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Travelling Solo or with a Friend

On most of my travels I have been on my own. But I have also had many great experiences when travelling with a friend. So which is better? Here are a few thoughts to help you weigh up the pros and cons (or show it to your friend and let them decide for you…).

ADVANTAGES OF DOING IT WITH SOMEONE ELSE:

  • It’s safer
  • It’s cheaper (sharing rooms, taxis etc.)
  • It’s less stressful (you share the haggling with touts and answering the same questions a million times from curious locals. You can keep an eye on each other’s bag while one of you nips into a shop or toilet)
  • Shared memories to reminisce over when you are old
  • Someone to laugh with
  • Less daunting and scary heading to strange and unknown places
  • Less gear to carry (share a tent, guidebook, medicines)
  • Easier to ignore the weirdo on the 24 hour bus ride who is determined to sit next to you and tell you their life story
  • Less boring or lonely

ADVANTAGES OF DOING IT SOLO:

  • More of a challenge
  • You meet more people
  • Less bickering
  • You can do what you want when you want
  • More exciting
  • Less time talking about Eastenders: you’re more immersed in the experience
  • You realise you are capable of more than you imagine
  • Great for self-confidence
  • Less faff and trivial discussions about what flavour jam to buy
  • Solitude
  • Strangers are kinder to you
  • Freedom, real freedom. Arriving in a place where nobody knows a thing about you is liberating.
  • Greater sense of achievement.
  • More peace and quiet, time to think, read, write, take photos.
  • Easier to tell outrageous lies about your adventures in order to impress girls…

I interviewed a bunch of other adventurers for my new book, Grand Adventures. Here’s what some of them had to say on the subject.
Husky Dog feeding time

SEAN CONWAY (SWUM LENGTH OF BRITAIN, CYCLED ROUND THE WORLD)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  •  Freedom to change plans whenever you like
  •  You’re more likely to get approached and asked to join things
  •  You get to live the adventure you want to live

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • sharing adventures together with someone close to you can be priceless
  •  it can be cheaper when sharing accommodation etc.
  •  sometime you feel safer traveling with someone else.

If I had to choose, I prefer travelling alone because I often like to do long days on the bike/walking which isn’t for everyone.

SHIRINE TAYLOR (CYCLING ROUND THE WORLD)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  •  Freedom! There is no feeling on earth like being able to chose exactly where you want to go or what you want to do every step of the way.
  •  Being more social and more open to meeting new people/staying with others. When you have someone else with you you tend to hang out with them instead of branching out and making new connections.
  •  Learning more about yourself and gaining a sense of independence. When you are alone you realise that you can get through any situation, whereas when you are with someone else you may rely upon them. You are also able to truly figure out who you are and what you want when you are solely “focused” on yourself.

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  •  You have someone to share your adventure with, someone who understands the lifestyle, the amazing things you have seen, and the joys and sorrows that come along with it. It’s impossible to explain to an outsider how sleeping in a slum is, or how cycling up a two-day pass is, so it’s nice to have someone alongside you who gets it.
  • You may get to try more things if you have slightly different interest because you end up doing them both. For instance, my boyfriend loves fishing, and while it’s not my thing, it leads us to great camping spots we wouldn’t have otherwise found if he wasn’t looking to catch our dinner. Having someone else also gives you a different view point to situations which can help you process what you are seeing.
  •  You have someone to cuddle up with at night!

If I had to choose… That’s a hard one. I absolutely love traveling alone and will definitely be doing more of it throughout my life, but now that I have found “my person” I wouldn’t give him up for the world. I think it’s important for everyone to travel alone at least once since it’s such an eye opening and incredibly experience, but once you find the one you want to be with, you are more than allowed to travel with them as well.

ANNA HUGHES (CYCLED 4000 MILES AROUND THE COASTLINE OF GREAT BRITAIN)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  • Control over the journey – you are utterly free to do as you choose, go where you want, stop without warning, take a detour, take photos etc.
  •  You really get to know yourself, your capabilities and your limitations.
  •  People tend to offer help more if you are travelling alone

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  •  Constant company and conversation
  •  Sharing the views makes them more real, somehow.
  •  Someone to help in the bad times and share in the good times

If I had to choose, I would go alone, because I am fiercely independent and want to do things my way! And the satisfaction of accomplishing something by yourself is wonderful, whether that is something as simple as a bike ride or as survivalist as hunting and cooking your own food. That doesn’t mean to say you must shun companionship or help along the way, but mostly I choose to travel by myself.

HELEN LLOYD (CYCLING AND PACKRAFT EXPEDITIONS ACROSS THE WORLD)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  •  Freedom – to go where you want when you want, to do as you please
  • Easier to meet other people (local and other travellers)

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • Safer to go places/routes that would be difficult/more dangerous alone
  • Cheaper
  • Someone to share experiences with

If I had to choose, I would go alone because of the freedom, but it’s still easy enough to find someone to do stuff with if I choose. So it’s the best of both worlds.

