16 April, 2019

Research shows that women are more proactive when it comes to travelling the world. Here, Flash Pack co-founder Lee Thompson makes the case for men to play catch-up in the adventure stakes

My feelings about the idea of group travel as a man used to be pretty straight forward.

I didn’t want to spend two weeks making awkward conversation with people I had nothing in common with, following itineraries that just seem really bland.

So what is the single male traveller in their 30’s and 40’s to do? This is the era where the ‘lads’ holiday’ to the Med or Prague starts to feel a little undignified. And yet there’s still (hopefully) many years to go before a barge on the Norfolk Broads or a B&B in the Cotswolds begins to appeal.

Read more: “How I learnt to embrace solo travel as a man”

So I had an idea. I’m a former photojournalist, and my CV includes some extensive time spent at the sharp end of reportage. I covered the Egyptian Arab Spring, and was one of the first journalists to find the body of deposed Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.

After visiting over 100 countries for work, I think it’s fair to say that I had doubts that my thirst for adventure would be quenched by the choice of group tour holidays that I started browsing through.

Lee Thompson in Sierra Leone

Flash Pack co-founder Lee Thompson in Sierra Leone

 

Obviously, I didn’t want to put myself in insane danger. But I did want a group holiday that would be distinctive, and have an intrepid element to it.

The image of these trips that other tour operators were selling all seemed so outdated and boring. Nothing seemed to speak to me as a single guy in my 30s at all.

It was obvious there was a big gap and the needs of solo travellers in their 30s and 40s were being ignored by the travel industry. The group tour industry was either catering to budget backpackers or luxury holidays for people aged sixty and over.

Read more: Why every man should take a sabbatical

Fast forward two years and I finally embarked on my first ever group escape – an epic adventure through the wilds of Myanmar. So had I finally managed to find my own ideal tour operator? Of course not. I just set up my own company instead (helped along the way by a viral adventure stunt).

Here at Flash Pack, we want to redefine group travel as an aspirational lifestyle choice for busy professionals.

Covering group trips to over 60 global destinations as diverse as Colombia, Zimbabwe and the Philippines, I found myself with a genuine business success on my hands.

There was, however, one element that I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t realise just how much more popular Flash Pack trips would be with women.

Lee and other Flashpackers, hiking Rainbow Mountain in Peru

 

If you’re a single man and you want to meet new people and share adventures, then this really is great. I still go on a lot of the Flash Pack trips myself, and I have to say that I’ve never craved male company or banter.

It’s starting to make me wonder what single men are actually doing on their annual leave. I worry that they’re wasting it faffing around at home or going to too many weddings!

Read more: 5 great reasons to travel with strangers

Flash Pack has grown by 400% each year since it began, and I think a lot of this demand is down to the fact that my partner Radha Vyas and I have first-hand experience of being on disappointing group trips as guests. So we know exactly what solo adventurers in their 30s and 40s can’t stand, and what really works.

Lee Thompson on top of Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, Brazil

 

When I first met Radha, she asked me if I would ever go on a group tour and I scoffed at the idea immediately. It was only by us asking ourselves what other single people are doing about this issue, and investigating the market, that we managed to find an answer.

Read more: 18 moments of adventure travel you don’t want to miss

For the man with the restless spirit in his soul who has grown out of backpacker hostels but isn’t quite ready for an all-inclusive family resort, Flash Pack’s vision for how travel should be for 30 and 40-somethings has truly resonated.

I suppose it all comes down to asking yourself one question – Do you want to stay at home? Or do you want to experience the world in the company of like-minded adventurous folk, all searching for the next unique experience?

Suitcase packed… case closed.


Jump aboard a thrilling group escape

Join a crew of like-minded solo travellers from all over the world for the trip of a lifetime

Conquer the peaks of Peru

Cycle through ancient Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley highlands, then don your hiking boots for a challenging ascent up Rainbow Mountain. We’ll camp overnight at altitude (at around 4,000 metres) with a private chef, before a dawn push to the dazzling multi-coloured summit. Also on this trip, a twilight sail through the Amazon and a trek around Machu Picchu.

Buckle up for Peru

Explore wild frontiers in Oman

Put your navigation skills to the test with a self-guided hike through Wahiba Sands desert and tiptoe, if you dare, around the rim of Oman’s world-famous Balcony Walk that lines a towering crater. Wild swim in wadis framed by pink cliffs and emerald-clear water, and succumb to this ancient land of peach trees and hidden souks.

Oman, here we come

Savour the delights of Malaysia

Blue shores of Malaysia

Discover the foodie secrets of Malaysia’s most captivating cities, from night market hawker in Penang to a local cooking class in Malacca. Experience Belum rainforest in darkness, your senses attuned to the teeming nocturnal wildlife, and sail through the jungle in search of one of the world’s rarest flowers. Round off this spectacular escape with a few days unwinding on the dreamy beaches of Langkawi – coconut mojito at the ready.

Malaysia, get set

Images: Flash Pack, James Hall, Lee Thompson

 

 

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