Never is a hard word.
I would “never” have imagined myself on this trip. A specific group trip.
I’d been on two school trips to France. They were both homestays … but we were a group. And we were frequently touring.
And there was that cruise. The cruise wasn’t a group trip itself per se … but we went on some of those shore excursions. We were herded into buses and shown around. We toured. As a group.
And of course, I’ve been on trips with family and friends; not a group tour, exactly, but still – traveling with someone else.
But it turns out I’m … fundamentally stubborn. Maybe a little selfish.
I like to do things on my own time. When the whim strikes, I want to follow it. To the museum; to the monument; to the coffeehouse; to the record store; to none of the above. I don’t like to have to wait for the bathroom.
(My whims do come with a bit of a caveat, though: I really like knowing where I’m sleeping tonight, and tomorrow night too. And I like knowing how I’m getting there. Preferably all in advance.)
Sometimes I feel bad in retrospect; the amount of sulking I must have done with just one other person … it couldn’t have been very comfortable for the other party. And that would have just been one-on-one.
See, I also had this image in my head, of the kind of travel I would want no part of: A follow-the-flag, matching-fluorescent-visors, white-socks-with-sandals group tour.
A no-room-for-whims kind of trip.
And that commercial for the all-inclusive resorts. Where’s the whim when you’re … stuck?
Maybe I’m not wholly stubborn. Maybe I’m also … judgemental.
Maybe I just … needed to be a little open-minded.
Maybe I just needed a little nudge.
That nudge came over social media. She was a woman I hadn’t interacted with in…what had it been, 8 years since that time I handed her my neighbor’s spare key Morocco?
(Even that’s not entirely true; I saw her in Melbourne a few years later at a wedding.)
I knew she was in the travel industry. I knew she … ran tours. In Morocco. For women. In groups.
I also knew that I still didn’t fit precisely into her typical demographic otherwise: I’m not Australian … and I’m a bit on the young side for her usual group. And I had lived in Morocco already.
And I like doing things on my own.
And then … it flashed across my newsfeed. Something entirely different.
A week-long trip – for up to ten women – to a resort – in Thailand. Another place I’d already been.
Not my thing. Right? Right. But see – it’s like my theory on dessert menus; there’s no harm in looking. Right? Sure, send me the itinerary; I’ll take a look. Maybe I’ll get the cheesecake, but I certainly don’t have to.
But then, sometimes – suddenly – maybe a little inexplicably – the cheesecake sounds good. Really good.
So I ordered the cheesecake.
I … went on a group tour – the kind of trip I’d “never” go on. To a resort – the kind of place I’d “never” go.
And you know what? I loved every minute of it.
We had massages and scrubs and facials; we had yoga classes; we went to markets; we had a vegan cooking class. We went to a national park and – miraculously – saw wild elephants. We sat by the pool. A lot. We ate noodles. A lot. We ate breakfast together. Every morning.
Was I outside my normal traveling comfort zone? Absolutely.
Three of the five of us travelers had already been on one of the Moroccan tours with our guide (and two knew each other from their university days). One hadn’t traveled by herself (meaning, without her family/kids) in a long time.
And then there was me. Silently stubborn, selfish, judgemental, solo-traveler kid.
I loved every minute of it. Even the uncomfortable minutes.
Don’t misunderstand me; we weren’t exactly tied at the hip. Our days weren’t scheduled down to the nanosecond. I had plenty of opportunity to wander off on my own. And I did. Much to my surprise (which is saying something on this trip), I even went to the fitness room, and ran on the treadmill. Twice.
And I had a whole extra day at the back end to follow my feet – my whims – back in Bangkok, which I did. And wouldn’t you know it: I found my friend, the non-solo-traveler, at the Jim Thompson House. We spent the rest of the day together.
I wouldn’t have had it any other way.