So You’ve Decided To Travel – Part 3

Part 3

Travelling Solo vs With Others

You’ve done your research, got the time off work and weighed up all the costs of your trip. You are ready to go off on your adventure, but should you do it all alone or is it better to share the experience with others? What are the advantages of travelling solo and what will you be missing out on if you don’t bring someone along for the ride? This week, I will look at both the benefits and drawbacks of these two ways of traveling.

Travelling solo

You’re not alone

Ok, let’s get one thing out of the way. Travelling solo doesn’t mean travelling alone. It’s something that I’ve learnt over the last few years, yet is one of the hardest things to convince others of. Yes, you will leave home by yourself and arrive to a new place by yourself (except more tired and sweaty). However, travelling allows you to meet like-minded people fairly easily and, chances are, that unless you want to go completely off the radar, you will be able to make new friends way quicker than you think.

On my first solo trip to Thailand, I barely checked into my hostel before being invited to drink on the building’s rooftop with a bunch of fellow backpackers. And before you ask, no you absolutely do not have to be a backpacker, what most people would consider to be “young” or like alcohol. Meeting people on your journey is one of the most exciting things about travelling and something I look forward to every time I leave home. I’ve met people in airport waiting rooms, coffee shops, tourist boats, in kitchens, on beaches and in campsites. I am pretty outgoing but not massively more so than an average person. I’m just open to meeting new people and try to be as approachable as I can.

Meeting new people isn't as difficult as it seems and is super good fun
Meeting new people isn’t as difficult as it seems and is super good fun

Subject to change

I talked (and will talk in the future) about importance of planning. Leaving home without any sort of a plan or itinerary might seem liberating but, usually, is not very practical. Having said that, being spontaneous is just as important and can lead to some incredible experiences. Especially when travelling solo. Meeting other travellers can cause you to stay in a place for a few extra days or maybe even change your plans altogether. Build some flexibility into your itinerary and don’t be afraid to change those plans on the fly. It’s liberating, you’ll have heaps of fun and meet some great people!

Whatever you want to do

One of the biggest advantages of travelling solo, in my opinion, is that freedom to go wherever you want and do whatever you want. Don’t like the hustle and bustle of the new city you’ve arrived to? Head into the countryside! Loving the people you’ve met at a beachside hostel? Stay a few extra nights! The choice is yours and you do not have to worry about affecting anyone else’s plans. And you don’t need to wait for anyone to get ready in the mornings if, like me, you like getting out and about early.

Be spontaneous - it's fun! Cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Be spontaneous – it’s fun! Cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Meeting others is easier

Ok, not everyone will agree but I find that meeting other people is generally easier if you are travelling solo. You are more likely to be included in conversations or approached by others and you will probably try to approach others more often too. It might seem scary at first, but becomes second nature soon enough. Don’t be afraid to join in – and if a large group seems too intimidating, start off with a fellow solo traveller. Be confident but also be yourself – you’ll be making awesome new friends in no time.

Chance to reflect and grow

This might seem a bit deep, but this is one of the best things about solo travel. I love people watching and just chilling out in a cool little café with a coffee and a book. It’s funny how you change as you get older – and while I still love going out and having a few drinks, I am equally as happy just sitting back and watching the world go by. Sometimes, travelling can be very hectic – catching buses from place to place, lugging suitcases around, sleeping in airports is tiring – sometimes relaxing with a drink for a few hours is just as good as climbing temples and hiking in the mountains.

Travelling solo is also great for personal growth – even a few weeks away by yourself is a very rewarding experience. I have matured a lot on my travels and have even picked up a lot of useful knowledge and skills. As mentioned in my previous posts, employers and educational institutions will also appreciate your life experiences – another proof that travelling is beneficial.

Take time to reflect when you are travelling
Take time to reflect when you are travelling

Alone and lonely?

For all the benefits of travelling solo, it can sometimes get pretty lonely. There will be times when there are no other travellers around or you are just not in the mood to talk to other people. This can have affect your mood and combined with missing family and friends from home, can be pretty tough to deal with. However, remember why you went away in the first place – to experience other cultures, countries and people. This will pass and there is always Skype for those times when you just have to speak to someone you know and love.

Travelling with others

Safety in numbers

There is something special about travelling with people you know. Exploring new places and sharing new experiences with friends, partners and family can be an absolute blast. It’s like having a piece of home in an unfamiliar country and makes everything seem less scary. Having somebody there can do wonders for people who might not be confident enough to travel by themselves. Those worried about safety when travelling might also feel more at ease with somebody they know there next to them. And let’s face it, in most cases having your friend or your boyfriend/girlfriend is going to be great fun!

Travelling with your friends can be great fun!
Travelling with your friends can be great fun!

