Cultural Experience | France

Unexpected Benefits of Traveling with Unfamiliar Faces

Traveling with strangers isn’t as strange as it sounds!

Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere, but didn’t have a travel buddy and the alternative of traveling alone didn’t sound very appealing? I found myself in that situation when I wanted to go to Paris, France while I studied abroad in the UK. My usual travel companions had already been there, and taking Paris on my own sounded a bit daunting. Instead, I decided to sign up with ‘Don’t Be a Tourist’, a UK touring company that would host my trip to Paris.

Don’t Be a Tourist did my planning for me. Instead of having to find flights, hostels, and transportation on my own, these all came included with the package. All I had to do was pay the fee and show up. Since it was a tour, I would be traveling with other tourists, which was a relief to know that I wouldn’t be all on my own in a foreign city in which I didn’t speak the language. It also gave me a chance to meet new people. It was a little nerve wracking, at first,I wasn’t sure if everyone else would know each other and I’d be the odd one out, but it turned out that most of my fellow travelers were on their own, just like me.

DSC04855Basically, I hopped onto a bus with a group of strangers who had the same ambition as I did of traveling Paris. It was more exciting than I had expected, and the fact that most of us were on our own made it easy for us to get to know each other. Traveling on your own is fun, but facing a city as huge as Paris can be a little easier – and exciting – when experiencing it with someone else. Especially when you don’t know any French, like me.

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My new travel companions came from the UK, America, Europe, and places as far as China and Australia. It was fun being part of such a diverse group, and through conversation I got to know beyond that of French culture alone. Traveling a city with a group of strangers provided us with a quick and easy bonding experience, and I soon found myself among a group of familiar faces.

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Traveling with a hosted tour group was a great way to explore Paris. It gave us with a guided tour of the city – by foot, bus, and metro – and provided us with meals as well as trips to must-see sights such as the Louvre and the Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as the Palace of Versailles, just outside the city. They also gave us a lot of free time to explore the city as we pleased. By then, most of us had decided what we wanted to see and do for ourselves, and it happened that my own Paris aspirations matched up with one of my fellow companion’s, a girl from the Netherlands. Both of us wanted to climb the Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as see the Arc de Triomphe.

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The large group setting had given us all a chance to scope out what we wanted to get from the city and split off with those who wanted the same. I loved traveling with the group and getting to know the people I was traveling with, but it was also nice to make a friend who wanted to get what I did out of the city. What I loved most about the hosted trip was that I could travel with a group, a few people, one person, or by myself if I wanted. Traveling Paris with Don’t Be a Tourist let me experience the city in all different ways, and while sometimes hosted tours are criticized for being too rigid, or that they don’t give the traveler with enough freedom, I found my hosted tour provided the perfect balance of guided activities and freedom to see what we wanted.

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Paris is an amazing city, and I’m glad I took the chance of signing up to explore it with a group of people I had never met. Not only did I get to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but I got the chance to meet and get to know people I never would have otherwise. Traveling can be daunting in all sorts of different ways, and traveling with a group of people you don’t know can seem unnerving, but you never know who you might meet and what you may learn from them.

While I remain Facebook friends with some of the people I got to know on that trip, I didn’t keep in close contact with most of them. All of us had signed up to see Paris, not make life-long friends, and that was perfectly alright. Traveling, I’ve found, exists in the moment and mostly in our memories, and I’ll always remember the fun I had with the people I met on my trip to Paris. It was fun to experience a new place with new people, and I’m so glad I signed up to travel with them instead of staying home because I didn’t want to travel by myself.

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Stephanie DiCarlo

University of Massachusetts Amherst | 9 stories

My name is Steph and I'm a recent grad of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I traveled to Leeds, England to study abroad during the spring semester of my junior year of college! I love to travel, love to photograph, love to eat, and love to write!


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