JAMIE MCDONALD (RAN 5000 MILES ACROSS CANADA)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  •  Embracing the adventure, and everything around you more.
  •  Meeting and connecting with local people
  •  You only have to focus on one person: you. Selfishly, that can be nice

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • Two people can work as fast as four people, logistics become easier/faster
  • Having company, you never become lonely so whenever you hit low points, you can perk each other up
  • Sharing experiences together, and years later you can drink a beer with that person and reminisce

If I had to choose, I would go for alone it’s more challenging and you have no other choice but to embrace the adventure, people and experiences around you.

IAN PACKHAM (CIRCUMNAVIGATED AFRICA BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  •  a much better, deeper insight and interaction with locals and local life
  •  freedom to do what I want, when I want, during all stages of travel (eating, sleeping, having no plans…)
  •  learning lots about myself that I wouldn’t otherwise discover

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • being able to share the burden/stress of travel, such as watching over kit, talking to strangers when I’m not in the mood, and having someone who understands what I’m going through
  • adopting new ideas and picking up new skills from that person
  • sharing costs!

If I had to choose, I would go alone, simply for the ease of being able to go without any pre-planning. Having said this, my latest trip is with a teammate, so we’ll see how that goes in a month or so.

DAVE CORNTHWAITE (EXPEDITION1000)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  • Total freedom
  • Faster decision making
  • Less scope for quarrels/ bother.

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • They’re always going to be better at me than some/most of the things I’m capable of, which can make a difference to certain elements of a trip.
  • In the right team, two people can do the work of three (sometimes six can be less effective than one, though)
  • Company. Lack of madness. Good balance during hard times.

If I had to choose…
I’d go alone. All things considered, I’ve enjoyed my solo trips better, and most of the unhappy memories I have from my journeys have been due to other people.

SARAH OUTEN (CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE GLOBE BY BIKE AND BOAT)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  • You are in charge and make it happen your own way at your own pace.
  • You only have your own cabin farts to endure.
  • You make more of an effort to get to know others on the road and I think people are more likely to take you in.
  • The beauty of solitude and peace is sublime.

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • You do not have to make all the decisions although compromise is required.
  • Someone else to help keep you safe and someone to focus on in times of need is a positive thing for me.

If I had to choose…
Alone is your journey, in your style, and your pace and you can be totally open to the magic that will happen. Together can be magical too. For me, it depends on the journey and goal and what’s needed to make it happen.

TOM ALLEN (LONG DISTANCE CYCLIST AND FILM MAKER)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  •  Learning to take full responsibility for yourself
  •  Being able to be utterly selfish in your decision making
  •  Allowing your mind to unwind entirely from the utter lunacy of everyday life

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  •  Having moral support when things get tough
  •  Being able to share the best moments of the experience
  •  Having someone else to take photos of you looking heroic

If I had to choose, I would go alone because an experience that is entirely your own will be a better teacher.

JASON LEWIS (SPENT 13 YEARS CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE WORLD)

Travelling alone is wonderful because you can do exactly what you want. You can be thoroughly selfish. If you want to travel or you want to ride your bike five miles and then stop and take the rest of the day off, you can. You can do exactly what you want to do, and so, in that sense, it’s very liberating. Whereas travelling with another person, you always have to compromise. Compromise is OK, but when you’re in a country where you might have different interests, that can be hard. I’ve travelled alone for long periods, and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that actually, I’m not very good on my own. I actually unbalance.

I do prefer to be at least with one other person. Three is the ideal number, I think, because you get to share the experience. When you’re on your own, it can become quite morbid, but it’s a little too indulgent, I think. After about a month of being alone, you have no real way to appreciate, perhaps, what you’re seeing, what you’re experiencing, because you don’t have another mirror near to you, next to you, to reflect some of what you may be taking for granted.

LEON MCCARRON (LONG DISTANCE CYCLIST, WALKER, FILM MAKER)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  •  Having no option but to take ownership of your own decisions (no-one to blame or praise but yourself when things go wrong/right)
  •  A much better chance of meeting and really engaging with strangers. The vulnerability of a solo traveller often encourages more people to come and speak to you, while a pair or a group can look self-sufficient
  •  Freedom. Total, unadulterated freedom.

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  •  Comfort – there is a lot of security to be found in having company (even if it doesn’t really make a difference in practical terms.)
  •  Fun-  sharing experiences, sharing a joke, having someone to talk rubbish to all day long when times are tough.
  •  Having a creative and decision-making sounding board – another perspective and opinion, and someone to see things you may be blind to.

If I had to choose, I would go with someone else because I like the company, and as someone who tries to film adventures, having a second person is invaluable logistically and creatively. I have no real desire to do very long trips on my own anymore. When I was young and wanted to prove myself (to myself and to the world) I needed to travel alone, but now I mostly find myself very dull.

STEVE DEW-JONES (HITCH-HIKED TO MALAYSIA)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  • Free rein over decisions.
  • More space to think.
  • Learning to be alone.

whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • Someone to talk to.
  • Avoiding loneliness.
  • Someone to share experiences with.

