When I first saw the request for leaders to write a blog on this topic my first thought was what would I say, and my second was "but there’s too much too say"! I have traveled a lot as a customer and led a little for Adagio, and I am now back to being a customer.
When my holiday with Ramblers this spring was cancelled because of coronavirus, I decided to spend the time writing up a virtual ideal holiday. Over a month later I’m still writing it, most of it loosely based on my experiences with Ramblers. I’ve done so much and met so many people that it could take a couple of years to finish. It’s great as I’m enjoying all those holidays again. In the meantime, based on my solo travel experiences with Ramblers Walking Holidays over many many years, here are the answers to some questions you might have:
- Will I like the people? - I worry about this every time, in particular it’s before people start to gather at the destination airport - it doesn't make sense though, as I always like them.
- Will I fit in? - I’ve met a huge number of people and can’t remember one who didn’t fit in. It takes up to a day to establish who fits where and after that the groups really work well.
- Am I fit enough? - The office can advise on specific trips, however on the few occasions where someone is less able, the group has always been helpful and understanding and the leader has made minor adjustments to keep everyone happy.
- But how do I really know If I’m fit enough? - You can go for a walk of similar length and difficulty in the UK to give you confidence. Bear in mind that people go on a walking holiday to walk and enjoy the countryside. It’s not a race or an endurance test, although the higher-grade walks are more demanding.
- Will I be alone on the non-walking day? - It’s very much up to you. Generally, I tag along with others or they tag along with me. Sometimes I choose to do something different on my own as I’ve some specific interests, in which case it’s rare for anyone else to join me. If there isn’t a non-walking day one minds if you choose to miss a day to do something else, to indeed nothing if that’s your choice.
- Does anyone care if I’m on my own? - Groups are good at caring for each other and you won't be lonely, but if you want to be on your own no one will mind at all.
- Will the leader help me find something to do on the non-walking day? - The leaders I’ve been with have always been helpful, but so too have some of the guests. I normally plan out something myself in advance because I’m organised, but sometimes someone changes my mind.
- Will I find true love? - If that's your main objective then this is not the holiday for you! You will find good company and congenial friends with some interests in common and some refreshingly different. Beyond that, then it’s up to you!
- Why do you keep coming back? - I go for the holidays that combine walking and culture and particularly enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and the chance to get closer to the country than you do on some tours. I also go on specialised archeology and history tours because that’s another of my interests. … which reminds me you can expect to get a broad variety of interests in a group and there’s usually someone too answer almost any question.
- What advice would you give to a solo traveller? - Pick a tour that matches your fitness and interests. Because I like culture I often walk well below my grade and find it easy to adjust my pace and fit in. Don’t stretch yourself too much, although people are very considerate you don’t want to be forever catching up.
- What are the downsides? – None, except they are addictive. You can make them even better by adding an extra night on your own for running two holidays back to back, the office are always helpful with the arrangements.
- When are you going next? - I’ve ten days booked in the Italian lakes in September and I’m hoping it will run!
And now a word about the brochure. Look carefully at each one. As well as the old friends there are a lot of new tempting new places to explore.
Perhaps we’ll meet some time. I’m the one who is sometimes at the front, sometimes at the back and is so easily distracted by old buildings, art, food and coffee. If it’s sunny you’ll find me under a straw hat.
George Keeling - June 2020