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A Backpacker Convert

When I say “organized tour,” what do you imagine? Is it 35 blue-haired grannies sitting on a creaky old bus, eventually to be led through the streets of some European city by a stodgy older gent wielding an umbrella? Is it regimented days where every minute is pre-planned, and every evening spent in some soulless hotel replica watches uk?

I have a little confession to make: I’m a Travel Advisor with STA Travel and up until very recently I was inclined to secretly agree with the above assessments, despite being obliged to feel differently. I have backpacked extensively in Central America, Asia and Europe, and could not imagine how a tour could give you the same flexibility.

But then I was sent on a “familiarization” tour through Europe with Topdeck Tours. After having gone on this tour, I feel a bit na’ve about my earlier assessment of the organized tour. It was absolutely brilliant! All the stereotypes I had before were completely wrong. Of course, as all the tours we recommend are geared to people ages 18-35, I knew there wouldn’t be any elderly folk on my trip, but neither was our tour leader stodgy nor our accommodations dodgy. We were lead with gusto by two amiable Aussies. The places we stayed at were right smack in the center of the cities. After a brief city tour to make sure we had seen the highlights, we had heaps of free time to explore on our own.

I came to see that what I had originally imagined to be a rigid schedule that would limit my experience was in fact the complete opposite. The logistics of meals, accommodation, transportation and safety were taken care of, giving us more time to have an authentic experience.

More importantly, the tours themselves are oriented towards an authentic experience. You will see those absolutely-cannot-miss monuments like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Macchu Piccu in Peru, or the Opera House in Sydney replica breitling. But the tours at STA Travel will also take you to places and engage you in experiences that express a country’s unique character that would otherwise be expensive, time-consuming and aggravating to access. In Europe, you can sleep in a castle in Germany’s Rhine Valley, have a champagne picnic under the Eiffel Tower or go for a Scandanavian polar plunge. In Africa, you can take a three-day cruise down the Nile in an Egyptian felucca, volunteer with a Maasai tribe, or bliss out in Zanzibar. In South America, you can kayak in Patagonia, go for wine-tastings in Chile, or drive across Bolivia’s remote salt lakes in your own four-wheel-drive vehicle. There is no limit to what you can experience.

If STA Travel had not sent me on that tour, I would have missed out on one of the best experiences of my life. It made seeing Europe exciting yet easy, and I made friends for life from all over the world. This hard-bitten backpacker is now a true believer in the tour experience!

April 10, 2007
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