If you’re planning a decent length walk, or a walking holiday perhaps, then one of the first things to decide is whether you’re going to plan your own routes, walk on your own accord and go it alone, or whether you’re going to book onto an organised hiking tour.
There are certainly pros and cons to both options and in some parts of the world even the most seasoned walker would be a fool not to join an organised tour. Many places have hidden dangers that need expert advice from people who know the routes and the areas like the backs of their hand.
Sometimes though you want to take things at your own pace, in your own time and just go with the flow, and that’s when it’s great to go it alone and wend your own merry way.
Whatever your usual preference we compare the two options below.
Going It Alone
The beautiful thing about not jumping on an organised hiking tour and just making your own way is the flexibility. If you’re a seasoned walker then you might not always feel it necessary to be guided on your walk and enjoy the freedom of going it alone.
To start with you won’t have to be at a particular place at a particular time to meet the group for your journey, you can begin in your own time frame with no rush or stress.
As you hike you’ll inevitably have places in mind along the way that you’d like to stop and see and spend time at. Sometimes though when we reach somewhere it’s far more incredible than we’d ever have imagined and walking alone means that if you wanted to and you had the time, you could choose to stick around for a few nights soaking up different areas.
On the other hand you might reach a place and not be as blown away as you’d thought you would. If you’re walking alone it means that you can adapt and rush through places. Rather than being tied in for so many number of nights that organised tours might dictate, you can head off at your own free will.
One of the lovely things about walking is meeting other people, hearing their stories and suggestions. If you aren’t constrained by an organised hiking tour you can take on board other travellers tips and change up your route ideas to head to recommended destinations. When you aren’t under any time constraints you can make last minute changes as and when you like.
The other rather lovely thing about walking alone or in a small group rather than being in an organised hiking tour is that you get to experience the route alone or with just a few people that you’ve chosen to spend your time with. Discovering a magnificent waterfall or taking in the views from the top of a mountain can be a real moment in life and sometimes you don’t want other people around that you don’t know, you just want your moment of bliss alone.
It’s ok not to always want to be sociable around lots of people, perhaps you’ve embarked on a walking holiday to get away from the masses. Going it alone allows you to tread the path you want, as and when you choose with no interference from anyone. Going it alone can feel like a real adventure.
The only thing to say though is that you really do have to be fully prepared if you aren’t going on an organised hiking tour. Do a lot of reading on the local area, know the climate and how best to prepare for walking in it, research any dangerous animals you are likely to meet along the way and just make sure you are clued up so that you don’t run into any potentially very serious trouble whilst out there on your own.
Organised Hiking tours
Booking yourself onto an organised hiking tour is the perfect way to hike for many people.
Inexperienced walkers tend to feel a lot safer under the guidance of knowledgeable walkers and experienced walkers feel they benefit from the abundance of interesting local knowledge that guides have.
You usually find that the guides are really great, knowledgeable people who enthuse about the areas that they take you through and are genuinely wanting you to enjoy the surroundings and have an enjoyable walk with them. You’ll hear many a tale told around a campfire of an evening, and these are moments and stories that will stay with you forever.
If you are heading off to an unfamiliar country for a walking holiday then an organised hiking tour is a great idea. There are so many things to take into consideration when walking in new terrain that booking onto a tour saves you a lot of hassle and planning. Local guides will know what you need to look out for along the way; poisonous plants and animals, deadly snakes and insects, perhaps you’ll come across tribes if you are somewhere remote and guides will know how to be respectful and follow etiquette.
Some stunningly beautiful parts of the world can be extremely dangerous too. Countries that have suffered at the hands of war can have old landmine risks that guides will know about, mountain paths can become insanely hazardous with weather change bringing disorientating fog, and coastal paths can quickly become engulfed by water as tides change. There are many situations that you wouldn’t want to get caught in unless you were with somebody who really knew what they were talking about.
For many people it is the social aspect that draws them onto an organised hiking tour, meeting new, like-minded people is a really nice thing and if you are walking alone then it’s great to experience the trip with others. Speaking from personal experience, during my early twenties I was lucky enough to go on a work trip to South Africa. Off I went with a small group of people I’d never met before. I was blown away by South Africa and as this was my first experience of travelling on my own, I was so happy to have others there to share the experiences with, some of whom I’ve stayed in contact with even to this day.
Sharing experiences with others can form really special bonds that people who weren’t there can never fully understand.