Friday, 6 July 2012

Travelling Alone Vs. with Companions: The Pros & Cons!

“Do I go it alone, or bring a friend?”

This is a big question for a lot of people. Sure, being independent and travelling solo has a certain romance about it, but is it worth the loneliness that might come? This post is here to help you decide which is best for you. When you're done reading, try the game/quiz I made at the bottom. Remember to let me know what you came out as...I'm curious.

Travelling Alone – Pros

For me, there’s no beating the greater freedom that comes from travelling alone. You can do what you want, go where you want, when you want, and however you want to. When you’ve had a big night and you want some down time, to write your journal, think, or simply sleep it off in bed all day, there’s nobody to stop you.

There’s no compromising for people with different or more expensive tastes either. Everybody has a preferred style of travel and this can differ enormously, even between good friends with tonnes in common. Travelling alone means that you don’t miss anything that you really wanted to see or, likewise, that you don’t get held back when your itching to move on. This makes for a more satisfying and fulfilling travel experience.

Also, there’s no-one to blame but yourself when things go wrong, as they inevitably will when travelling. When you only have to take care of one person – yourself – the problem is always smaller and more easily fixed. Without anyone to answer to when you make a mistake, and no-one else around making mistakes, you’ll be in for a blame and argument free trip.

And let’s not forget the age old argument; when you’re with a friend you just don’t put in the same amount of effort to meet new people. For many, travelling is about trying something totally new, branching out from your normal life at home. So, though it may seem a daunting prospect at first, leaving the friends at home can sometimes be much more rewarding. You’ll soon meet plenty of likeminded solo travellers who’ll keep you from getting bored or lonely.

Travelling Alone – Cons

However, it has to be said, there will be unescapable periods of loneliness and boredom, for example, on a 36 hour bus, or when you say goodbye to one group of new friends and have yet to meet the next. You will need to have your own way to cope with this.

Another, and probably the biggest, fault in travelling alone is that you might be having all these wonderful new experiences, but what are they without someone to share it with? You may constantly find yourself thinking; ‘Wow, this would be so great if so-and-so were here. I’ll have to come back with them some day and do it properly.” Avoid this kind of thinking. If you’re going to travel alone you need to forget others back home and throw yourself head first into the moment.

Tips for Travelling Alone

·         Avoid spending long periods of time in big cities and nightlife hotspots where you don’t know anyone. Paradoxically, there’s nothing that’ll make you feel more lonely than when you’re surrounded by people.

·         I hate to have to do this as it’s totally against my principles but…women, take care. I was once hitchhiking through the dark hours in Argentina and was trying to catch a ride at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. Trucks kept pulling over to give me a ride, then seeing me and racing off. It wasn’t until later that I started to see hookers doing the rounds of the truckers’ cabs. Suffice to say, if I was a women, things could have gotten pretty messy. Travelling alone as a women also limits your choice of destination. For example, good luck with some of the countries in the Middle East.

·         Couchsurf! It’s a great way to meet new, local people and experience the destination from the point of view of someone who lives there. You’ll also go places and do things that would never have found their way into the guidebooks.

·         Pub Crawls and other organised hostel activities are a great way to experience the nightlife and make friends while you do it. Even the most reclusive cats loosen up after a few drinks.

·         Choose hostels based on social value. “Party hostels” are becoming more and more common and usually come with their own bar, etc. Though they can detract your attention away from the destination you came for, there’s no denying that they can be fun and are a good place to meet people, rather than budget hotels or guest houses. Just make sure you don’t hop from one “Irish pub” to the next and forget you were ever in Cusco or La Paz.

·         Dorms! This one should be a given, but you’re not going to meet anyone in your own private room.

·         Visit friends. If you don’t have any friends abroad when you first start travelling, you soon will. Take people up on their offers of a place to stay, and you can always return the favour when you get home.

·         Stay on the backpacker circuit. Being different is great and I’d never advise anyone against it. Just be prepared to not meet any other travellers out there in the great unknown. Though, saying that, if you have a specific or unusual interest, by all means go pursue it, as that’s where all your soul-mates could be.

·         Consider singles holidays. In recent years singles holidays are becoming increasingly popular and gone is the stigma that was once attached. In this modern world of internet dating and globalisation, what better way to get out there and meet new people than to travel with a group of likeminded independent travellers?

·         Pack a camera with self-timer (and one of those little adjustable tripods).

