There are endless ways to explore the world: solo, with family, as a volunteer, or with a program. No doubt each method offers its own unique perks and setbacks. Having the opportunity to travel more independently with family and friends and with larger organizations like People to People Student Ambassadors and Global Visions International (GVI), I’ve experienced a bit of what these various types of travel have to offer. If you’re considering signing-up with a traveling program, hopefully this little list of pros and cons of traveling in large groups will help you make your decision!
- Meeting people from all over the world is ten times easier in an organized setting. When you think about it, everyone is likely there for the same purpose – to gain invaluable experience in a foreign location and build relationships – so you already have something in common! Many times programs have semi-organized free time or group activities that promote casual socializing. Afterwards you will hopefully have great friends to visit (and who will let you crash on their couches) in other countries!
- Access to special deals, promotions, and events are common perks as organizations usually have deals with popular tourist sites and great relationships with the local community. I’m talking private tours, discounted tickets, and behind-the-scenes information that you would never have known about had you traveled independently. When I went on a three week South Pacific tour with People to People the summer of 2011, all of us students had a chance to meet the mayor of Rotorua, New Zealand, and enjoyed a night dancing our hearts out on a boat overlooking the Sydney Opera House. Could we have done this on our own? Maybe, but definitely not for free like we did!
- You’re going to learn so much. Most large travel organizations have a platform, activity, or issue they are addressing through their program – it could be education, sports, poverty, hunger, health, politics, or cross-cultural understanding, just to name a few. The program I volunteered with through GVI was focused on education. Had I never participated, I would know nothing about injustices that exist in the South African primary school system. The entire experience opens eyes to issues you know little about or, like me, never knew existed.
- Early mornings are part of the packaged deal when traveling with a large group. Depending on the type of program you travel with, schedules vary slightly, but more than likely participants are required to follow a schedule that starts early in the morning. It’s not always terrible, but when jet lag combined with simple travel exhaustion are combined, waking up could be a struggle.
- Yes, there will be some people you don’t care for in your program. But the good news is, there are many other people to focus on and you will not be with them forever. You never know, after your travels you may even miss that one annoying personality.
There are so many positives than negatives that come from traveling with a larger group or organization. I dare you to give it a shot!