I must admit, this is not an easy question for me to answer. We are avid walkers and have covered several long-distance paths, both in the UK and elsewhere. And along the way we’ve learned the hard difference between walking with a guide and walking by ourselves. Here are three of those lessons we’ve picked up along the way:
1. Carrying luggage. When finishing an 8 day hike in the north of England a few years ago, without doubt the nicest part of walking through our front door (the finishing line for the walk) was the knowledge that we wouldn’t have to carry our packs the next day, or the day after that. Even with a self-imposed 10kg maximum (some wisely suggest 8kg) the thought of the weight of your pack was never far from my mind. Having a luggage carrying service can make this much easier, and arranging a series of hikes as day trips allows you to return to your hotel room at the end of every night. These non-guided walks on Amorgos offer varied day hikes that leave you to enjoy having a single base throughout the trip.
2. Knowing the way. I love maps and I enjoy the challenge of finding my way in a strange land. That said, there are times when I get lost, and there are inevitably paths on a map that you learn don’t actually exist when you’ve walked two miles along a cul-de-sac to reach it. While the thrill of orienteering may appeal to some, one of the main advantages of a guided walk is that is allows you to forget about navigation and map-reading and devote your attention to the scenery. On the rare occasions that I don’t walk map-in-hand, I am aware of how much more I observe and enjoy in our surroundings. A guided walk will allow most people to experience more of the place they have chosen to visit.
3. Meeting a local. One of my favourite parts of travelling is the chance to speak with local people on a casual basis and learn about their everyday lives. In a recent walk in Mexico we spent a half day with a guide who shared with us many stories of growing up and living in the country. She told us about her own life and discussed local and national topics as well as those things that bind us all (such as TVs, movies and books). A guide will be able to give an insight into the place you’re visiting that you’ll never get from a guide book. A good example of a guided walks service can be found on the island of Tilos, a popular walking destination.
There are other considerations to bear in mind when deciding whether to walk alone or with a guide. As a personal preference I find that outside of the UK a guide adds a lot of extra value to a hike that might make this option a more attractive one to consider.
by Andy Jarosz