Group or Solo Travel? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Having been bitten by the travel bug aged just 17, I have sampled all forms of travel  over the last 14 years – travel alone, with a partner, friends. I’ve worked aboard, volunteered, even holidayed with my parents and taken several group tours. Each style of travel allows for completely different experiences, each has it’s pros and cons. So if you are umming and ahhing  over how to travel, I hope this guide will help you make the all important choice!

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Travel with Friends

– best for company and flexibility.

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This can be amazing. It can also be awful. PICK YOUR FRIEND WISELY! Just because you are besties back home does not mean that will translate when you travel together. Travelling together is like living together – you see the good, the bad and the ugly!  Your friend may be the most fun ever when you go out for a few cocktails but will she be as fun on a 12 hour bus journey in 40 degree heat?!

I have travelled with friends before and had both good and bad experiences. The first time I travelled I went with a friend with whom I had a LOT of fun back home! She was laid back and we had a similar sense of humour so I figured we were perfect travel partners. Turns out travel in a 3rd world country wasn’t for her and when I found our travel disasters funny, it just added to her frustrations. Backpacking is not for everyone and she found out the hard way. It put a bit of stress on our friendship and when we got back home, our busy lives took us in different directions. I still regret how we drifted but it taught me an important travel lesson to be careful who you travel with. Don’t ruin a great friendship by travelling with someone who’s style of travel is completely different to yours!

On the other hand, I’ve had friendships strengthen by travel. You get to know someone on a completely different level when you spend every waking moment together forming memories to last a lifetime. I even ended up moving in with a friend after travelling together! Another friend I met travelling, I have since met up with a few times both in Wales and Holland!


Things worth discussing with a potential travel partner

    • Are you expecting 5 * accommodation or are you happy roughing it? What does roughing it actually mean to you?
    • How do you deal with things when they go wrong?
    • Are you messy or super tidy?
    • Do you have similar budgets?
    • Do you want to visit the same places?
    • Do you prefer slow or fast travel?
    • Do you like to eat local food or food you are more familiar with?
    • How much are you willing to compromise if your answers above are different?

Pro’s

  • Guaranteed company
  • Someone to share the memories (and photos) with.
  • Security of travelling with someone.
  • Share costs eg hotel rooms.

Cons

  • Potential to damage friendships if it doesn’t go well.
  • May have different travel goals – you will need to compromise!

Solo Travel

– best for slow travel and doing it YOUR way

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Travelling alone is the most controversial, the most nerve-racking but also possibly the most rewarding. In truth, you will rarely be alone unless you want to be. It’s easy to meet other travellers especially if you are staying in hostels and you can choose to travel with people heading the same direction but if it all gets too much, it’s easy to split and go your own way. There are also lots of tools and resources available these days to help bring travellers together, so being alone is not necessary. Examples being apps like Meetup where you can join groups of people with similar interests to you (especially locals) or www.backpackr.org – a website where you can message and meet other backpackers in the area. 

Pro’s

  • It’s completely YOUR trip. No need to compromise. Go where you want to, stay as long as you like, eat where you fancy. Be alone when you want to be or meet new people to hang out with, it’s your choice!
  • You will make so many new friends from all over the world!
  • Greater sense of achievement when you navigate your way through a foreign country mastering a new language and trying not to get lost!
  • You will learn a lot about yourself especially what you are capable of.

Con’s

  • Less secure with no one to watch your back.
  • Can be more expensive without someone to share costs with.
  • Difficult to meet people if you choose to stay in hotels rather than hostels.
  • Can get lonely if you are shy and find it difficult to make friends.

Travel with a partner

– best for sharing the special memories

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Just like travelling with a friend, this can really test your relationship. You are likely to emerge stronger than ever or alternatively, the cracks may start to show. However, better to find out now than years down the track right?! I’ve had some brilliant trips with partners in the past and those special moments such as gorgeous sunsets, are that much more special sharing it with a partner.

Pro’s

  • Someone to share those special moments with.
  • Guaranteed company
  • Cost saving eg a double hotel room.
  • Someone to share the memories with
  • It tests a relationship and gives you a good indication whether you can go the distance!

Con’s

  • If it doesn’t work out, you may feel awkward reflecting on the trip or looking back through photos with a new partner.
  • If the relationship breaks down, it will be much harder being away from home. 
  • Travelling may put additional stress on your relationship.

Group Travel

– best for maximizing how much you see in a short time and making lots of friends!

These days there are so many companies catering for group travel. You can choose your travel style or even which age range you would like to travel with. Companies like Dragoman (overlanding participation travel in a truck with a mixture of camping and hotels) or Gadventures (where  you stay in hotels and travel by a mixture of local transport and private minibus) are becoming an increasingly popular way to travel.  I’m actually currently on a dragoman tour through South America. It suited me this time as I wished to cram a lot into a short period of time and my Spanish skills are minimal. But on other occasions when I have more time to spare, I will travel alone or with friends. I personally like to mix it up!

Pro’s

  • Super easy to make new friends
  • Easy to navigate your way around without knowing much of the local language (though it’s still nice to learn some!)
  • You can cover a larger distance in a shorter amount of time since transport is pre arranged.
  • You will be taken to the best spots by people who are in the know!
  • Security of travelling as a group and looking out for each other.
  • More people to travel with so if one person is getting on your nerves, you can go and chat to someone else for a bit!

Con’s

  • Travelling with a group of people, you are likely to find someone you don’t get on with! Group travel requires tolerance.
  • You are restricted by a schedule and can’t choose to stay somewhere longer to explore more.
  • It can be tricky to get photos of views without lots of people in them! However this can be got around with a little patience!
  • There’s a risk you will be sharing a room with someone you don’’t get on with or who snores! Bring ear plugs just in case!
  • It usually costs more to take an organised tour.

So whichever style of travel you choose, there will be pros and cons, highs and lows. Don’t let fear put you off travelling alone, you will make friends and you will have an amazing time! Spend time thinking about what type of travel is best for you and don’t forget to choose travel buddies wisely!

What is your preferred style of travel? Have you had any travel buddy disasters? Have you tried a group tour? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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