Iâ€™m about to stray from the standard articles that you might be used to on this blog.Â Eight hours from now I will be starting day one of a 27-day trip around both islands of New Zealand with a company called â€œStrayâ€.Â I will be blogging regularly about the experience and the activities we will be doing along the way.Â As this will be the majority of content over the next month or more, I wanted to give a little introduction to the company Iâ€™ll be traveling with.
Independent Travel vs. Guided Tour
Most of my travel to date has been completely independent.Â I might get a three-day tour of the Mekong or a guided walk around the city, but to me those types of activities are experiences in themselves and not a method of travel.Â Traveling independently, I get to choose how to get around, where I get to sleep, and which experiences I get to participate in.Â Most guided tours take that freedom and flexibility away from you.
Enter the hop-on hop-off tour that has become standard in some countries.Â These companies allow you to purchase a pass that gets you around a specified route at your own pace, doing what you want to do and staying where you want to stay.Â Of course, they offer you discounts on certain activities and at certain hostels if you choose to go with their partners.
Guides and Groups
The unfortunate reality of signing up for these tours is that often what can wreck such a trip is something you canâ€™t predict â€“ bad guides or bad groups.Â Traveling with an obnoxious guide or with a group that doesnâ€™t fit with your style of travel can be excruciatingly painful.Â On the plus side, with a hop-on hop-off, you can just get off your bus, and wait for the next guide and group to pick you up, likely about 2 days later.
However, you can help prevent these kinds of problems by doing some research before buying that pass.Â Some companies are going to cater more to a young, party-type crowd whereas others might prefer to get more off the beaten track and let you really experience a country.
Why I Chose Stray
Out of the three main companies offering a hop-on hop-off experience, Stray offers more of the experiences every flashpacker should be looking for.Â Local culture and activities are given just as much weight as skydiving, river rafting, bungee jumping and great walks.
In addition to the transportation coverage and diversity of activities on offer, Stray seems to have taken the time to think about what the travelers really want to do, and then offer it to them.Â Case in point is the Maori Cultural stay that is unique to the company.
28 Day later
Over the next 28 days I hope to see and experience as much of New Zealand as I possibly can.Â I will do what I can to put you in my place along the trip and include as much photography as I can squeeze in.Â That being said, thereâ€™s nothing like actually being here and experiencing it all for yourself.
So, whatâ€™re you waiting for?
Note: The pictures above were provided by, and used with permission from, Stray Ltd.
Disclosure: I have received a discounted tour package but will maintain an honest outlook and pass along both the good and the bad as accurately as I can.