Last week I turned the tables on myself and participated in a culinary-themed walking tour of Miami's Little Havana - Calle Ocho, if you will!
The love of travel is what brought me into the travel business, sharing that love and helping others find their own new exciting paths into the world around them is incredible.
It also encourages me to think more about the value implicit to different kinds of travel and, in some instances, how to get the most out of a particular tour or even a whole destination.
Unless on foot, I'd have quite literally passed on by the sculpture of Generalissimo Gomez here and the whole dedication to the famed Domino Park of Little Havana!
Enter the walking tour and a more local perspective
Like it says on the tin, a walking tour does typically mean walking is the primary means of transportation during the excursion.
Regardless your level of fitness, you may find that some fresh air or even just pumping the legs a little will encourage some blood flow and perhaps even help work up that appetite to help further enjoy what tasty treats a destination has to offer.
You will probably also have the best opportunity to see and really learn about a destination as you can get among the nooks and crannies of a park, building, or other feature of a landmark.
You're not confined to a vehicle
Rather than being confined to a bus or boat, you're actually on your feet with the freedoms afforded those who care to wander a little.
That means you can just pop up to a window in Little Havana and grab a coffee from a colada and carry on your stroll, just like someone living local might do!
It was delicious, by the way - I had two!
I'll not suggest that there aren't larger such tours, but it becomes somewhat impractical for a guide to bring large numbers of people down a road or along a trail. Whereas a coach may seat 40+ passengers.
I've yet to encounter a walking tour in excess of 10-12 guests.
How will I know that I'll like the others on the tour?
That intimate nature is somewhat enhanced by the fact that you're walking - people are far more likely to engage in friendship making when they're actually doing things together, even if it is a simple stroll.
You may be wondering, as is a common concern of my clients, "how do I know I'll like the people on my tour?" Well, you won't.
That is, you won't know. But if you keep an open mind and remember that you've already got common interest in both the destination you're visiting and in taking a walking tour, you've got the spark of friendly conversation with which you can make fire!
See things you'd otherwise miss
More than just seeing the small things you might miss, by being on foot you are instantly experiencing a location like a local might. Enjoying the things that are meant to be enjoyed by those who actually spend their time there.
Sure locals may also drive, boat, swim, or ride a camel by (pick a mode of transport, there's a tour for that...), but you will have the leisurely pace and eye-level perspective that affords you time to really observe life as it appears to those other people living in the vicinity.
Maintain authenticity of experiences
Simply because you won't be zooming by from the upper-deck of your hop-on / hop-off experience, you can take pictures of those interesting ads, look twice at flowers planted in a vase, or just people watch those others in cafes and such who are people-watching you!
There's a better feel with the experience - it's like it maintains an authenticity you'd otherwise feel was forced if you were having to constantly get on and off a bus or to have something served or explained to you from a perspective other than that for which it was intended...
Finding better value
A concept that may escape those who engage in activities as a tourist but not a travel agent, what is the value received in an activity?
Most walking tours are started and finished at a meeting point, with little to no driving involved and certainly no pick-ups or drop-offs.
That means each dollar you're spending on your travel activity is being turned into actual minutes of travel enjoyment...
A 3-hour walking tour should involve 3 hours of walking and enjoying new sights and experiences. The tour I enjoyed this week was scheduled as 2 1/2 - 3 hours and I really enjoyed a full 3 hours of walking around, investigating the delights of the street.
When you think about a 5-hour+ tour that involves 60 minutes of driving or even longer in order to pick up or drop off other passengers, the value you're receiving is somewhat unbalanced, wouldn't you agree?
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