This past fall, I discovered the sweet spot between structure and spontaneity. After working at Macs Adventure for a few months, I embarked on my first self-guided tour to learn why this style of travel offers the richest experience to travelers. My adventure took place on undeniably beautiful Cotswold Way in south central England. I’d decided to travel here for a quintessentially English experience and, with the help of my new coworkers at Macs, I certainly found one.
Upon arriving in the UK, every logistical element of my trip – from accommodations to route notes – was planned out for me. Having a structural backbone to my adventure provided me with the confidence and peace of mind to enjoy myself, while the flexible nature of self-guided travel allowed me to make the experience my own.
Even the greatest trips have their speed bumps and I met mine on day three of the trail when one of my feet started hurting. On a personal level, I was nervous about my ability to finish the trail, but I would have felt even worse if a group was forced to change their plans because of me. Luckily, my self-guided itinerary afforded me the freedom to make my own plan, so I skipped the next day’s walking to buy sturdy hiking boots in a nearby town. It was such a relief to be able to take care of my own needs without worrying about an inflexible itinerary.
Later on in my trip, I noticed flyers for an Annual Apple Festival in the village of Painswick. At first, I was bummed I would have to miss the event – I LOVE local festivals, but I was supposed to walk 9 miles that day. Then it dawned on me: while a guided trip would mandate a morning start time, I could walk as I pleased. The festival started at 11:00am, so I stuck around to enjoy the dancing, dog shows, and apple treats until 1:00pm, when I continued on the trail. Adding this lively event to my trip made it even more special and personalized.
One day, I ate lunch with a new friend, who told me about a local castle that I shouldn’t pass up seeing. I added it to my personal schedule and spent an hour exploring Sudely Castle, which was a rewarding and spectacular sight indeed. On other days, I took long breaks early on, so that I could enjoy finishing my hike at sunset, when the surrounding fields lit up with gold.
My colleagues at Macs provided impeccable structure and I added the spontaneity. In hindsight, perhaps the one drawback of a self-guided trip is that if you’re traveling alone, it may be hard to get great pictures of yourself. However, you can use this as an opportunity to work on your selfie skills. This is one of my best, as I celebrated the end of the trail in the Roman city of Bath!
To learn more about what makes the Cotswolds such a unique destination, read our Cotswolds – the Perfect Getaway blog post and if biking is more your style, take a look at our post on Cycling in the Heart of the Cotswolds. For more info about my particular walking adventure, check out our Cotswold Way itinerary, or contact one of our specialists to create your very own British adventure!