Colombia was the first country I ever visited as a solo backpacker back in 2016. Six years later, I decided to return to this amazing country that captivated me all those years ago. Life has changed a lot since those early days of backpacking, and I’d never imagined that I’d still be on the road half a decade later.
I initially flew back to Colombia because my Mexico visa had expired and I needed to leave the country. The initial plan was to pop down to nearby Guatemala for a few days. While browsing flights, I noticed that it was the same price to fly to Medellin as it was to Guatemala. My life motto quickly popped into my brain: por que no? Why not?
I booked the flight and flew to Colombia on a whim. At the airport, they made me book a return flight so I booked one for two months later thinking I could just cancel it for free once I was settled into Colombia. Turns out, I couldn’t. Sure, it really wasn’t all that much money, but I took it as a sign from the universe to stick it out in Colombia for a while. Revisiting the country that formed my roots as a solo backpacker, nomad, and travel blogger with a new lens was bound to be a meaningful experience.
It was fitting when TruTravels reached out and invited me to tag along on their 12-day Colombia Uncovered group trip. After running my own group backpacking trips, I realized just how valuable these group experiences could be. International travel, especially solo, can be quite scary. My own journey as a solo traveler of six years hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. I’ve made many mistakes, and for every high, there were an equal amounts of challenges along the way. Traveling with a group of fellow adventurers led by an experienced, knowledgeable guide can be a huge game changer. It goes beyond the actual trip itself, as it will leave with you countless lessons and experiences to help you take on the world on your own in the future.
My page has always been helping people get out and see the world by any means necessary. I haven’t been able to keep up with the demand for my own group trips, so I’ve been looking for a company I could trust to recommend my audience to. I accepted TruTravels’ invitation, and after spending nearly a month in Medellin, I was ready to hit the road with TruTravels.
One of the immediate things that stood out about the Colombia Uncovered tour was its itinerary. Twelve days isn’t a lot of time, but we were able to squeeze in vastly different regions of Colombia in that brief period of time. From the sprawling city of Medellin to the tranquil jungles of Minca to our own private paradise Caribbean island, we maximized our time exploring the diverse beauty of Colombia.
Despite having visited Colombia before, we visited many places I’d never even heard of. That’s one of the cool things about traveling with an experienced guide and company that knows the ins and outs of a country better than a first-time solo traveler. Sure, you’ve heard of Medellin and Cartagena, but Buritaca and the San Bernardo Islands had never even been on my radar. This trip with TruTravels balanced a lot of must-visit classics with hidden gems.
Looking through the other adventures that TruTravels offers, you’ll find that as a consistent theme. I’ve visited many of the countries they host group tours to. All of them take you to the can’t-miss destinations of a country while sprinkling in a few lesser-known gems here and there. From Sri Lanka to Thailand, to even my home country of The Philippines, the itineraries truly impressed me. Another thing was how dynamic the itineraries can be, and how responsive and aware the guides were to each group and their energy. It’s easy to follow a set plan, but to be able to adapt to changing situations and group energy was huge in showing me just how experienced the TruTravels’ guides were.
I could talk about our guide all day, so let’s move on to them next.
The Travel Guides (Travel Ninjas)
I truly can’t say enough good things about our guide (aka travel ninja) that accompanied us for the Colombia Uncovered tour. I’d partnered with a group travel company once before, and the travel guide was so bad that by the end of the trip, our group was cheers-ing “f*** Randy” before every drink.
Jose, on the other hand, could not have been a more knowledgeable, fun, and caring human being. Our TruTravels fam immediately put together a group chat where we could discuss a potential gift for Jose. Huge contrast to how that previous group’s attitude was towards the guide. Jose and I also have the same birthday, so it might just be that people born on August 17th are the coolest humans around. We’ve got our work-party balance in check for sure.
Seriously though, if Jose is indicative of what the other TruTravels travel ninjas are like, then you are sure to be in good hands. He went so far out of his way to make sure everyone was okay, happy, and having fun. There was an instant rapport between him and our group, which made things much more enjoyable for everyone. He was someone we could trust and rely on, but could also transition into the life of the party at any given moment. Your TruTravels’ travel ninja will be much more than just a guide. They’ll be a homie for life.