Travel Companions – Pros

For the more open-minded or laid-back traveller, having an extra set of ideas and knowledge can really open up doors to great experiences that you might not know about or try otherwise. For example, you might think of yourself as an arty person, but who’s to say that football match your sporty friend drags you to couldn’t turn out to be much more fun than a day spent in the galleries. Often, if you’re with someone, having a good time, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Remember, two heads are better than one.

Also, logistically, travelling in a pair, a couple or a small group means saying goodbye to the dreaded single occupancy fee. If you’re likely to be staying in hotels and motels, it can be a real help to have someone extra to cut down the cost.

Travel Companions – Cons

Having to take someone else into account means less time on what you want. If you’re the kind of person with big dreams and the drive to see them through – which, let’s face it, we all are a little bit – then perhaps you’re more suited to travelling alone.

There’s also the high possibility of disagreements. Now I’m not one to say that this is necessarily a bad thing. Often arguments flag up important issues and bring them to a head so they can’t be ignored any more. However, there is such a thing as people who are just difficult. As touched on above, every friendship or relationship has a unique power balance. Travelling can sometimes be just the thing to throw that balance off. So, if you have someone really close to you at home, it might be that it’s better to leave them there rather than risking ruining what you have.

Travelling in a Couple

See the above section on travelling companions. It’s the same principle.

You might think, because you’re close, that being apart will destroy the relationship, but if you’re as close as you think you are, it’ll withstand the test and you’ll be stronger for it.

Saying that though, travelling with a partner can be very cool. It depends. See the quiz below.

Travelling with Kids

The obvious con when travelling with kids is the danger element, which can be a constant worry. You can’t do a lot of the more reckless things you might like to (though, being a parent, you’re probably okay with this already). So it can often be easier and safer to stick with more traditional destinations or types of holiday. There are also tours, where you get the benefits of a pre-organised, set itinerary and the added safety of travelling in a group, while still getting to see the world.

It is certainly rewarding and eye-opening for a child to experience these things at a young age…even if they don’t remember it later on in life. And of course if you’re a parent and you like travel, you can’t just stop doing what you enjoy because you have kids. I’ve run into some damned cool parents out there, travelling with their kids, bouncing across Guatemala in a chicken bus or doing the festivals in Canada.  

Group Travel – Pros

In addition to the obvious fun that’ll be had by going away with a group of friends, group travel makes sense economically too. Have you never heard of “group discounts”? Not to mention fuel sharing, split tolls, cheaper hotels, and so on. Plus there’s always company if you need it.

Group Travel – Cons

Group travel is better suited to a certain kind of trip. If you’re going to rent and share a massive villa in Ibiza then that’s perfect, but if you’re going to be on the move all the time, things can get complicated. Orchestrating a trip for one person is work enough, let alone for a big group. It can be a lot of work that could end up eating into your enjoyment of your trip.

For example, it’ll be hard to find accommodation for large groups, not to mention enough seats on buses, and so on. Hitchhiking, for one thing, will be out of the question. You’d have to split up, which kind of defeats the object of travelling in a group.

Travelling by car with any more than two people creates the further problem that you can’t sleep in the car if you need to and so always need somewhere to stay. This puts extra pressure on each day’s driving and adds significantly to the cost.

There’s also more potential for arguments. With each person you add, that’s one more person to please. Some people will inevitably take more leader-like roles in the group and it can be easy for others to get disappointed or moody, especially if mistakes are made, you get lost, etc.

Tips for Travelling with Others

·         Keep everyone in the loop. Communication is usually at the route of most disputes. Discuss how you feel and everyone will have a happier trip. If you need alone time, tell people...and if you can’t tell the people you’re travelling with, then you’re travelling with the wrong people.

·         For large groups, consider limiting the amount of actual travel time involved.

·         Keep it short. Or at least start out on a trial basis. You don’t want to commit yourself to a year with someone you might not be able to travel with. It’ll only end in disaster.

In conclusion, there really is no hard and fast answer to this question. It completely depends on what type of person you are. Why not try this simple and kind of crappy game I made? (The pictures you need are below it.)
Generally I would advise people to be brave and take that first step to travelling alone. You don’t know what kind of person you are until you’ve put yourself to the test. Remember, travel will bring out the extremes in you!

Picture 1

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1 comment:

  1. There is so much interesting information in this. I especially love the quiz!