I’m slumped down on my backpack in a corner Termini Train Station wondering what my next move is. Tuya sits next to me going over the train timetable in her hands – as if hoping that if she stares hard enough, a new opportunity to get to the airport would arise. We had missed the last train to Fiumicino where we were hoping to spend the night lounging among the luggage carousels until the morning, when our flight was scheduled to leave. However, one mistake, and we ended up on the streets with the only option of getting there being a sixty euro cab ride, or trying our luck with a questionable hostel and possibly missing our flight in the morning. Welcome to independent traveling. Where the trains are simply unable to depend upon to come at a certain time and hostels book up the instant you need them. Where tickets are purchased for the wrong dates and street signs become unreadable. Though it is these °on your own° travel plans that usually stir up the greatest adventures and the °it wasn’t funny then but it is now° stories, sometimes, the only desire is to sit back and enjoy the view out the window instead of the map in front of your face.
Cue the idea of guided travel or group touring. Many are nervous when booking a tour of any sort. I have heard the typical explanations as to why it would never work out; °but I don’t want to be herded around in a group,° °but it won’t be the same experience.° They are understandable, but sometimes it is so much easier to climb into a bus and curl up against the window seat and not have to worry about if the connection will work, what stop to get off at, or if there will be a strike in the middle of your vacation plans. And there is a guaranteed bed when you book a trip.
Sitting in Balmers hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland. I watched as Cody stumbled into breakfast- he had been my bunkmate from earlier in the weekend, but now the hostel was full and he had no place to be.
“So, where’d you end up?” I asked as he set down his tray of breakfast that he had bought seeing that he had no free breakfast cards.
“Well I stayed up as long as possible on the couch,” he muttered, squinting at the type of jam packet he had in his hand, “And then they kicked me out of there, and then I went up to the hammock room and it was freezing but open so I was there for a few hours until they found me, and then I just walked down the street to a clearing and had to set up my tent.” He stirs his coffee as he looks up at me.
“Next time, I’m booking a trip with you guys,” he concludes, and I have never been happier to have a bed complete with a patchwork quilt that keeps away the alpine breeze.
When in Ireland, I took a ten day tour. The wheels on the bus went round and I would hop off, take pictures, stay in hostels and experience areas I could never get to by train or public bus. Try asking a public transportation Irishman to pull over for a second because you need to take a picture of the sheep on the side of the road…not happening. But with a tour, you can have sheep pictures forever! I had an excellent time filled with fables from the Irish tour guides and the people I met on the bus are now some of my friends spread around the world. We’re planning a reunion trip and swap travel stories constantly. I would have never met as many wonderful people on my own – when hostel beds are silent at night and most keep to themselves. Traveling with a group does not make you a tourist. It makes you a traveler without the hardships of coordinating time tables, trains, planes, and automobiles. It can help you get more places in a shorter amount of time (think five or six countries on one pretty awesome bus trip.) Try doing that with just a train schedule and get back to me. It’ll be the hardest puzzle you’ll ever have to do. A tour allows you to travel for the pure enjoyment of experiencing places and cultures instead of airports and angry conductors, ticket women, and grumpy old info booth attendants. The extra few Euros is worth it. Plus, you’d just spend them on changing your mismatched tickets in the long run anyway.
As Tuya and I walked out of Termini, a man named Melody tried to help us buy a taxi.
°Wait until the bars close and the cabs are cheaper,° he boasted to us as he led us across the street to a bar full of the wrong kind of people. And we sat there in amused misery as this man attempted to make us dance as others were creepily eying our luggage stuffed in the corner of our booth. The minute the clock struck two we ran to the cabs, bartered down to forty euro (much more than the twelve it would’ve taken if we hadn’t missed our train) and sat in the airport as it became busy in the early hours of the morning, our bums growing icily numb on the cold marble floor. The next weekend, we were on the Bus2alps trip to Interlaken. Get on the bus, get off right outside the door to the hostel. Bed, Breakfast, and a guide to tell us just where to ski, to eat, and the secrets of one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen. As we climbed into bed, Tuya’s voice echoed off the wooden beams.
“This is so worth it,” she sighed and rolled over – escaping from airport floors and train station bars.
It was definitely worth it.
I’ll see you on the bus.
Lisa Harvey is a current Bus2alps travel specialist and loves that her job consists of helping others see the world as it should be seen – through the eyes of a traveler, not a tourist. However, she also has excelled in airport sleeping, train strike evasion, and the random encounter of the agitated taxi man at odd hours in the morning.