There will always be a debate over which type of travel is best. Some will argue for the type of travel that involves a one-way flight and a backpack, while others prefer the fewer hassles of an organized tour. Personally, I have travelled on my own, in small groups, and in large groups and have found that each has its strengths and weaknesses.
However, one area few talk about is what I would call hybrid travel—combining organized tours with do-it-yourself. My wife and I did this two summers ago. We started with an organized, small-group tour of Nepal and northern India, followed by independent travel in Beijing and Cambodia, then another organized, small-group tour of northern Thailand. While Thailand can certainly be explored on one’s own, it was nice to let someone else worry about the details after a few weeks of doing that ourselves.
You can also do hybrid travel within one country. This December we’re heading out to Colombia. We found a small group tour that we liked, but it didn’t include a region we really wanted to go to (well, that I wanted to go to as Colombia was my idea). So, after our organized tour, we’re flying from Bogota to Medellin to head out to Guatapé and El Peñón on our own. We’ve only allotted one day for this, so here’s hoping Mother Nature plays along.
Another variation is to travel on your own but with a few organized day trips thrown in. We did this while traveling in the western Balkans. We’d rented an apartment in Dubrovnik, near a major hotel. I’d found a local tour company that would pick us up from this hotel, so after exploring a few days on our own, I booked some day trips with them, including one that took us into Montenegro and another taking us to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We then went back on our own, hopping on a public bus to Sarajevo then, after a few days there, another bus back to Croatia (and another apartment) to explore Split in the north of the country.
There is nothing wrong with traveling entirely on your own or entirely with an organized tour. It depends a lot upon your temperament, budget, and organizational skills. However, nothing says you can’t blend the two now and again.
Photo by Jesse Edwards (originally posted to Flickr as passport stamps) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons