Travel companion or solo travel?

Essentially, you have two broad choices to make when it comes to deciding on who to travel with – go with a friend or two… or go alone. Think about the following to help you decide what’s best for you.

A group of travelers.

It’s usually pretty easy to meet up with a cool group of like-minded backpackers when you’re travelling alone.

Going solo

Just the thought of traveling solo scares some travelers as they imagine everything and anything that could happen to them while being so far away from home. The loneliness and vulnerability of being on your own for long periods of time is certainly not for everyone. But in reality, a solo backpacking adventure provides many surprising advantages that may be appealing to some travelers, like the following:

  • The pace at which you travel can be as fast or as slow as you like. You can feel free to stay in a city for weeks if that is what you desire. You set your own schedule.

  • You can travel in any direction you want without concerning yourself with following someone-else’s itinerary.

  • You are more easily accepted where ever you go. For example, finding accommodations is easier as you can take the last available bed in a hostel. A table for one is easier to find than a table for four.

  • You will be more approachable. People are usually more hesitant to approach larger groups of people. Not so if you are on your own. You’ll be surprised how many people approach you when you are traveling by yourself.

  • You have more time, space and privacy to write in a journal.

  • You are less obtrusive in a foreign culture. You will blend in and become enveloped in the local culture rather than standing back and looking in.

  • You can easily join other groups of travelers (if you desire) as you make new friends while traveling.

If you do travel on your own, your trip may cost you a bit more than if you went with someone else. You won’t have a partner or two to share food, transportation or accommodation expenses with (ie. taking a cab, renting a car or staying in a cheaper hotel). As well, the security of companionship may be sorely missed. Traveling alone can give you the feeling of being more vulnerable to theft or injury.

Traveling solo gives you a great feeling of independence. You are in complete control of your travel experience. It also allows you to travel at any time of the year, when you are able to, rather than trying to coordinate time with someone else. Whether you travel with someone, or go solo, you will meet many people as you mix and mingle with locals and other travelers.

If you are looking for a travel mate, check out the Travel Buddies Forum on this website, which may help you get connected with someone with similar travel interests.

Choosing travel companions

Traveling with one or more people definitely has its benefits. Besides security and companionship, having a travel partner will allow you to lighten your load by sharing some items (ie. laundry soap and travel guides) and costs. Some people also find it much more enjoyable to be able to share experiences with someone else – to talk about and share the memories.

But there is a limit to how many people you want to be traveling with (including people you meet while abroad). Having too many people in a traveling group makes getting into attractions, restaurants and onto transportation more difficult. Arriving at a crowded hostel at the end of the day and finding several vacant beds is virtually impossible. As well, the more people there are in a group, the longer it takes (and the more difficult it is) to make decisions. So try to keep your group as small as possible.

Considering who to travel with would appear to be an easy decision. But an honest consideration is essential before you depart. To begin with, choosing your travel partner will probably be based on common sense: How long have you known this person? How close are they to you? As well, there are other considerations to be made that are just as important when choosing a travel partner:

  • Has your partner already visited the region that you are headed for? If you are traveling to Costa Rica (for example) for the first time, but your traveling partner has already been there before, you may have problems deciding on where to go and what to see. Your partner will already have opinions about what is worth seeing and what isn’t. And these ideas may or may not be in sync with what you want to see.

  • Do you each have different budgets? Traveling on two completely different budgets will surely cause problems while away as one person is required to spend less than the other.

  • Do you both have similar travel objectives? Are you traveling for different reasons? Some people travel to party, to see historical attractions or to see as much as possible.

Because you are together all day, every day, traveling can break even the best of friendships. Small habits seem to become larger. Decision making and agreeing on daily plans becomes more and more difficult. But dealing with such problems is not entirely impossible. Try some of the following strategies to help minimize conflict while away:

  • Take turns being the person in charge for a day. You can make the itinerary for one day and then your partner can plan the next day.

  • Assign heads or tails to optional activities and then flip a coin to decide what to do. This strategy removes any blame for a seemingly poor decision.

  • Create a joint bank account for shared expenses. Make equal contributions before-hand and then use a credit card to access the money.

  • Make an effort to mix with the locals and other travelers. A fresh face or idea can help reduce tension in your group or partnership.

  • Take a break from each other. An hour or two (or even a day) can give you time to explore and think on your own.

No matter who you travel with, you will always have the option of going your separate ways if tensions do arise. All travel groups will inevitably have flare ups due to differences or irritating habits. The key is to try and minimize the problems if at all possible. By thinking about some of the above mentioned points before hand, problems can hopefully be reduced.

Travel partner resources

  • Solo Travel
    Information and inspiration for solo travel and solo holidays.

  • FindATraveller
    A free worldwide travel community that lets you get in touch with fellow travellers the world over.

  • Travel Buddies Forum
    Find your travel buddy on the World Backpackers Forum.