Travel Options: Solo Vs Companion Vs Group
Travel Options: Solo Vs Companion Vs Group
Before taking off on an adventure – one of the biggest and most important decisions any traveler can make is how they want to travel. You have three general options: Solo, with a Companion, or in a Group. All reap completely different benefits and all face extremely different pitfalls. Chose wisely because sometimes it can make or break an experience.
Solo travel can be the most intimidating to first time travelers but it also has the most potential for reward. Because you are traveling alone does not mean you ARE alone. You simply did not bring anybody with you to start and are not with anybody for a set or required amount of time. Most solo travelers end up traveling with different people during different periods of the journey; from a day sight-seeing buddy to a week long travel companion. And for anybody who remains weary of being alone while solo traveling – there is always the option to join a group tour along the way and adopt an entire flock of friends.
The benefits of solo/independent travel are numerous but above all, you get the opportunity and time to truly learn and understand yourself; your likes and dislikes, your habits, your necessities, your personality, and your strengths and weaknesses. You have more time to absorb everything that is happening around you; more time for cultural understand through photos, courses, reading, studying, and speaking to locals. You’ll be less distracted by the person you’re with and have no obligations to another and pay more attention to your surroundings and its activities. You also have a greater opportunity to blend in – you won’t draw attention to yourself by speaking your native language with your companion or within a group. You have more time and can put more energy into learning the local language and connecting more to the locals. You’ll be less intimidating to locals- you are approachable, not speaking your native tongue, and not being interrupted.
The risks of solo travel can be you are more vulnerable – but you are only vulnerable if you make yourself so. In some places a risk may be being a solo female traveler, but by covering up, looking confident, and not acting flirtatious – being a solo female should not bring any significant risks if you take your safety seriously. You wouldn’t walk home alone drunk in a city you did not know in your own country – why do it in a new one? Common sense kicks in. Another risk is finding out your weaknesses and having nobody else to delegate that work to offset yourself – but solo travel is the perfect opportunity to improve yourself and your skill set!
My two cents: I personally prefer solo travel. I get to do everything I want to do – I can hike a mountain one day and read on a hammock the next – and never worry about keeping one or more people happy! I am selfish like that.
Traveling with a Companion
Traveling with a companion means you’ll have somebody familiar with you to talk to, eat with, hang out with, laugh with, and be with pretty much 24 hours 7 days a week. You’ll never have to be alone. Ever. Traveling with a companion means you have somebody you know you enjoy and whom you can share all the new experiences with.
The benefits are bountiful but the biggest advantage to traveling with a companion is – you can save money. In most countries rooms are per room not per person, and there is often times a single supplement you’ll have to pay for being alone. Having a companion means you split the cost of rooms and you never have to pay extra because you are in a pair. A companion also helps to minimize culture shock – you have somebody experiencing the same things as you for the first time and you can lean on each other for moral support during your travels. A companion also may offset some of the weaknesses you may have. You’ll never have to fear eating alone in public nor get stuck in a situation without having an easy eyebrow raise among each other to help bow out immediately.
The Risks are also bountiful and can cause some long term repercussions. You may be the bestest of friends back in the homeland but that does not mean you will be good travel companions. You will be with this person 24 hours a day 7 days a week; all of those little habits and quirks you found enduring while being their friend are amplified and may lead to extreme irritation. You don’t like the sound of knuckle cracking? Now you have a friend doing it every 5 minutes unconsciously. Also, a companion means it is not all about you anymore, you have to make sure that both parties are having their wants, hopes, and dreams met on this adventure – you’ll have to compromise constantly.
To guarantee companionship with your companion make sure you see eye-to-eye on a few very important items: Budget, Travel activity style, and alcohol consumption desires. If one wants luxury and one wants bare-bones; you’re in for a stressful situation. If one is an early riser, activity heavy day tripper while the other is a lounging cocktail on a beach type – you won’t be together for long. And finally – if one wants to party the days/nights/trip away while the other has the soul of an 80 year old – thinking about splitting ways before you do irreparable damage to your relationship.
My Two Cents: If you are going to travel with somebody and your budget, travel style, and consumption needs are all discussed and aligned, still consider taking 1 week apart every month, or one day away from each other once a week. This will help each party to meet their “me-time” requirements and refresh a lot of energy into yourself.
Traveling in a Group
Three may be a crowd but Group means its a Party of 5+. Groups bring dynamics and constant entertainment to any activity from eating dinner to boasting your courage to zip-line across that 200m canyon. Groups also mean more ideas, more opinions, and more peoples happiness to take into consideration. Whether you’re traveling with your 5 childhood friends or you’re on a pre-set 2 week tour group; groups bring such different dynamics that it is both maddening and enlightening.
The Benefits: With larger groups you have much greater bargaining power. You can either bunk 4 in a 2 bed room to save the cash or get a discount on personalized tours. Groups mean that conversation is always kept lively and that a joke is always right around the corner. You’ll never ever be alone, and if you aren’t enjoying the company of one individual, you can easily turn around and engage in conversation with another.
The Risks are much more numerous than the benefits, at least in list form. Large individual groups mean you may have difficulty finding accommodation together and restaurants do not typically have room to seat 12 people together. Also, attempting to align itineraries and requirements of larger groups is virtually impossible and somebody will constantly be complaining about not wanting to go there/see that/stop here. Another major issue, and one that can have anybody ripping out their hair, the time it takes for a group to actually do/see/get anywhere.; somebody needs to pee, another forgot their glasses, 3 need to go to 3 different banks, etc; you’ll of meant to arrive for 08:00 but do not end up rolling in cranky and frustrated until 11:00! On pre-set group tours (14 days from Rome to Athens), you’ll be stuck with a group of individuals you have never met before, and that you may potentially not enjoy. You’ll spend your nights in hotels that often make it difficult to meet other travelers and you’ll be required to make nice with everybody or else cause conflict and tension with people you can’t escape without losing your money.
My Two Cents: I personally won’t travel in large gaggles nor will I again take a pre-organized tour. I am all for the day group tour or 2 day tours. You meet incredible people – but with all the hassle of having to make everybody happy and deal with somebody constantly complaining – I do not need the unnecessary stress nor does my natural tendency to be early blend well with the snail speed of tour groups. Always think about YOUR needs before those of the entire group – this is YOUR travel experience – make sure you love every minute of it.