have given up long ago if we hadn’t already paid for this dinner in our group package – another annoyance of large group travel. Eventually we did give up the search and ate at the hotel lobby bar with over-priced-small-portioned-food.
So begs the question: in group-travel, is it best to follow the herd or not? To me, there is a time for both. There is a benefit to both group and solo travel. In group travel you get opportunities to see sights you would never see on your own, such as our choir getting a private tour of the Vienna opera house, something that is not open to the public at all. We also get driven from location to location without worrying about booking our own trains or flights. Whereas in solo traveling you are more responsible for all of those stressful details, but you get to design your trip exactly as you like it.
We are grateful that on this 7-week trip, we get to experience both types of travel. All we can do is make the best of each situation, knowing that no matter what type of way you are traveling, there will always be stressful days, and spectacular days. That’s what what keeps us coming back for more.
And a note to self about surviving group-travel: listen to instructions when you want to eat your pre-paid dinner.