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Solo Travel vs. Group Travel: How To Decide What's Right For You
The Benefits Of Solo Travel
Many of my friends often ask me, "Aren't you scared of traveling to Country X all by yourself?" This question always amazes me, as it really is very easy to meet other travelers on the road. Of course, if you're extremely shy and have anxiety going up to strangers, you may have more trouble; however, staying in hostels, booking day tours, taking public transportation, using money exchanges and participating in Couchsurfing message boards and meetups allows for easy socializing. What's great about solo travel is you can choose when you want to be alone, and when you want to hangout with other people. It's like being on a silent retreat and being able to really enjoy your own company and not feel pressure to always be having discussions. Moreover, there is nobody else to dictate your itinerary. For example, I once backpacked Europe with a girl who was extremely cheap, and wouldn't splurge on any day trips or go to any bars or clubs. While walking around the free parks and doing the complimentary walking tours was nice, there was a lot more I wanted to do. I couldn't, however, because she wanted us to do all our activities together. Thankfully we ended up parting ways, and it was at this time that I began to really experience Europe the way I wanted to.
Of course, traveling solo also means heightened uncertainty. While getting lost in a big city or getting on the wrong train can seem like an adventure when with friends, it can be nerve-wracking when you're alone. It's also nice to have someone to share the burden of making important decisions with you. If you make the wrong one, it's less scary when you're with someone else. Likewise, the road can get lonely at times. Even if you're constantly meeting new people at your hostels and on tours, it can be nice to have a real travel partner to share the experience. And of course, there's always safety in numbers. It's good to have someone who can watch your stuff while you go to the bathroom, and look out for your safety in general.
The Pros Of Group Travel
Along with the above-mentioned safety in numbers and relief of stresses, the best part of group travel is it can be a lot of fun. Sharing all these unique, day-to-day experiences can help you become close with your travel companion(s), and can lead to a lot of great memories together. It also relieves the lonliness many solo backpackers feel on the road. Even when meeting other people along the way, there are often many goodbyes and loose connections. Traveling with someone else can help you feel like you have a real friend and ally with you. Furthermore, you never have to worry about going to the bar alone and feeling awkward or having nobody to talk to during an activity.
The Cons Of Group Travel
The main reason I dislike group travel is I don't like other people dictating my itinerary. When traveling, there are certain experiences I want to have, and having other people there can cause you to have to give up things you want to do. Moreover, it can be frustrating at times needing to wait around for other people to get ready, get money, unlock their bank card, pick up their laundry or do any other of the little everyday hassles travelers face. Additionally, dealing with different budgets can be difficult, as you never want to be forced to spend more than you can afford, or miss out on things because of a cheap travel partner.
Choosing A Travel Partner
While I love solo travel, I have to admit group travel can be a lot of fun. With group travel, it's important to find someone who is compatible as a travel partner. When envisioning your trip, is there a mix of alone time and group time, or do you always want to be with your companion(s)? Do you enjoy adventure activities, seeing tourist sites or simply relaxing? What's your budget? Do you like staying in hostels or hotels? These are some of the questions you should ask before committing to traveling with someone. As mentioned previously, I traveled Europe with a girl who wanted to do everything together. For me, it was completely stifling. However, when backpacking Argentina, I traveled with a girl who was even more independent than I am. This allowed us to both enjoy the activities we liked doing without having to worry about hurting the others' feelings. It was also comforting to know if I wanted to do something with a partner or go for a beer, I had someone there.
Technologies That Help You Find Travel Companions
Whether you decide to travel solo or with a partner, there are many technologies that make travel more social. For example, for solo travelers, sites like Couchsurfing, Tripping and TripTrotting connect travelers with locals. This allows you to hangout with someone for sightseeing, and also to get a local point of view on your trips. For travelers who would like a travel partner but don't have any friends who can commit, sites like Globetrooper and FindMeetGo allow you to post trips and connect with potential travel partners.
Should You Sign Up For A Group Tour?
If you don't want to travel alone, and you're the type of person who likes plans to be guaranteed to run smoothly, you may think about booking a group tour. Although I enjoy solo travel, I've done tours with Intrepid Travel and GAdventures before, and have had great experiences. Their styles cater to my travel philosophy of trying to go local and get closer to a culture. Before booking a group tour with a company, make sure to look into the style of the organization and the trip itself. If you're a luxury traveler, check to see what kinds of accommodations you'll be staying in and restaurants you'll be eating at. For those looking for adventure, check the itinerary to ensure you'll get to do the types of activities you enjoy. If you like learning about culture, what ways does the tour ensure this will happen? As long as you do some research, and you're the type of person who doesn't mind having each day planned out, than a group tour can be a very enjoyable experience.