It’s the decision that all eager travelers encounter before diving headfirst into trip planning mode: Should I travel alone or with a friend? There’s no right answer to this question, as it goes, but here we’ll consider some major pros and cons that accompany these two styles of travel.
Pros – Traveling Alone:
There are few greater feelings of freedom than walking the streets of a foreign city for the first time without any inhibitions but your own. The smells are yours to take in, the alleys yours to explore, the people yours to talk with, the decisions all YOURS to make. Sit in a café reading for 6 hours and nobody will care. Wake up early, sleep in, go to the museum or not, move on or stay longer, and again: nobody will care. While traveling alone you will be the most open to meeting new people – both locals and fellow travelers – and foregoing your plan to instead simply be a part of it all. Traveling alone is also a tried and true method for formulating deep reflections on your life’s path, and you will come out of any solo journey with an unrivaled confidence to take on whatever life may throw at you next.
Pros – Traveling with a friend:
This section could be summed up with two words: shared memories. The travel experiences that you have with friends will turn into a lifetime of shared laughter, nostalgia and understanding. I have become unmeasurably closer with every friend that I’ve traveled with and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. Additionally, sometimes it’s just comforting to know that somebody is there for you. I was once bedridden for two days in Thailand with a violent stomach bug (somewhat of a rite of passage in Thailand), all the while my family dog of 14 years was passing back home and I was in the midst of making one of the biggest decisions of my life (whether or not to move abroad). During this time my friend graciously took care of me, bought me food and medicine and was there for conversation when I needed it most. I’ve never been more grateful to have a friend by my side.
Cons – Traveling alone:
It’s right there in the name: ‘alone.’ Navigating new lands can be quite intimidating and often overwhelming. While getting yourself through these times of confusion can be one of the more rewarding perks of traveling alone, you should be mentally prepared to encounter moments of feeling empty, homesick and stuck. Additionally, you are completely responsible for your own safety while traveling alone. While most seasoned travelers will say confidently that the world isn’t the big, bad beast that we often hear it to be, you must still be prepared to be aware of your safety at all times while traveling.
Cons – Traveling with a friend:
While this has yet to happen to me, I’ve certainly heard many stories of friendships (and romantic relationships) being ruined while traveling. While this is probably for the best sometimes, just know that your relationship with your friend or partner will certainly be put to the test. Traveling with a friend means constantly making decisions together. Seriously, constantly. If you don’t think your friendship is strong enough to withstand that, it’s probably best to avoid traveling with this person. If all goes well, however, your relationship will emerge stronger than ever before. Additionally, most travelers are a bit less willing to reach out to locals and other travelers while with a friend. It’s much harder to spontaneously approach strangers when you have the comfort of a friend close by.
If you’re planning your first big travel experience, my recommendation is to plan it solo (only if you feel safe enough, of course). In this way you’ll independently learn who you are as a traveler, a bit more about who you are as a person, and you’ll gain travel confidence and momentum that will never leave your side. But regardless of the order in which you plan your travel styles, you should absolutely try both. Traveling with a friend will provide you with memories to forever share. Of course, you can always combine the two styles in one trip!
Photos: Taylor Winchell
Do you prefer to travel solo or with friends? Share with us in the comments.