Party hard or no party at all
By Morgan Hannah, Life & Style Editor
There are a host of travel booking options for the inexperienced backpacker, which is what I’d like to claim I am. Contiki, G Adventures, and Free & Easy are three examples of companies that act as your travel agent: They’ll take care of booking your transportation to, around, and from your destination, as well as booking your accommodations for the duration of your trip. What separates these businesses from regular travel agencies, however, is the fact that they plan activities and some meals for you, send one or two of their own group leaders with you, and ensure you’re in a group of at least 16 other people aged 19 to 35.
My advocacy for such companies stems from good friends passing information along like they would pass along a note in class. But something important you should know about my friends: They love to drink. They’re the type of people who pack beers in their hiking gear, then set up camp relaxing with ’em. They’re the type of people who drink bottled coolers for breakfast while on a bus in Asia. They’re the type who goes around collecting any unopened bottles of table wine after a wedding ceremony because it’s free. I should’ve known that when my friends offered me their insights on travelling, their favourite activity, drinking, would be a guarantee.
Thanks to my personal experience from 10 days in Indonesia—which I extended by a couple of extra days—I can now confidently say these organizations (or at least the one I used, Free & Easy) are akin to a travelling house party. As much as you want taken care of, will be. I experienced a handful of multi-day stops throughout Bali, including the use of a speed boat to get between the Gili Islands. This allowed me to see more of the islands and helped give me a nudge towards what I liked and wanted more of: culture, art, food, and traditional shopping.
Of course, this meant that I ended up spending a lot of my time separate from the group, but also displays the flexibility of such services should you decide to split off.
Accommodations are often a gamble when you’re backpacking; you never really know what you’re going to get until you get there and it’s best just to plan for that unpredictability in advance. With a travel company though, you can expect a certain standard everywhere you’re booked to stay. At least, you should be able to. With Free & Easy, I stayed in three different places—the first of which was easily the worst accommodations I’ve ever had. But aside from rat droppings on the curtains, stained bedsheets, and staff-acclaimed unsafe streets at one bungalow, the other two places I stayed at were marvelous—big beautiful beds, patios, swim-up bars, and large clean showers all the way!
These agencies are affordable adventure building travel services that save you from planning out the logistics of your trip while allowing you to have a great time and maybe even make some friends too! Whether it’s for the first time or the 10th time, these companies create some good memories. If you’re not big into partying or drinking and instead are looking for a wellness retreat or something more health and spiritually oriented, there are alternatives such as Isa Dinerman, Breathe In Life, Health and Fitness Travel, and Healing Holidays.