If I had to choose, I would go with someone else because I find travelling alone quite lonely. Whenever I go somewhere new, I want to be able to share my thoughts with someone and to see if they feel the same way about the place. I distinctly remember feeling somewhat depressed a few years back in Budapest. Thermal baths just aren’t that fun without someone to share them with, and I hate eating alone.

MATT PRIOR (ADVENTURER, FORMER FIGHTER PILOT)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include..

  •        Total independence, there are no compromises to be made.
  •        Freedom to attach or detach yourself from groups without any ill-feeling.
  •        It’s easier to take risks, and if people have to help just one person, transport, accommodation etc it’s normally quite easy to accommodate just one extra.
  •        Easier to meet people and also much easier to integrate with the other sex as they don’t feel threatened with just one of you.
  •        The fact that there’s no one to rely on so it’s all on you. No matter what happens this will help you develop as a person.

Whilst the advantages of going with someone else include..

  •        You always have a friend, no matter what the situation.
  •        You don’t have to always introduce yourself and tell people the same introduction day in day out: this gets old after a while.
  •        It’s nice to have someone to share experiences with you and also solve problems etc, two heads are always better than one.
  •        You always have someone to go for a beer with. Important in my book. : )
  •        You can learn a lot from other people, how they do things etc. Of course, this has its flip side and can potentially be quite annoying.

If I had to choose, I would go with someone else because I’ve travelled solo and with mates and to be honest I loved them either way. It all depends on what you’re doing.  If you’re doing a road trip, it’s definitely worth doing with a friend. Saying that, this can make or break your trip, so choose carefully. Doing a trip with someone else can create a very strong bond for life but I have also known of best friends return and never speak again. There are people all over the place who are keen for randomness so don’t think if you can’t find someone straightaway that you’re going to be lonely! Being alone in some of these places can be truly amazing. Going alone allows you to do exactly what you want to and life is pretty easy as there’s no need to compromise. Two people can be useful though for problem solving, company, sharing certain experiences etc so it really is a toss up, but either will be fine.   In general I would prefer to go with someone else but this wouldn’t be a showstopper. It’s situation dependent and I’d say there’s no right or wrong.

TIM MOSS (MOUNTAINEER, ADVENTURER, CYCLIST)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  • For me, travelling solo is a much more powerful experience. That sounds a bit melodramatic but there’s something about being on your own all the time, making every little decision by yourself and living through all these experiences without anyone around with whom you can share them.

Whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  • Travelling with someone else means you can share and defer decisions and responsibilities which often makes life easier. The highs and lows are mellower by virtue of being shared and, generally, I’d say it is easier and a lot more fun.

If I had to choose…
I don’t think recommending one over the other is illuminating.
If you want to test yourself, push yourself and have a deeper experience then I’d suggest going solo.
If you’d rather enjoy yourself (assuming you have a good partner) and have your problems halved then go with someone else.

OLLY WHITTLE (CANOED DOWN THE MEKONG)

Really interesting question. I’ve already done a blog post on it here.
I do most of my adventures alone and I think it’s actually more of a challenge to do in a group so that’s what I might plan next. Also, I think a pair is completely different from alone and group. A pair may fall out big time, which I think is less likely in a 3 or more.
  • Easier to actually get started
  • Easier to make decisions (regardless of right or wrong)
  • No responsibilty for others safety (if you mess up it’s only you that’s in trouble)
  • No expectation management required i.e.easier to cope with uncertainty / plan changes
  • Don’t have to worry if everyone is enjoying themselves (adventures are rarely pure fun)
  • More scary, bigger sense of stretching yourself

Advantages of group adventuring:

  • Shared experience
  • Better decisions
  • Better morale: Less lonely, lows offset by someone elses highs and vice versa
  • Safer
  • Less scary
  • Can push harder in a team
If I had to choose for my next adventure, I would go in a group because I’ve already done loads alone so it will give me new challenges and and when something makes you say wow, it’s always better if there’s someone there to say it with! (I probably wouldn’t choose a pair)

ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS (INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY)

I think the benefits of travelling alone include…

  • Freedom.
  • No scaffolding – you succeed or fail alone.
  • Meeting other people, immersing into cultures.

Whilst the advantages of going with someone else include…

  •  Fun.
  • Easier.
  • Cheaper.

If I had to choose… I’d go myself for character-building and pride. I’d go with someone else for fun. Overall, I’d encourage people to be brave and go by themselves.

What do you think? Please have your say in the comments below. Or say ‘hi’ over on Twitter.

My new book, Grand Adventures, answers many questions such as this. It’s designed to help you dream big, plan quick, then go explore. There are also interviews and expertise from around 100 adventurers, plus masses of great photos to get you excited.

I would be extremely grateful if you bought a copy here today!

I would also be really thankful if you could share this link on social media with all your friends – http://amzn.to/20IMYDt. It honestly would help me far more than you realise.

Thank you so much!

Grand Adventures Cover

 

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