Solo vs Companion Travel

I find that a lot of people I speak with, whether it be friends back at home or people I meet travelling with their friends, find the concept of solo travel quite daunting. It’s the number one reason I hear for dream trips not to go ahead, followed closely by lack of finances. As with so many things, it has to do with levels of comfort; that these same people don’t relish as greatly the challenge of being outside of your comfort zone.

All travel presents challenges, whether you are solo or accompanied, but when you are by yourself you bear the brunt of every choice and have no one with whom you can share the burden. Many people imagine this to be incredibly overbearing and it frightens them away from solo travel. I have no doubt that many of these people could handle solo travel with ridiculous ease, but it’s always the first step that’s toughest. Like any great challenge, once you break it down and look at it in the small achievable aspects, it is far less daunting.

My intention is to highlight the contrast between solo travel and travelling with friends, in order to perhaps persuade people that travelling alone can be just as much fun, if not more so, than travelling with people you know.

 Wingin’ It Solo

The positives:

  • You have complete control. There is no waiting around for people and you do what you want, when you want to. There is no trying to keep everyone happy and often frees you up for spontaneous events and adventures. What is an itinerary?
  • It encourages you to go out and meet new people, because otherwise you do become lonely. Travelling is a great way to meet like minded people and develop contacts and relationships all over the world.
  • You are as adaptable as it comes. You could break a foot hiking or get food poisoning and have to change your plans to accommodate these. Fortunately it doesn’t affect anyone else and just leaves you requiring a bit more planning
  • You have every reason to embarrass yourself and have fun, nobody you know or care about is going find out, let alone begin judging you. It allows you to act on those silly little wonders that your mind presents you with. And if you make a complete fool of yourself, go find a new hostel/city/country to carry on being you!
  • You learn so much more about yourself when you’re by yourself. You’ll have to problem solve, make decisions and bear all of the consequences. If you were travelling with somebody, you share these responsibilities as well as find that the quiet reflection time you may have on a bus becomes far less frequent and available.

 

The negatives:

  • You’re going to feel lonely and isolated at some stage, no doubt about it. Once you get through it though, it allows you to appreciate company and security that much more.
  • You obtain all responsibility for everything in your life. For young travellers, this may be the first time when they have such control and some finding it daunting. On the flip side, this can also be a positive.
  • Having a buddy alongside you can allow you to split costs in certain endeavours, creating different experiences. This could be a small self contained apartment as opposed to a hostel dorm or splitting a cab to the airport. The only person’s pocket who bears the brunt of whatever you do when alone is yours!
  • There’s no one you can dump your baggage on (figuratively and literally). If you’re feeling truly out of it, it can be nice for someone to deal with the language barrier, the transfer to the airport and everything in between. Unfortunately, if you’re solo, this all falls to you, irrespective of how you feel.
  • Security in more “interesting” locations where you’re always going to be better off travelling with company. Not to say that anything bad will happen, just that the risk is considerably higher when by yourself.

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Travel Chums

The positives:

  • You have somebody who can share the responsibilities such as planning and the logistics of the whole trip. The bigger the trip planned, the more valuable this is
  • Years down the track, you’ll be able to catch up and reminisce on all the great times you had, and these friends will help trigger memories that have slipped your mind.
  • Other input means different ideas and extra time spent on research, sometimes yielding hidden gems that you may not have found if you were travelling solo.
  • You’ve got someone you know and trust to watch your back from pickpockets, shady characters or even the drink if you sometimes find yourself struggling with that. They’re a wandering branch of support, there to lean, and be leant on.
  • Now this is more of a personal benefit but I love ridiculous challenges. If you travel with people, these challenges can pop up far more regularly. Silly challenges don’t seem as funny when it’s just you.

 

The negatives:

  • Your best friends may not be the best travelling partners. I know some of my best mates who I wouldn’t travel with and I also know of friendships that have been ravaged through travelling together. Make sure you see yourself working well in a foreign environment.
  • You could miss out on meeting some of the most amazing people/taking part in bizarre adventures if you stay within your circle of friends. Break away from that security and see what is out there waiting for you.
  • You have to account for several people and their happiness. There will be times where you clash on what you want to do and as far as I’m aware, there are three options. One is that you compromise, sacrifices are made and you carry on. Second is that one person misses out entirely, and you only carry out one of the desires. Finally, and certainly the worst, is that you all mope about how you can’t have your own way and miss out on experiences whatsoever.
  • You may be able to catch a theatre show in London but there is only one ticket left between three people or the only hostel in a small little village only has a single bed for the extra night you wished to stay. More companions can make impromptu decisions that little tougher.
  • You learn a lot about one another but not as much about yourself as you would if you were off solo. If you travel for fun and for a piss up, this might not be a big issue. If you travel to expand your horizons, solo is going to be far more constructive to your purpose.

 

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Personally, I prefer solo travel. I like the freedom and the creativity to do as I please. I can’t wait for my schedule to tie in nicely with someone else’s, being quite spontaneous and so often I’ll just disappear. One of the nicest things about travel though is that people can join in and drop out of travels with relative ease, once you actually get going.

About the author: World Ahead, Home Behind

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