Traveling Alone vs. With Friends

Traveling alone or with a group can be a difficult decision.  Often, fear will drive us to traveling with a friend, but there are some perks to traveling by yourself that you may not have considered.  I have listed out some pros and cons to traveling alone vs. with a group to help you decide which style suits you best.

Traveling Solo

Pros

Backpacking solo
Ktoine / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
  • Freedom of choice – through traveling by yourself, you can do what you want, when you want, and don’t have to worry about organizing a group of people with different opinions.
  • Flexible itinerary – If you feel like staying an extra day somewhere because you love the city, then you can, without having to run it by other people.
  • More inclined to meet people – traveling alone forces 6you to interact with other backpackers, whether it is to have a group to walk around with at night if you don’t feel comfortable by yourself, to have someone to talk to so you don’t get lonely, or to get travel advice from a fellow traveler.  For me, one of the best things about backpacking is the relationships I have made with people from all over the world while traveling solo.
  • Fewer distractions – along with the point above, I find traveling with a friend to be distracting, and can take away from what is around you.  Just walking around a city, you feel inclined to talk to each other as that is human nature, but sometimes, when exploring solo and in silence, you can notice the little things more and come to really appreciate a place.

Cons

  • Safety – Many people, especially females, are concerned with safety when traveling alone, especially if it is their first time overseas. I can tell you firsthand, as a solo female traveler on several occasions, that if you are cautious and use your common sense, then you will be fine on your trip.  However, if you are someone who is overly cautious by nature and the thought of traveling solo makes you extremely nervous, then going with a friend may be a better option. For additional information on safety as a female, solo traveler, you can read here.
  • Shyness – If you are an introvert and naturally shy, then being forced to meet people on the road so you are not lonely can be a daunting task.  You don’t want to find yourself cooped up in your room on your trip because of your shyness, so in this case, traveling with a friend can make your trip more fun and eventful.

Traveling With a Group or Friend

Pros

  • Having someone to share your experiences with – Traveling to a new place is such a memorable experience, and it sometimes helps to have someone else that understands your journey with you, especially when you get home and want to reminisce or share your stories.  You will find your friends and family may not understand your experience, nor want to hear about it all the time, but the person you went with will always be there to go down memory lane with you and join in on your excitement. Not to mention you can always have someone there to take your picture!
  • Comfort – Knowing someone while you are in a foreign place can be very comforting, especially when you are dealing with new forms of travel, different languages, and a lot of culture shock.  Having a familiar face with you can be very reassuring.
  • Splitting costs – Traveling with a friend can be cheaper when it comes to splitting the cost of a taxi, food, toiletries and other stuff.  It can also save room in your pack, where instead of each of you bringing shampoo, only one of you may need to bring it, or by sharing books along the way when you finish yours instead of buying new ones.
  • Safety – Traveling with someone ensures you will always have someone to go out with at night. You can also take shifts sleeping on trains or buses to watch over your belongings, or have someone to watch you things on the beach while you go play in the water.
  • Building a strong relationship – traveling with a friend can build a life long bond between you and your companion.

Cons

Traveling with Friends
argreen / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SCons
  • More distractions – traveling with friends can hinder you from stepping outside your comfort zone and meeting all kinds of amazing people, which is part of the backpacking experience.  It is easier to just stick with your group and not socialize with those around you. Friends can also take away from your experience if they aren’t enjoying it as much or not having fun. If your friend hates museums and complains the whole time you are in one, it can affect your attitude or diminish the experience.
  • Give and take – traveling with a friend is all about compromise.  You typically have to check with each other before making decisions, and try to fit in things for everyone even if it is something you don’t want to do.
  • Risk of friendship – there is a possibility that the stress of travel combined with being with the same person all the time will put a strain on your friendship, or cost you the friendship.  Fighting all the time can even ruin your trip.  You need to make sure you really know each other well, or are compatible travel partners on at least a basic level to avoid this.  See my post on picking a travel partner for tips on traveling with a friend and red flags to look for that you may not get along before agreeing on a partner.

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