Down every street you walk down in Aus, each hostel you stay at there’s adverts for countless trips of a lifetime – from day trips down the ocean road to month long explorations along the east coast. All promising action packed, fun filled days, hilarious tour guides and group of instantaneous (and judging by the pictures very attractive) group of friends. The words ‘worry free’ and ‘don’t miss any hidden locations’ are splashed across the posters alongside the various awards that every tour operator has seemingly won. Yet for me the ‘Do It Yourself’ option is more attractive. I say this despite having finished a short tour just last week and coming ever so close to booking onto another tour for Tasmania next week.
In a nutshell this is why I’m not a huge fan of organised tours:
- Loss of freedom – a planned itinerary means each day is very rigid – get up times, how long we’re spending at each site, no choice to go explore down that little track, don’t stand up there it’s dangerous (our photo locations in the outback were often frowned upon by our tour guide)
- Long waits – when you pull over for a quick stop in the middle of nowhere that takes 30 minutes, all the time the a/c is off in the bus so it turns into a mini oven – not a big fan of those
- Trapped – The people you’re with and the tour guide you have are with you for the duration. No losing them. We were lucky with our guide in the outback she was fairly nice – the other guides we encountered didn’t exactly seem a lot of fun. Plus the people on your tour group may be awesome, but can also be total bores/opinionated jackasses
- Loss of adventure – Tours offer a worry-free all organised option – but isn’t the planning, exploring areas, getting lost, discovering places, checking out what the random local recommended all part of the fun?
Why then did I decide to do one tour and almost book onto another?
The ease of them and the promise of friends.
Our tour around the outback was very straightforward and with the hundreds of kilometres driving that is required to get around the outback, I didn’t feel like doing the driving. I think in our three day tour we probably did around 20 hours driving – something that wasn’t in the adverts – but something that is unavoidable on a budget trip. Me and Adam had initially looked into doing it ourselves, but the sheer distances of travel along boundless nothingness required to look at the various sights out there made doing it ourselves look a very unattractive option. Passing out in the heat of our semi-air-conditioned ‘vintage’ tour bus with iPods in to while away the hours was a much more preferable option.
It was lucky that we weren’t on that tour needing to find company (see this image– we’re fine with each other!) – as the majority of our tour group weren’t exactly a sociable bunch, it was just me and Adam giggling away with our bottles of champagne at sunset – but the friends factor of tours is a big reason that I feel people book them. I’ve never properly travelled alone, having always been lucky enough to know people that want to do similar travels to me. Yes, I’ve set off on travels alone whilst heading out to teach in Italy – but quickly met the other tutors– and so found friends that way; but I’ve never really headed off for months around a country just meeting people on the way.
I’d always imagined that I’d be a great solo traveller, but when I was faced with what I thought was going to be just over a week alone between friends arriving, organised tours suddenly seemed a great option. So quickly my stead-fast opinions of organised tours changed when I found myself planning to be alone. I didn’t want to have to have the effort of the standard traveller getting to know each other questions repeated each evening over some horrendous cheap alcohol. Having the same group of people for a week that would obviously be awesome was what I wanted. So I think my earlier views on tours, whilst I stand by them, can be negated by the simple fact that exploring somewhere with people you like is easily more fun than by yourself – there’s only so many selfies you can take! Whilst you will have to put up with the odd person who annoys you – out of 15 or so people if there isn’t a few you get on with, maybe you’re the odd one out?
I’d still definitely always try and do it myself if I had a friend also wanting to do something similar and it was the last minute arrival of Sarah to Aus that changed my plans. Campervanning solo seems a very depressing and lonely option, but 2 people campervanning is a great adventure where you can explore where you want off the beaten path, take your time, change your itinerary, get lost, find great hidden places and basically do what you like. My opinion does change so quickly when I have a friend available – but safe to say I’m much more excited about the week of adventure coming up than if I was headed to go join a tour.