Be a Traveler Not a Tourist: Group Tourism You Can Believe In
What’s your favorite way to travel? As a budget traveler, I’ve always enjoyed planning my own itineraries, finding my own adventures, and saving as much money as possible by doing it that way...my way. I love to get off the beaten path, interact with local culture, and find authentic experiences. But I have found three companies that turn the notion on its head that you need to DIY everything to have an adventure. They exemplify the idea that you can have adventure, have authentic cultural experiences, AND be toured around. I can’t wait to share them with you.
Despite my love for spontaneity in travel, and allowing things to unfold naturally, as I get a little wiser and willing to splurge a little more, I’ve discovered a newfound love for booking tours. When I have a limited amount of time (which is almost always), and I want to see as much as I can in a short period of time; when I want local expertise to educate me and guide me, and when I want to eliminate the headache of having to figure it all out myself, a tour group can be the perfect solution!
Some tours really strike out, like the island tour I took with some friends in Cartagena, Colombia, or the bus full of gringos I piled on in Mexico to visit "Chicken Pizza," as the tourists like to call Chitzen Itza. And some are absolutely magical, like the bike tour I took in Bógota, and the day trip to Guatapé and El Peñol I took from Medellín, Colombia. I’m not talking about 50 people loading onto a bus and being shepherded around like a herd of cattle gawking at local people like zoo animals and only interacting with one another. I’m not talking about the cruise ship that drops you off at an over-Americanized restaurant and shopping area before they corral you back to sea. I’m talking about an intimate tour that supports local business, that immerses you in local culture, that gives you an opportunity to meet other travelers with the mission of having unique and authentic experiences.
I think most people book tours for the ease of travel. You pay a little extra to have someone else handle all the details. You don’t have to think or stress, and that’s worth the extra you pay. In the past, I’ve been so hard-pressed to save money (mainly out of necessity, and sometimes out of blind stubbornness), that I’ve missed out on the other aspect of tours that I never fully acknowledged: that they can sometimes provide me a much richer and more in-depth cultural experience than I can create myself, especially when I’m on a time-crunch. I’ve come to discover that splurging on tours, when done right, solves a lot of problems without skimping on authenticity or adventure.
I have yet to book a tour for the entirety of my travels, where every detail of each day is planned out. I usually arrive to a destination and then find half-day or full-day tours to enhance itineraries I’ve created myself. But when it comes to these three trusted companies, I would not hesitate the extra splurge to have them curate my adventure for me. If group travel is an interest of yours but you’re worried about striking out and falling into a tourist trap, you can feel confident that MV Bogma, El Camino Travel, and Rise and Rove will provide you with that rich adventure that you are looking for.
Each of these organizations pride themselves on curated experiences, off-the-beaten track itineraries, and support of local people and business. They utilize local experts in helping you be a traveler, not a tourist, and you’re ensured a small group or individual experience.
MVBogma: “Travel like a local and enjoy like a local.” MV Bogma has a footprint of unique destinations around the world, and are expanding their reach. From a night bicycle tour in Tokyo to a 7-night itinerary in Israel, from a Soviet-style food tour in Russia to an Iguazu Falls adventure in South America, they provide a range of tours and can custom design whole itineraries for you. Visit them to explore their offerings and reach out about what you are looking for. They will do individual and private tours and don’t require a minimum number to run. I love their commitment to finding unique experiences for their travelers. Check them out here.
El Camino Travel: “Be a traveler, not a tourist.” El Camino Travel specializes in small group trips to Latin America, but offers private tours and retreats as well. Their laser-focus on specific countries in this region of the world makes them highly-specialized in offering rich, cultural experiences with a commitment to sustainable travel and authenticity. “Our community is full of adventurous solo-travelers turned group-travel-advocates. We used to be hesitant about group travel, too, but we’ve seen firsthand how special these group trips can be—and we’re never looking back.” Visit them here to explore their destinations and read why you should choose them on your next adventure to Latin America, my favorite region to explore!
Rise and Rove: “Modern group travel for females.” What I especially love about this company, in addition to their values, is that they specialize in adventures for women my age! They are catering to a very specific audience and focus on a select few countries that would be on almost anyone’s bucket list. I love their model and hope to take advantage of one of their amazing tours when we are free to travel again.
“We are Rise & Rove, a modern group travel company designed for females born in the 70’s and 80’s. We say that instead of 'ladies in their 30’s and 40’s' because this is a community that is meant to grow and evolve as we do! We’re in our 30’s and 40’s now, but we’ll still be doing this when we’re superwomen at sixty!” Check them out here.