When I told my mum that I was travelling by myself to Bhutan, she raised an eyebrow. When I added that I was joining an all-women group to Bhutan, organized by Byond Travel, the other eyebrow curved upwards too, in disbelief. (By the way, we‘re going back to Bhutan in MARCH 2017! Join our women-only group now.)
Yes, a solo traveller joining a group trip may sound like an oxymoron, but it can be done! Even though initially uncomfortable with travelling with strangers, my recent trip to Bhutan with Byond showed me some of the undeniable benefits of group travel.
First things first, when I say ‘group travel’, it doesn’t mean that you’re thrust into the company of big, noisy families or honeymooners. You are paired with other women, many of them solo travellers themselves, which leads to a lot of excitement.
You get the best of both worlds
When you travel with other solo travellers, you get to enjoy the activities in the program as well as a lot of ‘me time.’ In Bhutan, after visiting major attractions and iconic sites with the group, I had almost half a day to myself, so I took long walks, enjoyed many cups of tea whilst being mesmerized by the locals, and then watched the sunset. You can do all of these alone or with your companions, with no obligation.
If I had decided to go to Bhutan as an independent traveller, I would have spent months and months researching on where to go and what to do during my time there, and still, I know I would have missed out on something because I am no expert.
Byond, on the other hand, had a dedicated travel expert who made sure that we saw the iconic sites and local highlights AND included many elements of surprise, such as savouring a meal with a local family, and a session on archery and rafting.
They brought in their personal experience instead of a guide book’s list of to-do’s, thereby beating the tourist herd mentality and made our trip truly unique and immersive.
One of the most exciting aspects of group travel is that you get to meet like-minded people who share your interests and enthusiasm, and some of these interactions lead to a start of a beautiful and life-long friendship.
I was very worried that I would not get along with my travel mates, but surprise surprise! I met some very interesting 28 and 40 year olds who came from different walks of life. They shared some of my passions like food, travel and life but also added fresh perspectives to the mix.
I instantly hit it off with them and I know it is a start of a long lasting bond. It is never too late to make friends.
Shared, memorable experiences
Yes, us independent travellers do like to do things our way – but you just cannot deny how enjoyable it is to share experiences, from gushing over a cute guy or gal who walked past, to figuring the way out together when you are lost.
In Bhutan, my energy levels were high throughout my entire trip because I had my ladies to keep me going, whether it was cheering me on when I tried my hand at archery, bargaining together at a discount shop, drooling over the food or motivating each other to complete the trek to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. We did it all together, doing things ourselves but enjoying each other’s company throughout.
My point is that however old you are, travelling in a group is easier than you think thanks to boutique tour companies who plan out your travel program, manage your bookings, connect you with the other travellers beforehand through social media and offer a wide range of flexibility during your stay.
Believe me, travelling with a new crew and making new friends while exploring the world is definitely the way to go; you’ll definitely want to tick it off your bucket list soon.
Gayatri Iyer is a multifaceted, dynamic young person and is currently the Chief Creator of the platform ‘Chef In A Box’, which is developed for cooking enthusiasts in New Delhi. Up until last year, she balanced a plush corporate job with indulging her creative side, which led her to author a short story book called ‘Life’s Macchiatio-A collection of your stories’, learn traditional Indian art like Gond and Phad art and become a contributing artist selling merchandise on postergully.com.