I was born with the wanderlust gene, and I certainly prefer traveling alone. I would hardly consider going on a guided tour, one of those that lasts 2 or 3 weeks. One of the things that usually stops me from doing that is having a schedule to follow. But more than anything else, I fear the possibility of being stuck with a group of people I do not like, with whom I may have to spend my time, sit next to on the bus or the boat, share my meals and at times even a room.
Yet, there are certain places that are best (or can only be) visited with during a guided tour and with a group. Even on my recent trip that took me to Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, I don’t think I would have managed visiting the Bolivian Pampas or the Salares de Uyuni by myself. And I must say I have been usually lucky and met some very interesting people and made some good friends. Mind you, I have also had my share of bad luck in my many travels, and I have met some really wicked persons, so much so that each time the bus left I hoped they would not make it in time and be left behind.
So, here is my list of 11 persons I’d rather not have in my guided tour. Disclaimer: this list is not exhaustive but based on my experience. No offense meant to anyone.
The one who snores
I am usually so tired by the end of any day that is packed with activities when on a guided tour, that I can’t wait to go to bed and I am generally positive I will have a good night sleep, even if I am camping during the Inca Trail, or sleeping in a less than ecologic lodge in the middle of the Bolivian Pampas. That’s until the group member who snores – because let’s face it, there is always someone who snores in any proper group tour – also falls asleep, and keeps me and the rest of the group awake while resting peacefully. No pinching, touching, hissing, making noise would ever stop him. Tip: never travel without a good pair of earplugs. Likes: sleeping. Best match: a heavy sleeper, or a deaf person – aka NOT me.
What are the odd of having a socio or psychopath in a guided tour? According to my experience, high. This “mildly” bipolar Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde group member appears to be a perfectly pleasant, witty, sociable and funny person during the day, but will turn into the worst nightmare at night, when for some mysterious reason he will start screaming and banging on walls and doors, waking me and the rest of the group up – unless the snorer has been keeping us awake already. Likes: one of his multiple personalities. Best match: one of his multiple personalities.
The one that never stops talking
Any proper group tour will have a talker. Mine all did. Some were interesting although intense, some were boring, some plainly annoying. The talker may have some good stories to tell, but who will never stop talking, even at the cost of suffocating while coughing. A proper talker will have something to say at any time, to anybody. I generally pretend to be asleep on the bus, but a good talker is hardly put off, and will soon start a monologue to the next person listening. Tip: wear the earplugs that at night help against the one who snores, and try not to sit next to the talker on the bus. Likes: talking. Best match: anybody who cares enough to listen.
The one who has travelled widely
This may well be me, God forbid! Each guided tour is composed of people who love traveling, and quite inevitably one has traveled more then the rest. This world traveller casually pops in each discussion a recollection of the time he has been to whichever country. The “interesting” fact about the one who has travelled widely is that her experience has not taught her to pack lightly or to evaluate how much money should be taken to dinner (ok, that is definitely not me). Likes: sharing traveling anecdotes. Best match: the talker, but only when s/he listens.
The one that checks everything on tripadvisor
Shame on me, I regularly check hostels and restaurants on tripadvisor, and even write reviews for it! But, I know that tripadvisor is not the ultimate engine to evaluate how good a place or even an attraction is. There are some, however, that before going on a group tour will check each possible hotel used by the tour operator, and base their decision on that. They won’t agree to a restaurant, hostel, attraction, service company, unless it is highly rated on tripadvisor. They will keenly read all the comments and carefully evaluate the best options, only to be inevitably disappointed that the best rated and most expensive restaurant in town had a terrible service and mediocre food. Likes: reading reviews. Best match: anybody who has sufficient means to go to the supposedly best places.
