I was 24 going on 25 when I took my first big girl trip abroad. I had graduated from college a few years prior and was really missing the carefree and connected aspects of it all. UC Santa Barbara was my home for four years where I shared a house with 8 wonderful friends, worked at an ice cream shop, lived just two minutes from the beach, and really only stressed about boys and finals. Moving back home and having to navigate all of the complexities of adulthood left me feeling lonely, stuck, and unfulfilled.
In 2018 I saved enough money and PTO from my non-profit job to sign myself up for a small group trip abroad. A trip where I knew absolutely no one, in a country I had never been. A trip unlike anything I had ever done before. My mom wasn't thrilled but I honestly could not wait. At the time I knew just two things: I wanted to travel without handling all of the logistics and I was craving a connection with like-minded people. I figured anyone who was crazy enough to sign up for the same trip as me was definitely going to be my kind of person.
So, off I went on the adventure of a lifetime. All by myself on a 15 hour plane ride ready to meet a bunch of strangers and explore the world. And you know what? That trip ultimately changed the entire trajectory of my life. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, led me to meet the most amazing people, and propelled me to move abroad so that I could continue pursuing adventure and connection.
What Is Small Group Travel?
There's group travel and then there's small group travel; the big difference being the amount of people on the trip. Now, I've gone on many group trips over the years and I can confidently say that small group travel is the way to go. You get all of the benefits of a planned group trip with the flexibility to also enjoy the moment and make your own decisions. There's more individualized attention, opportunities for intimate connection, and room for spontaneity. You truly feel like you're a part of something bigger and I wanted to share with you why.
New Beautiful Friendships
One of the things I love most about taking a trip with strangers is that everyone gets to start with a clean slate. It's not like hanging out with childhood friends who know your whole life story (including every mistake you've made, your flaws, your family drama, and your most embarrassing stories). Nope. It's an opportunity to just be you, exactly as you are now. A space completely free of expectations. How cool is that?
Then there's something truly special about the realization that your time with these people is limited. After a few days or weeks, there's a very real possibility that you may never see them again (although of course you hope that's not the case). Not only does that foster an incredibly intimate environment centered around trust and connection, but it forces you to really live in the moment and cherish the time you do have with them.
On one of my small group trips I found myself in a room with 5 other girls (pictured above) spending hours opening up to each other about our fears, our heartbreaks, and our dreams for the future. We had only known each other for a few days and yet it felt so safe and comforting somehow; like a big hug you didn't know you needed. Despite coming from completely different backgrounds, we all connected through our desire to see the world and meet like-minded people. It was one of the most wholesome experiences I've ever had with a group of strangers. A memory I'll cherish forever.
Bonding With Locals & Guides
Smaller trips allow room for you to forge deeper bonds with people, including the locals and guides who put on these amazing trips for you.
Locals: When I say locals, I mean anyone that's from the place you're visiting who's familiar with their culture, customs, and community. Whether they're working to ensure you have the best trip possible or someone you just happen to meet somewhere along the journey; they're incredibly kind and passionate humans with so many stories and insights to share. It's a privilege having the opportunity to engage with them on a more personal level and learn a bit about their way of life.
Guides: The guides are also next level incredible. They've intentionally chosen to lead these trips fueled by a passion for creating bonds and experiences. Their job of course is to guide you throughout your journey, but the smaller the group the easier it is to focus their attention on connection rather than logistics. They get to be a part of the squad instead of just the person in-charge of it which makes it a completely different and more personal experience.
When I think of all the wonderful people I've met on these adventures I feel so grateful that I had the chance to connect with them in such a meaningful way. Though I have yet to see any of their lovely faces again, I've managed to remain close with many on social media. I absolutely love seeing how we've all grown over the years and it's beautiful knowing that for a short moment in time we were once a part of each others journey.
Flexibility To Go With The Flow
You know how some trips feel like they're on autopilot, with every moment is planned to the second? Small group travel is the exact opposite. Yes, itineraries are great for having a baseline, but life is meant to be lived in the moment and sometimes the best moments are the ones we don't plan for.
Small group trips leave much of the choice making to you, as it should be. Considering everyone has different priorities, having the flexibility to make your own decisions is a huge advantage. If you're an adventurer, you have the freedom to go off the beaten path and explore when you want. If the group is enjoying salsa night so much that game night gets postponed 'till tomorrow, that's totally okay too. What matters most is that people are enjoying themselves. There's not so much pressure to stick to an itinerary when less people are involved in making the decisions.
Usually the moments I remember the most were the one's that happened serendipitously. When you let go of expectation and embrace the here and now, that's usually when the magic happens.
Priceless Shared Experiences
*Here are 10 unforgettable memories from small group trips that have a special place in my heart:
- Tandem bungee jumping - I mean we trusted each other enough after two weeks to literally jump off of a platform hugging!
- Watching fireflies till 4AM under two stacked hammocks
- Celebrating a participants acceptance into law school whom I had just met four hours prior
- Waking up to do sunrise yoga lead by my new roomie
- Getting a tattoo together (sorry mom!)
- Sharing our fave moment of the day in a daily gratitude circle
- Standing in an ant hill then screaming and laughing as we ran away
- Sitting in the back of a truck as we drove through the rainy jungle
- Drinking and dancing with the local guides during our karaoke night
- Crying saying goodbye (more than once)
*all shared with strangers that quickly became beautiful friends!
Join The Adventure
So, if you're wondering why I fell head over heels for small group travel, it's because they're way more than just trips. They're a wild rollercoaster of self-discovery. I've realized traveling isn't just about ticking off destinations; it's about collecting stories, forming friendships that feel like they've been around forever, and understanding that the best parts of life happen when you step outside of your comfort zone.
Your Friends Are Boring offer small group trips that prioritize both adventure and connection. Bringing people together through shared experiences, focusing on forming deep connections with strangers, and providing opportunities to explore new parts of the world is exactly the kind of small group travel I'm down for. If you're on the fence about joining a trip, I encourage you to take the leap and see for yourself all the magic that can come from it.
Here's to chasing sunsets, making memories with strangers-turned-soulmates, and embracing the wild ride that is small group travel.