About a month ago, I woke up one morning, and as I usually do, (gasp!) I checked my phone. A friend of mine had posted about a Football match in the city the next evening. I saw a chance to break out of the monotonous Home – Office – Home routine I had gotten into, and figured it would be fun to catch the game. I got onto BookMyShow looking for tickets for the match. And that’s when I stumbled upon this trip organized by Plan the Unplanned. I called them up that afternoon and 2 days later, my friend and I were all booked for a trip to Hampi.
And so it was, that I boarded a bus with 30 odd strangers, and only a very vague idea of what I had signed up for.
So here’s the cool thing about traveling with an Organized Tour (gasp again!):
- I booked my tickets on a Thursday, and I showed up at the pick-up point three Fridays later to begin my trip. Apart from the actual booking of the trip (online, and super easy with this particular group!) and packing my bag a few hours before the trip started- I had to put in zero effort. No research about the destination, no worry about planning an itinerary, no million bookings to take care of. At the end of a mind-numbingly exhausting work-week, that’s totally a win for me.
- Although I did have my best friend tow along with me for the trip (because what are best friends for- if not to drag along with you on your wild adventures? 😉 😛 ) but traveling with this group made socializing really really easy. As soon as all of us were on board the bus, the trek leads had this super fun “Introduction” activity. By the next afternoon, I didn’t even remember that I was traveling with a bunch of strangers. And when we parted the evening after that, I was actually sad, because I felt I was saying goodbye to some really old friends.
- The More, the Merrier might not always hold true, but when it does- oh boy! It can be the most unique experience of your life. Traveling with friends is great- but now that school is over, the largest group of friends I have been able to convince for a trip is about 5 people. And here we were – a group of 30 – with ages ranging from 16-57 years old! If meeting new and different people gives you a kick, then this was certainly a super easy and fun way of doing that. There’s never a dearth of conversation or company.
- Bonfires and Dancing are just so much more fun when you have a bunch of fun people around. But the highlight of the trip for me? MAFIA. So I first heard about this game from my (other) best friend, back when I was still doing my undergrad. And ever since, I’ve just been itching to play it. 5 years later, I can finally celebrate the loss of my Mafia virginity. 😛 I guess the more generic takeaway is – there’s all this super cool stuff that you can do when you have a larger group of people. (And yes, this is just a continuation of the previous ‘The More, The Merrier” point. The previous bullet point was growing a little long, so I just started a new one. Because I can. 😛 )
- I tried bouldering for the first time on this trip (nothing fancy – just clambering up these big old boulders – using pretty much only our hands and feet. 😉 ) We rented some Lunas (a brand of prehistoric mopeds) and the first day was all about exploring the Hippie side of town on our shaahi sawaaris. Imagine a group of 30- roaring through those bumpy roads in twos and threes. It’s the kind of crazy caper that makes you feel like a child again. And then, because we still hadn’t had enough, we went for a coracle ride at the Sanapur Lake. There was also a short trek to the top of a small hill to catch the sunset, and then back to camp for dinner and dancing by the bonfire. The point I’m coming to is that – all of these activities happened in the span of one day. Now, before you go all “Oh! I hate those kinds of harried holidays!” on me, let me clarify. At no point did I feel rushed or hurried. Nobody was on our case trying to get us moving (except perhaps from camp in the morning. But our sleepy heads probably needed that prodding. 😅) But because these organizers already knew what activities could be arranged, where we could rent the mopeds from, where to go, what to do- we didn’t waste any time figuring things out, or making arrangements. For someone like me, who tries to fit most of my trips into the weekends, optimizing the time I have, to fit in as many experiences as I can into those 2 days- is a big deal.
- We spent the second day of our trip exploring the heritage site in Hampi. Now, personally for me, this was not really the highlight of my trip. But if it were an important part of my travel, then I sure would have found it convenient to have my own personal storyteller along with me- who could give me all the little scoops of info on what to look out for (like the inverted shadow of the Gopuram at the Virupaksha temple – pretty cool stuff!), and fill me in on all the dirt about the kings who ruled that place. 😉
So this trip was the first time I traveled with a group as a part of an organized tour package. To be honest, for the longest time, I’ve had this impression on my mind that organized tours are all about super strict itineraries and being herded from one must-see attraction to the next, with no care for whether or not I was actually interested in them. But this particular trip that I took with Plan the Unplanned catered more to my tastes in how I like to travel. And since then, I’ve realized that this is an option that offers what I want with a huge dollop of convenience.
(A little aside: they did plan a completely unplanned trip for me, so I think the name is rather apt, don’t you?)
In closing, I should probably clarify- this certainly isn’t the only way to travel- I mean, there’s a different kind of fun to be had in planning your own itinerary, and getting lost, and figuring things out by yourself, and all the adventures to be had in the process of that figuring out. But every once in a while, when you just want to get away from all the stress and do something fun, this is an easy option to try.
So here’s to me for having scratched yet another destination off the list, adding another experience into my bucket, and hoping for several more adventures to come!