Should I Go Traveling Alone Or With Friends?

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If you’ve already decided where and when you want to go traveling, the last only thing remaining is to decide who to go with (if anyone). The question ‘should I go traveling on my own or with friends?’ is something asked by most travelers. For some, the answer is easy. If you and your friends have always dreamt of visiting a far off place, then it makes sense to go together (providing you both have the time and you can both afford it). Other times it is not so simple. Even if you enjoy the companionship of a travel buddy, traveling solo certainly has its advantages. What if you don’t want to travel on your own, but you’ve got no-one to go with? There are several organizations out there that can match you up with like-minded people (more on that later). In this article we’ll look at the pro’s and con’s of traveling solo or with other people, and we’ll provide you with some useful ways of finding a travel companion if you have no-one to go with.

Traveling with Friends

Traveling with FriendsAlmost nothing will test a friendship as much as traveling for a long period of time. If you’re traveling on a budget, the chances that you’ll have any real privacy and separation from one another are minimal. You’ll be eating, sleeping (in the same room), getting ill, lost and ripped off with each other. By the end of the trip, you’ll know all of their little quirks and habits (such as the songs the sing in the shower and how loudly they snore at night). It’s not all bad news; however, as traveling with a friend can create a lifetime bond unlike any other, and can be a truly wonderful thing. You’ll share some amazing moments together (such as watching the sun rise over the Angkor Wat or standing on the glass walkway that overlooks the Grand Canyon), and in sharing these moments they will become greater than they ever had been if you were to experience them by yourself. Perhaps the best part of traveling with a friend is when you inevitably fall ill at some point in your trip (diarrhea is a common ailment when visiting foreign countries). Having your friend look after you by bringing you a warm drink, finding a newspaper from your home country and making you laugh when you feel under the weather is priceless, and you will love them forever for it.

How to Choose the Right Person

Because of all of these things it’s a good idea to try and pick someone that you’re ‘travel compatible’ with. Obviously you will never really know until you’re on the road, but I’d recommend going with people who are fairly easy going, and who will give you your own space when you need it. So how do you know if you’re compatible? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have similar interests?
  • How big is their budget? You want to have budgets that are reasonably similar, so neither person feels like they’re being held back by the other person due to their lack of money.
  • How much time do they have to travel? Again, just like with their budget, you don’t want to start traveling with someone who wants to go for 6 months when you can only go for 2 months (unless, of course you make this perfectly clear beforehand and plan to go your separate ways after those 2 months). You don’t want either person to feel like they’re being rushed around and like they’re missing something.
  • Are they as tidy/messy as you? As you’ll most likely be sharing rooms/tents together, having two people with differing standards of cleanliness is just asking for an argument.
  • Do they tend to overreact to situations, or are they generally calm and collected? Things often don’t go exactly to plan when traveling, so you’ll want to travel with someone that can keep calm in these situations, and who’s happy to go with the flow.
  • Are they an optimist or a pessimist? If they’re depressed for the whole trip it’ll ruin it for you. Traveling with someone who’s generally optimistic is great, as they can boost your mood when you’re feeling low/homesick.

By answering this list of questions, you should be able to get some kind of an idea as to who’ll make a good travel buddy and who won’t. Note that the larger group there is going traveling, the less strict you need to be with these guidelines (so long as the rest of the group matches up to the guidelines).

Traveling Solo

traveling soloThere’s a great quote from the great American travel writer Henry Thoreau that goes: ‘He who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till the other is ready’. If you’ve traveled with a friend before, you’ll realize that this quote not only refers to when you can leave (since you’ve both got to be ready before you can depart), but also every day that you’re together on your trip.

If you don’t have someone that can go with you, don’t let this put you off, as traveling solo is in actuality far less frightening and intimidating than it first appears. As traveling is a lot more common than it used to be, almost every major town or city has places (such as hostels and bars) specifically for travelers. Traveling solo gives you the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and you’ll make some great friends whilst doing it. Whenever you arrive in a new location, it’s a good idea to check into a youth hostel and to try and make friends with a couple of people. Making friends with people on the road is surprisingly easy, and a lot of the time if they see you’re on your own people will actually approach you with an invitation first (“Would you like to join us for a drink?” etc).

The problem with traveling in a tight-knit group is that you often seem unapproachable to others. It also gives you less motivation to reach out and to make new friends, and you already have friends with you. While it’s always good to have people around you for support, traveling in a tightly-knit group like this can offer up the temptation to stay in your ‘comfort zone’ a bit too much. As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to traveling alone. Loneliness is a big worry that a lot of people have, but as I’ve mentioned before, as long as you look for budget hostels and travelers areas, you’ll rarely find yourself feeling lonely. Since you’re free to do whatever you want, you might even find that you decide to change you plans so that you can temporarily join some of the people that you meet. For first-time solo travelers, I’d recommend sticking to the well-trodden backpacker routes, such as South-East Asia through to Australia.

This route in particular is full of travelers, and it’s incredibly easy to meet other like-minded people. So what are the main drawbacks of traveling solo? Well, a lot of those little things that you take for granted when traveling in a group aren’t there. For instance, there’s no-one to watch your bags for a minute while you nip to the toilet. Your guard always has to be up. Having someone to watch out and to look after you when you’re on the road is something that can’t be understated. solo travelOn the other hand, having to take care of yourself 24/7 will cause you to take more responsibility for yourself and it’ll mature you, so there really is two ways you can look at it. Another major drawback is that it will, on average, cost you more money to rent room to stay in (since you can’t split the cost with someone else).

Obviously staying in hostel dormitories will cost the same (and I recommend taking advantage of them as they’re an excellent place to meet people). The only real downside to staying in dorm rooms is that you rarely get any personal space, and that your belongings won’t be as safe in them (make sure to bring a padlock for the lockers). Lastly, by traveling alone you won’t have that close friend to bring you a drink when you’re feeling ill, or to tell you a story when you’re feeling homesick. After returning home from traveling on my own, I was amazed at how much my confidence had increase, and at how I just felt a lot surer of myself. This was perhaps brought about by the realization that you CAN do things on your own, and that by traveling to a far off land (and returning safely), you’ve really accomplished something great. Traveling solo forces you to grow and to mature (in a good way), and is something I’d recommend to anyone.

Organized Tours

If you’re still not feeling up to traveling alone, but can’t find someone to go with, you might want to consider going on an organized tour. By the end of the tour, you’ll have built up some traveling experience, so you’ll most likely feel a lot more confident about traveling on your own, and you might even meet some other people who want to join you on your trip. For a detailed look at finding other like-minded people to going traveling with, check out this page on the pro’s and con’s of organized tours.

Traveling Alone in Europe

ColosseumThe idea of traveling alone in Europe has become more and more popular in recent years, and it seems that Europe tends to attract solo travelers. Why is this? Well, there are many advantages. Firstly, a lot of the countries are within close proximity of each other, meaning you can jump between them without having to actually travel for too long. Sitting on a bus, train or plane isn’t half as fun when you don’t have a friend to keep you company, so this may be one reason why solo travelers are drawn to Europe. In addition to this, Europe is very traveler-friendly, and most major cities and towns will have lots of hostels and traveler-centric places. This makes it easy to meet other travelers and gives you plenty of options on where to go. Most places in Europe are also very safe for solo travelers, as they’re well policed and because they’re very traveler friendly (in the way that they welcome tourist and appreciate their business).

Made Up Your Mind?

Hopefully by now you should have some idea of whether you want to travel solo or with others, and as you can see, there are benefits to doing both. If you’re still a little unsure, don’t rush into any major decisions just yet. Give it time and things should become clearer to you.

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