If you’re not ready to get into a fierce (and most likely, neverending) debate about the difference between a traveler and a tourist, then you just need to follow one rule: Never mention the word “tours.”
Somehow, tours has become a taboo in travel. “Real” travelers will tell you that joining a group tour is not a “real” way to travel. And that you’re not a “real” traveler if you follow a person with a flag around, afraid to get lost. Which to travelers is the “real” essence of travel.
Similarly, probably because you can’t spell tourists without the word tour, tourists have also suffered the same fate. A tourist is no longer a word that means “a person engaged in tourism” but a throng of souvenir shoppers in tacky shirts engaged in faux travel. Without warning, being a tourist has suddenly become a bad thing. And a tourist in a group tour is even worse.
But does it always have to be so? Do we always have to cringe at the idea of people joining tours out of their own volition? Do we always have to be afraid of being called a tourist even if, by dictionary definition, we are?
Don’t “real” travelers always claim that travel broadens the mind? So, if you are one – a “real” traveler – then, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be open to give travel tours a chance, right?
Besides, joining group tours isn’t all that bad. If you’re traveling solo, taking part of a tour can sometimes save you a bit of money, as most would already cover transport, food, and tour guide costs. This is especially true if the destination is a hard to reach one, and would entail a special way to get there such as riding an all-terrain vehicle, boat ride, etc., in which case, it would be more expensive to travel alone.
First time travelers can also benefit from joining a tour. Through this, they can test the waters of travel, so to speak. It’s always slightly less intimidating to explore a destination if you have an expert to guide you your first time.
Group tours, specifically women only tours, are also worth considering for female travelers. Solo women travelers most especially, who feel – for one reason or another – that it may not be a good idea to be traveling in a particular destination alone, can join a tour to address safety issues that may arise.
Of course, group tours allow you to meet new people. Or in the case of niche group tours, allow you to meet people who have the same interest as you. For example there are tours that are dedicated to cooking, tattoos, books, coffee, alien life forms, etc. It’s always a treat to have travel companions as enthusiastic about traveling for a particular purpose as you are.