The big debate – to travel with a group, with friends, or solo?
I have experienced all three, and I usually prefer to travel solo (most of the time). In my experience, it really depends on the travel plans, whether to travel with others or not to travel with others.
I have done my fair share of group travel with different opportunities that have arose due to my studies in Anthropology through my university. Just this past summer, I went to Israel with a group of 13 students and two professors from my university to work on an archeological dig. On the weekends we went to different parts of the country such as the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. At some points during this trip, I was a bit frustrated because I couldn’t do what I would have done if I had been traveling by myself. We did have some time in which we were allowed to explore on our own, but we were still advised to stay with at least one other person. I do understand that there were some considerable safety concerns at the time in which we were there, but I have a tough time when I am unable to get any alone time. I ended up with the nickname “lone wolf” on that trip, and it was a name that I embraced. That being said because of the less than ideal safety circumstances that we were there for, I was happy to have friends there to experience it with. When there were missiles exploding in the air, it was nice to have others there with me. And, it is always nice to have people to talk about your travels once you are back home. It did frustrate me, however, that we were not able to try much ethnic foods. Part of our expenses were for meals, which ended up being hotel buffet style meals. I wanted to try more of the local food from vendors or the local market. Once in Jerusalem, we did have some time to explore on our own and find food for ourselves. But, when we found out that we had to leave early, we had one last meal together… which was Italian. That just doesn’t make sense to me, for a foreigner to get Italian food in Israel.
When I studied abroad in Spain, I ended up on a couple of weekend excursions with large groups. This tends to be the thing to do while studying abroad, and as my first “big trip abroad” it was nice to be in a group. I went to Barcelona with about 15 students and to Portugal with about 50 students. For weekend trips, big groups of college-age students are FUN. We would spend the days exploring the city and the nights out late experiencing the night life. Waking up hungover, we would still be determined to spend the day out in the city as opposed to in our twin-sized hostel beds. However, if you are going for longer than a long weekend or are really trying to get to know the culture, I would not suggest traveling with large student groups.
Advise for Group Travel:
–Have an idea of the dynamics of the group before hand. If your plan is to spend the days in museums and exploring the art culture, make sure the trip isn’t set on staying up all night partying.
–Go in with an open mind. You will be with the same people for various days. Make friends, be a team-player, and try not to exclude anyone. You are all there to see new places and experience them together.
–Make sure there is time for you to explore on your own. Each person will have different things they really want to do or see. Make sure there is time for you to do what you want to do.
Travel with Friends:
Traveling with friends can be tough, but it can also be great. I traveled in Eastern Europe for two weeks with two people I had recently met while studying abroad in Spain. Although we did not know each other for long, we saw each other at our best and at our worst. We got fed up with one another, and there was even a big fight towards the end of our travels. Overall, we really had to learn to work together in a very short period of time. Mikey and I both liked to read the map and direct, but we would often have disagreements. To work this out, we decided that only one of us was allowed to look at the map and direct at a time. This helped us tremendously. I will always look back on this trip very fondly even if there were some disagreements along the way, and we all maintained our friendships after the trip.
Road trips, however, are meant for doing with friends. I don’t think I could handle a road trip on my own. I would get bored in the car (or possibly fall asleep while driving). This past summer I went on a short road trip with two of my best friends. We had a great time in Nashville and the Smokey Mountains. It is something that we will always remember doing together. That being said, you will learn more about your friends than you knew before. Some things that may be positive others not so positive, but that shouldn’t change you friendship.
Advise for Traveling with Friends:
–Don’t take things personally. When you get back home, you want to still be friends
–Know that you will learn more about one another than you thought was possible. You probably thought you already knew your best friend better than anyone, but there will be something more that you find out about them while traveling together, good or bad that is part of what makes them who they are.
–Take time apart from one another while traveling. Just a short break away from one another can really help to create space and rejuvenate the good vibes.
-Have some what of a plan before going. When I traveled in Eastern Europe, we formulated a travel plan together before we went so non of us were left out of the planning process. This doesn’t meant that the plan can’t change, just make sure everyone is able to see/do what they want to.
My personal favorite, solo travel. While I have really enjoyed traveling with friends or traveling in groups, I always feel that I learn more about the culture and the people if I am traveling alone. I also have learned more about myself when I travel solo because there is more time for self-reflection. Maybe solo travel isn’t the best option for your very first trip, but once you feel more confident with yourself and traveling I urge you to take off by yourself. My first solo travel was after studying abroad, I went to the UK and hoped around, sometimes staying with friends other times staying in hostels by myself. I felt more independent than ever. I relied on myself and looked after myself.
Last summer, I hiked 330km along El Camino de Santiago. I went alone, but of course, I met other pilgrims along the way. If I would have gone with others, I may have not met so many others. When I travel with others, I don’t make as much of an effort to meet others. Traveling by myself, I have met more people from around the world, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
Advise for Solo Travel:
–Understand and take safety precautions. Of course, there is some risk traveling abroad and when you are by yourself you need to watch out for yourself.
–Make an effort to meet others while traveling. Traveling alone I have met people from all over because I tend to push myself out of my comfort zone more than when I am with others.
–DO WHAT YOU WANT! Being able to do what you want, eat what you want, see what you want and on your own time is the beauty of traveling by yourself. Maybe that makes me a bit selfish?