Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(Why) I'm Not Too Proud for Group Tour, Part II

While I've already talked about the basics of my tour with Intrepid Travel in India, I never really talked about WHY I decided to do a group tour to India. Some of them are probably obvious, but I thought I'd talk about them a little:

I don't think I would have gone to several places on our itinerary. It's very easy when traveling in India to keep on the tourist trail in part because it's often hard to veer off of it. What I loved most about our tour was the fact that we stayed and experienced both large cities with major sites AND got a chance to see small, rural towns. Honestly, those experiences in more "off the beaten" path locations were really some of my favorite moments on the trip. Over the coming weeks, I'll share those experiences with you, but I know that I wouldn't have even thought of going to many of them. One place we visited wasn't even mentioned in my guidebook and barely comes up in a Google search.

Doing the washing in the town of Tal Waz (I think that's the name of the town. I'm not sure about the spelling.)

I knew being a woman traveling alone in India was not always going to be easy. I'm not trying to scare anyone, but I knew going in that my time in India was not always going to be hassle-free. I read a lot about the experiences of solo women travelers, and they were all a mixed bag. Mostly the answer was, "You'll be fine as a solo woman traveler, but....". Solo women travelers were a rarity (Black female solo travelers non-existent) in my three weeks in India. Our group did encounter or see a few women traveling alone, and there were moments where I felt like a little bit of a punk. Maybe I should have done this all alone? Maybe I can't hack travel like I think I can (I thought I'd overcome that insecurity with my solo trip to Brazil, but maybe not)?

On the streets of Jaipur within the Pink City walls

Can a woman travel alone in India safely? Totally! Would I want to travel solo in India as a Black woman for an extended period of time? I'm not so sure (I'll get into why in many posts). Also I did have 8 days of solo travel during the trip, so it's not like I didn't have the solo experience. I have to admit to you, though, that there were moments when I liked knowing that the men of Team Ozzie and our guide, Pancham, had my back.  I felt there were instances when I was alone that people (okay, fine, men, especially vendors) felt it was okay to a be a bit more aggressive than if I was walking with the male members of our group or Pancham. Although I'll have to tell you about the time I almost got into a fight in Darjeeling, but, that, my friends, is another story.

While we were on camels, our guide, Pancham, used another route. :)

Sometimes I needed to talk it out with someone. What I mean by this is that India can sometimes rattle you. I'd seen extreme poverty while traveling before. I've stood out as a traveler before, but India affected me differently than many places I've been. I call my time there "in your face, full frontal" travel. I think that's why I liked it so much. When I saw or experienced something, it was nice to have someone right there to say, "Hey, did you just see what I just saw?" I was processing so much between my travel journal (the first one I've kept in a long time) and writing e-mails to family and friends, but having someone who was experiencing the same things at the same time who could discuss it really helped me. I know that Team Ozzie and I may not have agreed about everything, but at least we could talk about it all together.

Me during a boat ride on Lake Pichola in Udaipur

For those who've been on group tours what were your reasons? Safety? Ease? A need for company? When would you NOT consider a group tour?


April D. Thompson said...

I've never been with a full formal tour group, but would consider it for a place like India where it cab be overwhelming doing on your own. A good friend is from India and when she returned this year, she will be spending part of the time with a tour group...

Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip and this (almost) fight...

Melissa said...

I've never done a group tour but I have a good friend who has done 2. Europe and Asia. Her main reason was safety, she's 5 foot nothing and tiny so I think for her it was to have that safety net. I would consider a tour but most likely wouldn't do it. I like to go off and do my own thing. It would really depend on the country but I think it is a great option for any solo traveller.

Monique said...

I've never done a group tour but wouldn't be opposed to one. Especially in your situation. Safety, companionship and seeing more than you would on your own are all valid reasons to do it, IMO.


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