- Photo Essays
Independent travel versus joining a tour....sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and do something you wouldn't normally do.
I’ve only travelled in an organised tour once. Not because I am completely averse to the idea, but because I’m independent and stubborn and tend to prefer to figure things out on my own.
I had spent almost a year living in Vancouver and I desperately wanted to see the Rocky Mountains before I left. My boyfriend at the time had promised to take me on a motorcycle trip through the Canadian Rockies but as my departure date grew closer I got tired of waiting. (But in hindsight, how amazing would that have been?) I had limited time, funds and patience so I swallowed my silly independent pride and on a whim booked myself on a cheap flight to Calgary and into my first organised tour.
Flying to Calgary turned out to be an adventure in itself. It was about two weeks post-September 11, everyone was still a little nervous about flying and the airports were only just beginning to adjust to the aftermath and chaos caused by all the closures. And to the new security regime. It was interesting to be travelling at a time when everyone was still finding their feet again with regards to air travel and seeing the very beginnings of a system that paved the way for the one we have in place today.
Anyone who travelled before September 11 will remember how quickly and easily one breezed through airport security in the US and Canada. Immediately afterwards however, security was at it’s absolute peak. Almost everyone’s luggage was hand searched and large confiscation containers overflowed with all the newly restricted items: nail scissors, cutlery, aerosols, suspicious liquids etc. All of the things no one had looked twice at ‘before’ and that passengers were still carrying. Including myself.
As I was only travelling for a week or so I had no checked luggage, only carry-on, most of which turned out to be contraband. I think almost half the contents of my pack ended up being confiscated. I still had all the non-sharp/potential-liquid-bomb essentials though, so I was good to go!
I was sceptical about the tour right up to when I joined my group at the hostel in Calgary but my scepticism soon faded. I chose this particular tour because it was a small group adventure tour that promised very little time on the bus and more time exploring and doing. And surprisingly, it was exactly that!
We headed straight for the Banff National Park and more or less trekked our way through the tour marvelling over the beauty of the Canadian Rockies as we moved further up the Icefields Parkway. We stayed at rustic little huts with no electricity deep in the mountains and spent our evenings toasting marshmallows over the open fire and sharing travel stories. We saw giant elk roaming, trekked across a glacier, hiked around Moraine Lake and Lake Louise and loads more. The people in my group were also great and I’m still friends with two of them. I loved every minute of it which, to be perfectly honest, was the last thing I expected!
I chose the perfect tour for what I wanted and walked away happy. I think the trick is to choose carefully. There are so many tour companies now and so much competition that you should be able to find a tour that exactly suits your needs – adventure, under/over 40’s, sightseeing, budget, luxury etc. If it’s only the fear of the unknown or getting out there on your own that is stopping you from travelling, drop everything you are doing, stop reading this blog, find yourself a good tour group and….go! Right now.