Actually, when you hop on a Tru trip, you’ll have quite a few homies for life.
A Lifelong Travel Community
I still remember my first night at a hostel in Colombia. The other travelers in the hostel were all huddled around one corner of the terrace playing music. I rehearsed in my head what I was going to say before approaching them, eventually settling on asking them what song was playing out of their speaker. I was awkward, shy, and man, they must have thought I was such a weirdo.
Over time, befriending other travelers has become second nature to me, but it wasn’t always that way.
With group travel, you’re able to find your people right away. The thing I love about TruTravels group tours are that the other participants are also young backpackers. Most of my group were also in their 20’s. About half were planning to continue traveling in Latin America following our Colombia tour. After the trip ended, I met up with about five of the other trip participants throughout Latin America, from Carnival in Barranquilla to a night out in Mexico City.
When you go on a group trip, you’re not just paying for the actual traveling part of it. The real value comes from having a community of people that you’re almost guaranteed to be lifelong friends with. Making friends is tough. Making friends in a foreign country halfway across the world? Even tougher. As a naturally extroverted person, it never gets easier flying into a country where you know absolutely no one. But once you meet those people and make those connections, travel friends are forever. You may talk to them once or twice a year, but you always know you’ll have someone to grab a drink with if you ever find yourself in their city or vice versa.
There are a lot of pros to group travel, especially with TruTravels, but let’s find out if they are right for you.
I Would Recommend TruTravels To…
Anyone looking to dip their toes into international backpacking
Going out into the world for the first time is a big leap. You don’t have to do it alone. If you’ve always wanted to see if backpacking was right for you, but aren’t keen on the thought of going solo, then hopping on a TruTravels group trip could be right for you.
If you have no idea where to start with international backpacking, you could learn a lot by tagging along on a Tru trip. They handle the hassle of travel, but it allows you to learn the ins-and-outs of backpacker travel. While you won’t personally be the one booking the accommodation or transportation, you’re able to learn a lot about how travel works. Pick the brains of your travel guide and fellow travelers. You will learn a lot, much of which will be useful for future trips abroad. Every single day on the road has been a learning experience for me, but those lessons have always proven their value somewhere down the road.
And sure, backpacking may not be for everyone, but TruTravels is a great way to discover your own unique style and preference of traveling in a safe, group setting.
Short-term holidayers who want to take the hassle out of planning their trips
As a full-time nomad, I have the luxury of time. Money, not so much. Others have the opposite problem. A group trip where everything is organized might be worth the premium if you only have two weeks. I can afford to lose a couple of hours roaming around a bus station trying to find the cheapest option available to get from Point A to Point B. When you only have two weeks of holiday, every moment counts. Planning takes a lot of time. When you’re traveling internationally, unexpected obstacles are bound to happen to throw that plan into a spiral.
TruTravels’ destinations are usually in countries where you likely don’t speak the language and might have no idea how anything works. Going on an organized group trip means that you can just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride. You can maximize your short time abroad without having to worry about anything. For many people, that’s well worth paying a little more than having to figure everything out on your own. No one wants to wrap up a vacation feeling less relaxed and well-rested than when they started.
Solo travelers looking to make lifelong travel friends
Following the end of the TruTravels’ adventure, a few of us hung around Colombia before going home or bouncing off to different destinations. Starting your long-term backpacking trip with a group trip in the region is a guaranteed way to meet fellow travelers. Whether your adventures together continue immediately following the trip, or halfway across the world many years down the road, you know you’ll always have your Tru fam.
Group travel can be pricier, but once you hop on a TruTravels trip, you’ll realize where the value comes from. Experiences are best shared, and long after your trip is done, you’ll realize just how priceless those memories and friendships truly are.
When I first started traveling, I truly had very little idea what I was doing. I often tagged along with more experienced travelers until I was able to learn the ropes myself. Every traveler starts somewhere. Maybe it’s a family trip to Europe. Maybe it’s a study abroad trip. But truly, very, very few travelers just decide to go off on their own without any prior experience traveling. That’s where group travel companies like TruTravels comes in handy. It’s a good mix of real, authentic backpacking while offering you an incredibly fun group to take on the world with.