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Self-guided holidays are on the rise, with a huge 20% increase in travellers going their own way last year. What’s to account for the sudden interest? Exodus investigates.
Self-guided adventuring is on the up, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve seen a steady increase over the past few years, but from 2015 to 2016 we’ve seen a huge 20% rise in people choosing a self-guided holiday – so, naturally, we were curious why.
Travel has never been more accessible or affordable than it is today, and we’re able to travel more frequently and much faster than any other time in human history. It’s certainly something to celebrate, but some things have remained the same: if you’re seeking a more authentic, cultural exchange rather than just a week of sunshine, you still need to get off the tourist trail.
Our heritage has always been small group travel, but the way people travel is constantly changing, so it’s natural that we would evolve as well. Any opportunity to travel, to discover the world in the best way for that region’s idiosyncrasies, and we want to know about it.
Self-Guided Trips in Europe
That’s where self-guided comes in. Because even though Europe is more accessible than ever – or, perhaps, because it’s more accessible than ever – it still pays to get off the beaten track.
And self-guided is a hassle-free way to do it without the framework of a group, but still benefiting from the expertise of 43 years’ worth of experience.
Simply put, a self-guided escape is all the adventure, none of the aggravation. It’s all there laid out for you to pick up when you need it, but you don’t have to worry about it a moment before. Although many of us might love the idea of meticulously planning our routes and our holidays, the reality is, most of us just don’t have the time.
Unless you love spending hours poring over maps – and even if you do – it’s a time-consuming exercise, trying to research the best viewpoints, most interesting routes, how to navigate rural public transport websites with limited information… it all eats up precious hours of the day.
In an era when we’re all feeling increasingly time-poor, it is liberating to know that someone else can get that thorough, detailed organisation down to a tee, without having to spend hours grappling to figure it out by yourself.
European holidays are the crème de la crème of the world’s second-smallest continent, packed with a diverse mix of historic castles and ruins, delicious regional dishes and delicacies, and phenomenal scenery ranging from pastoral riversides to jagged vertiginous mountain peaks.
Every route tells a story, and going self-guided lets you take it all in at your own pace, without worrying about anyone else but yourself. Whether you’re following an ancient pilgrimage trail like the Camino de Santiago or heading off the beaten track to trace the hidden connections between rural communities in Eastern Europe, you’ll find areas rich in heritage and tradition.
But things are still a little familiar – there’s good infrastructure and signposting, and you have your detailed route notes to use for directions. Everything works, it all functions smoothly – there’s no need to overthink every little thing. It frees you up, so you can focus on the parts of your holiday that really matter.
It also allows enough room for a little mystery along the way. The way our friends at ResponsibleTravel.com describe it, “It feels a bit like being on a very well planned treasure hunt when you follow the itinerary of a self-guided walking holiday.”
Because you haven’t done the hours of research yourself, still in store are the little joys of finding special moments along the way – you know there’s a viewpoint coming up, and you know you’re on the most picturesque route to get there.
But it’s still a treat and a revelation when you arrive, and you can stay as long as you want, without the stress of worrying what happens next, because someone else has already sorted your hotel, moved your bags, and figured out the best way to get there for you. All you need to do is go.
Holidays are, like all things, a balancing act – and for many travellers, self-guided gives the perfect balance between independence and expertise. If you’ve ever been put off group travel by the idea of having to run to someone else’s schedule, but still want the benefit of that experience and local knowledge which is so hard to find, self-guided could be the perfect middle ground with no compromises.
Exodus has widely expanded its self-guided adventures, with no fewer than 16 new holidays now just waiting for you. Make this the year you take the plunge!
Browse a selection of our self-guided tours below and start planning your trip.