Women Group Travel With Independence
Wandering Women Enjoy Traveling Together
|Fellow women travelers in a small group with Beth Whitman (second from left) in Bhutan.
In recent years it has become more and more acceptable for women to travel without their husbands, significant others, or children. However, this trend does not mean that women are all traveling solo. While I have enjoyed my solo travels tremendously and I am a big advocate of women hitting the road on their own, I have also experienced the immense joy of traveling with other women.
You may choose to travel with an organized group to get together with women from diverse backgrounds and explore new destinations. In addition to the excitement of being on the road, you can then have the benefit of developing budding friendships. Or, you may decide to travel with family or perhaps women friends whom you have known for a long time. These trips allow you to deepen relationships in the company of people with whom you already have a history. Whichever choice you make, an adventure with other women might be just the thing you need when you are not up for traveling solo.
When planning your trip, consider where you would like to go, what you would like to get out of the journey, and with whom you would like to travel. Be sure to make plans with someone who fits your travel style, or join a group that has similar travel and life philosophies.
Group Tours for Women
Though it might feel like a leap of faith to join a tour group as a solo traveler, you might be surprised at how quickly you will bond with the other women. When you are out of your element, often your guard is down and you are more willing to share experiences and details of your life that you might not normally share with even your closest friends. Depending upon where you are traveling, physical and/or emotional limits may be tested—which also helps you to quickly bond with others.
My first tour group experience was a trip through Bhutan, where you may only travel as part of a group. Oh, I should mention that I was the leader! Despite my role as the organizer, the liaison between the group and the in-country guide, as well as the morning wake-up bell, I managed to make friends with some of the most unique women I have met in a very long time. We came from cities around the U.S. and England, and with very different career experiences. Our group included a personal organizer, two artists, a sales rep in the publishing industry, a technical writer, a human resources manager, and a retiree. We could not have been a motlier crew, yet, we all got along fabulously. We laughed, hiked, and had a marvelous time together. So much so that we continue to regularly stay in touch with news of Bhutan and elsewhere.
When you travel with a group, your new friends have no preconceived notions about you. You do not carry the same “baggage” as you might if you were traveling with people whom you have known for a long time. You have the freedom to loosen up, try on a new persona, and be open to both a new destination and new people.
Before you book your trip, get to know a little about the tour operator and, if possible, the other members. You want to be sure that you are not joining a group who want to party endlessly if that is not your style, and that the tour focuses on things that interest you. No sense in spending all of your time trudging through museums if you prefer to spend your time outdoors hiking.
Make a conscious choice as to whether you want a single room (for which you will usually pay a single supplement fee) or if you are willing to share. If your sleeping pattern is odd or you have habits that might annoy a travel mate you are just getting to know, consider getting a room of your own and incurring that extra expense.
If possible, try to get to know the other women on the tour prior to departure. You might wish to call or email other participants so that you are not getting to know them for the first time on day one.
Independent Travel… with Other Women
If you want to travel with someone you know but your pocketbooks and vacation times do not fall into line, consider finding a travel partners through a website such as Women Traveling Together. The organization functions, in part, as a network of women of all ages who travel and vacation in small groups. The membership consists of women, so there may be plenty of opportunities for you to find suitable connections if you so desire.
Search for a travel partner with similar interests and inquire about her sleeping patterns (if you will be sharing a room), eating preferences (she might eat her big meal at breakfast while you love a big lunch), travel style (fast- or slow-paced), and budgeting parameters. You have the option of sleeping in a room alone with plenty of free/alone time.
Keep in mind that if it is going to be just the two of you (as opposed to an entire group), you will want to be very selective about whom you travel with. You will be spending a lot of time together. Friendship (or lack thereof) can make or break a dream journey.
Traveling with Friends
Today, few of us live in the same town where we grew up or went to college. We may have followed a dream job half way across the country or joined our significant other who settled in a location far from people we have known all our lives. Despite the distance, most of us have maintained connections with friends from our youth or school days. Keeping in touch through social networking websites such as Facebook or Twitter, while fun, generally does not provide a very deep connection. However, planning a shared destination adventure can give you an opportunity to reconnect with your friends once again while being away from the stresses of everyday life.
For our collective 40th birthdays, I gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate with a group of my high school friends from around the country. While a few of us shared a suite, others felt more comfortable staying in a private room. Even though years had passed since some of us had seen each other, we got along as if time stood still. At times we made concessions and the group split up to dine at different restaurants or to attend separate shows, but enough group activities had been collectively scheduled to allow us enough time with each other to reconnect.
If you are considering a trip in which you will be getting together with old friends, seriously consider your compatibility with these potential travel mates, since many years may have passed since you last saw each other. Traveling can be stressful for some people. You will want to know well in advance how the other woman (or women) handles a difficult situation and how much travel experience she has or when compared to yours. If she her travels have been relatively modest, consider an “easy” destination, such as the Caribbean or Mexico. If all goes well, you can always branch out to do something more adventurous on the next trip.
Be up front about your expectations and be open to what your travel companions expect from the trip. The only way to enjoy a successful journey is through compromise. You might have one person make arrangements for group activities but build in some flexible time to allow everyone to disperse on their own paths if they so desire.
Bonding with Family Members
Trips where mothers and daughters or sisters can gather in one location and explore often result in rewarding family time. Travel can bring together family members who do not spend much time together and can deepen bonds with already close siblings.
I traveled with my mom to Australia, where we stayed in youth hostels along the East Coast, and to Mexico, where we set up base in a small village and explored the surrounding towns via bus. These trips gave us an opportunity to bond in ways we could never have imagined. I became the teacher, showing her how to calculate exchange rates, and she was a willing student, who returned home with memories of what she referred to as the “time of her life!”
Though it may be difficult to avoid, it is particularly important to not fall into old (bad) habits when you’re traveling with family members. You want your journey to be relaxing and enjoyable. A gentle reminder to all involved that this is a time to fully enjoy one another’s company may be all that is needed to make the trip a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
When traveling with other women in your family, you will want to take into consideration the age ranges and, therefore, the energy levels of each person. Try to plan activities to ensure that older members get enough downtime in order to replenish their physical and mental capacity.
Above all else, remember that people change and that your once-annoying little sister may have matured into a woman eager to explore the world with you.
No matter who is lucky enough to join you on your travels, you should know that the road is not a lonely place. If you are open to travel, whether you are an independent globetrotter traveling around the world with girlfriends, or you join an organized group to take advantage of all it has to offer, you are sure to meet a number of lifelong friends along the way. The key is to be open to the experiences not only of the road, but to new relationships.