The picky eater
Fine, I admit I am guilty of being the picky eater (but hey, it’s only because I have so many allergies, I promise!) so I feel for any of them. I have a very sensible palate, I am lactose intolerant and I have some terrible food allergies that may cause me a trip to the emergency room. There are picky eaters who would not be so picky, but they have embraced a vegan or vegetarian diet – not too practical when on a tour of Argentina best estancias, where beef is on the daily menu. Then, there are the unreasonable picky eaters who have a real fit of rage if they are served chicken legs rather than chicken breast and ruin the mood during any meal along the guided tour. Likes: complaining about the food. Best match: the tripadvisor – he is surely able to point out a good restaurant in the middle of the desert.
The one that always disagrees
I usually take it easy when I travel – I don’t really have a strong view on what we do, and I follow the decision of the leader and the group. But there is always someone in a group tour – or at least, so it has occurred to the tours I have taken – who makes it a point to state that he’d rather do something else. Generally a shy or reserved person, the one who always disagrees spends most of the time by himself – reading his guide, taking pictures, browsing through the site on his own. He never fully agrees with the program of the tour. When everybody in the group wants to spend the last night on having some sunset drinks at the beach, he wants to shop for souvenirs. His room is too dark, but the bathroom too bright. Likes: nothing. Best match: none – he disagrees.
The one on a diet
I certainly don’t expect to lose weight when traveling. It is my time off, to have a good time and even one too many drinks or a bit of junk food. That’s when I take the chance to try the local specialties, without worrying about the extra weight I will be carrying home, well placed around my belly. But there are people who are convinced that there is no better time to diet than when on vacation. I am not arguing their intents, but their methods would make a nutritionist shiver. The group member, indeed, on a diet likes skipping dinner, because – so he says – his diet only allows him two meals per day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so he piles up his plate with anything in sight. In order to keep hydrated, he drinks as much as possible, preferably mocacchinos with whipped cream. Likes (but will never admit to it): food. Best match: an eating buddy.
I like a good drink at the end of the day, when I am traveling. It is rewarding after a difficult hike, and relaxing after a long day on the bus. But there are people who go on a guided tour who take their idea of holiday and relaxing a bit too far. Drinking a pint of beer while the rest of the group are having coffee, the alcoholic usually stresses that he is not an alcoholic. He goes into a rage when he realizes that there is not a single bar along the Inca Trail. He’s proudly found the cure for travellers’ diarrhea, which consists in disinfecting his bowels with conspicuous amount of margaritas. Likes: anything that has alcohol. Best match: anybody who gets him a drink.
The beauty queen
I am pretty, or so they say. But traveling is not my time to shine. I take it easy on the make up, I go for comfortable clothes, and just take a break from glamour. But any proper group tour has a beauty queen, who is hardly ever seen au natural. She is normally the first one to wake up and rush to the bathroom to fix her pretty face, causing a traffic congestion in any hostel shared bathroom. Whether touring London in search of afternoon tea or hiking through the jungle, her make up is always impeccable. I don’t pay too much attention to beauty queens, but they generally hate me because I may steal their stage at times (especially if I am the well travelled with one too many stories to share). Likes: receiving compliments. Best match: a good looking man willing to flirt, or a beauty queen wanna be that can be trained to stardom.
I like taking pictures that can remind me of the places I have visited, and that I can share on social media to show my friends how lucky I was to visit those countries. But there are some who take their photography passion a bit too far at times, and for some reason, although they’d be better off traveling alone, they like joining group tours. A proper photographer never leaves without his precious bulky camera, he takes pictures of just about anything and anybody. He may detach himself from the group in search of the perfect shot, but will need help upon realizing that, while being totally concentrated on his pictures, his wallet has been stolen. Likes: taking pictures. Best match: a random local he can take a picture of.
Now, the interesting thing of having put together a list of the people I would not want on my group tour is the realization that I may well be one of them! A good starting point to smooth down certain aspects that also make me wicked and annoying at times.
Have you ever been on a group tour? Which slightly annoying traveler are you? Which would be the most annoying group member for you?