The Type Of Tour Rick Steves Says Even Tour Haters Need To Experience At Least Once

Rick Steves may be known for European travel, but he has had life-changing and inspiring experiences all over the world. Even though his tour company focuses on Europe, the underlying message of his tours (and his travel advocacy in general) is to learn about other parts of the world and connect with locals. Whatever the motive, some people might not want to take any planned tour, whether it is with his company or another.

While Steves acknowledges that some people are adverse to organized tours, he also believes that sometimes you really do need the help of a local expert if you are going to a destination off the beaten path. Even if you are going to a widely-visited place, you will at least greatly benefit from getting an insider's perspective. To get such benefits and knowledge during your travels, Steves recommends what he calls "reality tours." These can help you learn about what any given destination is actually like, instead of only seeing the area's major attractions with other tourists.

Educational tours can help you stay safe in a new environment

There are dozens of countries that can feature incredible unexpected getaways, but perhaps without the same safety or easy-to-navigate infrastructure as Japan or Switzerland, for example. Instead of avoiding these countries, check out educational tour options. "Even if you normally don't consider yourself a 'tour person,' visiting a complicated corner of the world with a nonprofit organization is a good bet: Compared to independent travel, their tours are safer [and] easier," Rick Steves explains on his website. "The logistics have been worked out for you, and since they offer connections to a network of people at your destination, they give you insider knowledge, greatly increasing your opportunities for learning."

Steves recommends Global Exchange's Reality Tours. Among this organization's tours are trips to Cuba focusing on the threats of climate change to the island's biodiversity or a trip focusing on the island's colonial history and art scene with the help of local experts on architecture and city development. Overall, this organization aims to promote peace between people from different backgrounds through face-to-face meetings and experiences. You can even work with the organization to create your own reality tour based on your interests and where you want to visit.

There are tour companies for multiple age groups

Sometimes when on vacation, we see our destinations through rose-tinted glasses or perhaps do not set foot off the all-inclusive resort. With a "reality tour," you can better challenge yourself while traveling and see your destination from a more local point of view. "By getting out of our comfort zone, we realize that different people find different truths to be self-evident and God-given," says Rick Steves. "In many ways, we can learn a lot about our own country by viewing it from afar."

Friendship Force International is a travel organization that helps tourists stay with a local family. A trip with Friendship Force International also includes cultural and adventurous activities like learning Japanese in Japan or hiking throughout southern Germany. Friendship Force International features trips for teens and their parents as well.

Another educational tour company geared toward young people or students is EF Tours. Providing service learning tours, culture and language tours, and more, this organization matches young minds to local guides in destinations both on and off the beaten path. For those over 50, check out the nonprofit Road Scholar and meet with other passionate people who show that you don't have to be young to have transformative, educational experiences all over the world.