‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, Aristotle
If you consider yourself a spiritual kind of person and you’re keen to discover and experience some of the most sacred places around the world, participate in ancient ceremonies or try out sacred plant medicine do you choose to travel independently or with a group organised by a tour company? And if neither is better, just different, why do people opt for a group? So what’s your argument against group travel? Maybe you worry that you’ll be stuck with the same random people for the whole trip and you might not get on? There won’t be any flexibility about what you do each day as the tour will be scheduled out minute by minute. You’ll have no choice about where you stay or where you eat. It will be more expensive because the tour operator has to add on their expenses and profit margin.
Let’s imagine for a moment you’ve seen a tour which incorporates much of what you’d love to do. It has a theme and itinerary which inspires you. The photo’s and testimonials are great. The price is doable. Do you book? Yeah, yeah we know you’ll be giving up control and sometimes the planning of a trip can be fun (until it isn’t of course, and things start getting chaotic like the hotel you love is fully booked or you see a bad review on TripAdvisor etc). Your finger hovers over the ‘book now’ button but you’re not quite ready to commit. What if this is a terrible mistake and your tour to a bucket list destination is a disaster?
Here are seven reasons which offer you a different perspective on group travel for spiritually minded people, although a lot of this is true for all good group tours. You may find them compelling enough to hit that button and book the adventure of a lifetime.
- You can chat with previous participants prior to booking.
Transparency is key these days and any company which wants to grow a loyal fan base will be available on social media like Facebook and Twitter. They will encourage happy participants to share the love and should be available to visibly communicate with anyone who has a genuine grievance. You will get a very clear idea of how they’ll treat you on the tour by how they interact through social media. By connecting with previous participants you’ll get a sense of how much they enjoyed their experience with this tour operator. You can also ask questions of the team to ‘feel them out’. Are they passionate and professional about their work? Do they care more about customer care than the dollar? Do they genuinely work to the values on their website or is it lip-service only. By the time you travel with them you’ll already feel you know them.
- You meet a new ‘tribe’ who can be friends for life.
This is likely to be the most compelling of points. If you’re travelling with a like-minded group then you may be surprised to find that no matter the age range and the difference in culture, your common bond unites you all in an extraordinary way, transcending everything else. If your tour also pushes you beyond your comfort zone then the group will support each member, helping everyone have the best experience they can possibly have. When these groups develop ‘synergy’, which is what Aristotle meant when he coined the phrase ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, this can be quite remarkable. Sometimes it can feel like you’re closer to some of the group than to some of your family and you end up with friends to visit all around the world. These tours can open us up to connection and intimacy, making us feel seen and heard in ways we may never have experienced before out of which wonderful friendships blossom.
- The cost can be better than independent.
Even though it seems obvious that a tour operator has to build in expenses and profit margins they may also receive discounts from hotels, restaurants and sites if they book groups of ten or more. If the tour operator has a facilitator and guide living in the country you’re visiting this can also result in them getting better ‘deals’ which they can pass on to you without undermining their own business.
- You often get to visit places you never knew existed because you have specialist guides. Amazing as it may seem there are often phenomenal sites and experiences which aren’t highly promoted and if you have a passionate guide from the area she’ll have made it her job to winkle out all the most unusual and interesting nooks and crannies with which to delight you. The best guides always want to give you that bit extra so expect something out of the ordinary when you’ve found one of these.
- You get to do things you may never have known were options.
Great guides, like the adverts say about Carlsberg beer, will not only know the ‘off the beaten track’ places to show you but will often show you unexpected things to participate in. This could be from climbing behind a waterfall to discover a sacred altar, to walking through underground caverns where initiates had to face their fears to conducting a special fire ceremony depending on the kind of tour you’re choosing.
- You’re more likely to get an authentic experience of the country and its people.
It can be the guide who makes or breaks an organised tour. You want to find a tour with the best guide so you can be sure you’ll receive all the hidden benefits. When the guide is either from the area, and/or passionate about the country and its people they’ll know how to get you under its skin. They should take you to truly authentic places rather than those over-priced ‘made specifically for tourist’ operations. Which also means you shouldn’t get ripped off as you’ll be taken to bona fide local businesses which value your custom.
- And you don’t get a headache if anything goes wrong.
If anything goes wrong on the tour someone else is in charge. The facilitator and guide will speak the local language and know exactly how to rectify things. Your only job is to enjoy the journey.
(All the photos were taken during the May 2015 Peru Odyssey. Many thanks to Michelle, Andy and Iysha for giving us permission to use them.)