Planning

Ok, I’m not saying that if you travel with someone, you can’t be spontaneous. Far from it. I travelled with a partner in 2013 and we ended up seeing places that weren’t even on our to-do list, joined others for trips we didn’t originally plan on doing and generally just did loads of spontaneous stuff. The key is communication – talk to those you are travelling with and make sure you agree on how rigidly you want to stick to your plan, what everyone wants to check out and so on. As long as everyone knows where everyone stands, there is less likelihood of unwanted arguments and clashes.

You generally will have to be a little more considerate of the needs and wants of others so it can be a little more rigid, especially if you are used to the flexibility of travelling solo. Don’t let that put you off however – embrace things others are interested in and you might end up enjoying an activity that you wouldn’t otherwise try!

Meeting people

Meeting new people is great, we have established that. If you want to travel alone and avoid other travellers completely, you are missing out on something that makes travel so great. But even if you are already travelling with someone, you should be open to meeting others. You might just need to make a little extra effort as people might assume that you are already with someone and do not need company. I am generalising a bit here but just be confident and come up to people and say hi – exactly the same as you would if travelling solo really!

Travelling with new friends
Travelling with new friends. Source: Michele Loosli Photography

Different from home

A lot of people also assume that because people are best friends at home, that they will automatically will be super compatible to travel together. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. You will be spending most of your time together with someone when you are travelling together and even the closest of friends do not always do this back home. Bad habits can surface and become harder to tolerate when spending all your time in close proximity to someone, you could have very different interests to the person which can make deciding what to see more difficult and it’s quite common for people to become irritable and even fall out.

The important thing here is to make sure that you are able to have your own space once in a while. This doesn’t mean spending entire days apart, but maybe going for a short walk somewhere by yourself or even doing a tour alone. This way, people with completely different interests can still get to do everything they want while getting a bit of space. I have seen people fall out over very insignificant things which have clearly slowly built up and up. So, don’t be afraid to talk about things that are bothering you and give each other space

Avoid fighting with your friends by following some easy steps
Avoid fighting with your friends by following some easy steps

Partners

Travelling with your significant other can be an amazing experience and bring you even closer together as well as give you some fantastic memories for years to come. As with friends though, spending all your time together can also have a negative impact on the experience, even though you are more likely to be familiar with each other. Don’t stop doing stuff that you would be doing at home – go out for dinner and spend time together – maybe go watch a movie (movie theatres in Asia, for example, are soooo cheap)

Again, communication is important – talk to each other and try to be accommodating. This is a fantastic way to spend time together so making it a special trip is super important. Plan a bit so you are not walking around looking for a hotel for hours but also be spontaneous and surprise each other when you can.

Accommodation

One of the biggest advantages of travelling with others are the awesome deals that you can get on accommodation. As long as you don’t mind sharing rooms and even beds, you can save A LOT of money. Rooms in guesthouses, hotels and villas that seemed too expensive suddenly become at least half price (depending on how many people you’ve managed to convince to go with you) and you can get some fantastic bargains. I’ve talked about some of the websites where you can look for accommodation in Part 1</a. 2 years ago we managed to get a room in a beautiful Balinese homestay for about £5/$7.50 a night with breakfast included – it was as authentic as it could get too!

Not a bad place to spend the night! Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Source: Michele Loosli Photography
Not a bad place to spend the night! Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

Best of both worlds?

There is technically another way to travel which sort of straddles both of the above – group travel. Yes, you will generally leave home by yourself (even though some companies can help with flights and even put fellow group members in touch before the tour) but you join up with your group pretty soon after getting to your destination. This takes the stress out of meeting new people as you are generally introduced to your group either the night before or on the day of departure. Read about pros and cons of group travel in my previous post</apost.

Group travel is awesome
Group travel is awesome

I’ve travelled both solo and with others and can’t say I have an absolute favourite. I love the freedom I have when I am by myself as I can go anywhere I want and spend time doing things others might not enjoy (people watching in coffee shops tends to bore some people after a while but not me!) and at the same time enjoy sharing the travel experiences with people I know. It’s worth trying them both out and deciding what works for you. Either way you are likely to have a blast!

Next time, I will talk about money, saving for your trip and budgeting once you are on the road.

3 thoughts on “So You’ve Decided To Travel – Part 3

  1. Angie Briggs says:

    This is a fantastic blog, absolutely full of support and advice for anyone travelling solo! I 100% agree with you that “solo” most definitely does not mean alone … in fact, I found I had a busier social life as a solo traveller than I did travelling with someone, it’s crazy but awesome at the same time. I have also travelled a a group on overland expeditions so yes, I would say I have covered it all as well 🙂 At the end of the day, travel is travel, it’s amazing whether you go alone, as a couple, with friends or with a group – just get out there and do it 🙂

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks Angie! There are definitely advantages to both but there is something about travelling alone that seems like a more “pure” way to travel sometimes! I definitely think everyone should do it at least once!

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