One Can Be The Loneliest Number!
As a working Mom my days, weeks and months are filled with work and kids’ activities. I do admit that when an opening for some “me time” comes along, I am ready! The opportunity for a familiarization (FAM) tour from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Railway, an area of the world I had never visited was one of those opportunities. At Wells Gray Tours when we have the chance to send staff out to explore a new destination for us, putting boots on the ground, we do it.
Many FAM Tours are organized by industry associations that Wells Gray Tours belongs to, so you often find yourself travelling with colleagues that you may know and speak your language. The Trans-Siberian Rail tour was offered by Lernidee Trains who is our direct contact for our group in July 2018, so an ideal way to get a real hands-on look at what our group’s experience would be.
After travelling alone from Kamloops through Vancouver to Beijing I arrived tired and hungry and realized “big time” the advantage of group travel. Getting through the airport, securing transportation and getting to your hotel can be challenging in a foreign country. At Wells Gray Tours we always send a Tour Director with every tour to eliminate the confusion and make the transition from the airport to the start of your great adventure seamless.
I had planned a couple of days in Beijing prior to meeting the group so I could see
firsthand some of the product we currently offer on our tours and explore future potential sites. I arranged for a guide prior to my arrival and he meet me in the lobby of my hotel right on time. Planning in advance ensured the guide spoke English and created a successful day. It was however during the first few days on my own that I learned how as Three Dog Night wrote, “One Is The Loneliest Number”. Travelling alone in China is possible but even a seasoned traveller who does not speak the language may discover things about themselves that they previously hadn’t thought much about. For me this is what I found:
• No One Has Your Back: Travelling alone wherever you go means that if you need or want to go into a store at the airport or use a restroom you are dragging all of your carry-ons with you. Asking your travel companion to watch your stuff while you go for a walk, grab a bite to eat etc. is so much easier. Falling or getting sick is another area where it is nice to know someone you are comfortable with is there to help should the need arise.
• Communication and Technology: In many of the countries I have travelled to using Facebook and Google have not only allowed me to share my trip as I journeyed but also allowed me to research sites, hotels, restaurants or attractions in these destinations. In China there is a block on Facebook and Google, you cannot use these sites. I could pull up Bing, but only the Chinese language would appear, and navigation was difficult. Having a guide to ask my questions or explain rather than googling is a great benefit to travelling in a group.
• Dining Alone: A table for one, and dining alone is something I am not used to.
I love time sitting around the table with family or colleagues and the exchange of conversation. In Beijing I experienced another challenge as the restaurant staff did not speak English and getting the menu proved challenging even with the help of my phone translator. When I did feel I was successful in my communication the menu that arrived was a beverage menu only. Back too square one!
• Capturing the Moment: You need a selfie stick and to become an expert at taking your own photo if you want to save the moment you stood in the Forbidden City. Yes, you could ask a stranger to take your photo but that is not always the best idea.
• Sharing the Journey: Some of your most treasured travel memories, funny stories and interaction with the people you meet are hard to explain to someone who was not there. Reliving those moments with a travel companion enhances those memories. With the internet and Facebook it is easy to keep in touch, exchange photos, and plan your next great adventure.
• Me, Myself and I Travel: During my time alone on this amazing Fam tour, I discovered that for me, solo travel is defiantly not my first choice. I like group travel for the safety aspect, the camaraderie, the new friendships, and the hassle free preplanned experiences. I travel to learn, have an adventure and doing it stress free enhances it all for me.
• The FAM Experience: Once I joined the FAM group that I was going to be travelling with I felt so much more relaxed and ready for anything. We were a small group of 23 and all English speaking coming from 7 countries; Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Finland, Norway, US and Canada. Most were couples or friends travelling together, but there were a few singles. Our group got along really well and no one was left out, we felt like a large family at the end of the trip and we still keep in touch. Below is a picture of our group at the Euro/Asia border.
In closing, I would like to say what we hear from many of our clients that choose to travel with Wells Gray Tours, is that by the end of the tour you have made new friends, shared new experiences and future journeys are often planned with people they met while on tour. We hear this from those clients that are travelling with a partner and those that are solo travellers within the group.
Written by: Stephanie Dilling