Nothing is more exciting than the exact moment when you decide you’re going to go travelling. You’re immediately filled with adrenaline, ready to go, ready for anything. Thinking about what you’re going to do, what you’re going to see, who you’re going to meet. You feel like you could just hop on the plane tomorrow.
But then you’ve got to organise. You’ll lose track of how many travel websites you’ve visited, how many brochures you’ve flipped through. Hostels all start to look the same and you’re ready to just YOLO it. But consider this: do a tour.
There’s still a bunch of brochures to sort through and you’ve got a few things to pick: where you want to go, how long you want to go for, what kind of experience you want (I didn’t even look in the camping section, but I’m sure at least one of you out there will be into that), what company you’ll go with.
As I’m sure you know, there are a few companies out there, like TopDeck and Contiki, specifically targeted at young people, taking them on adventures all over the world. The second best part of doing a tour is that all your accommodation is organised for you, but you’ve still got plenty of time to do your own thing–free days to explore the cities, free nights to experience the nightlife. Often, there’ll be meals included as well, so you’re not wasting your precious spending money on buying breakfast, lunch and dinner (save it for the souvenirs, or more importantly, the snacks).
You’ll get to skip queues at landmarks and participate in plenty of optionals you’d never have thought of before (live sex show in Amsterdam anyone?). Plus, you’ll be learning about the history and culture of every place with walking tours, your leader’s information and your own sense of adventure. You’ll be squeezing as much as you possibly can into the short time you get to spend at each location, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my tour and travelling alone after–you don’t need more than two nights anywhere.
If the organisation is the second best part of a tour, what’s the best? It’s the travel family you become a part of. You’ll be spending all day every day with these people for weeks, or even months, so you’ll get to know them faster and deeper than you’ve ever got to know anyone before. There’s no room for shame on a tour.
If you’re worried about going alone: don’t be. It can be a bit nerve wracking the night before your tour, and in the morning when you don’t know anyone yet, but fear not.
I can’t speak for other tours, but my group bonded pretty immediately over the fact that our tour leader had selected “Don’t Stop Movin’” by S Club 7 as the trip song, and when introducing it to us, danced down the bus aisle. You can’t listen to that song at least three times every day without it forcing everyone to celebrate together. We would go OFF when it played on our nights out.
You’ll see buses of another tour company and they will automatically become the rivals of your tour fam, which is clearly superior. You’ll see buses of the same tour company and they will automatically become the rivals of your tour fam, which is clearly superior.
You’ll bond over experiences, bucket drinks and days spent in traffic or on a 10 hour bus ride in the middle of a European summer with no air conditioning (it was this that made us realise how solid our group was gonna be, because this was only the third day). In-jokes will abound and you’ll come home with a trip shirt covered in weird things nobody else understands.
As the tour comes to an end everything becomes a ‘last’: last bus ride, last dinner, last drinks, last trip song. One thing I never thought I’d do in my life was cry while listening to S Club 7, but I’ve done it now. When the tour’s over, saying goodbye to your friends is sadder than graduating high school, especially when they live interstate and it’s going to be difficult to catch up with them regularly.
You’ve traveled the world. You’ve endured bus seat wars, terrible showers, tipping disasters. You’ve seen everyone absolutely smashed and cheered when they hooked up with someone from another group. You’ve seen everyone at their daggiest, and their trashiest, their most hungover. You’ve seen a girl from another tour drunkenly sh*t on the deck of the cabins, and that’s something that will hold your friendships together forever.
Honestly, doing a tour was the best decision I’ve ever made. I can’t recommend it enough. Whether it be part of your gap year, a whirlwind uni hols getaway or a summer Eurotrip, it’s an experience you’ll never regret.