When you start to plan an adventure most people will look to travel with a companion. Humans are naturally social creatures and are used to working in groups. There are many benefits to travelling with a buddy but there are also lots of advantages to travelling solo. This post will explore the pros and cons of solo travel. I have completed a mixture of both and I am still undecided which I prefer. Let me know your thoughts.
Pros of travelling solo
When travelling with a friend or partner there will be occasions when you will have to compromise. Let’s use a cycling adventure as an example. There will be times when one of you will want to set a certain speed or times when you want to have a quick rest. When travelling with a buddy, you have to make decisions based on how you both feel.
Travelling solo is liberating. Being able to make decisions on how you feel in the moment gives you a sense of freedom that isn’t possible when travelling in a group.
2. Time to reflect
Modern life is hectic. Emails, voicemail, spreadsheets and deadlines dictate the pace for many people. Being alone in the mountains, on the road, rivers and oceans give you time to be at one with your mind. To reflect on those important decisions and to decide what direction you want to go in the future.
3. Cultural and social immersion
If you are travelling away from your country, being alone in a foreign land is the perfect way to be fully immersed in that culture. You will be forced to speak to locals and learn some basic words in that language.
If you are planning an adventure to a country where you don’t speak the language, make the effort to learn some basic phrases. Write them down and keep them in your pocket. Being able to say please and thank you in the native langue will nearly always induce a smile.
4. Kindness of strangers
Sure, strangers can often be friendly to groups or pairs of travellers. However, when you are alone strangers will be much more inclined to go out of their way to be kind. Imagine if a lonely, solitary figure was travelling through your area. You are more likely to feel that they need your help and support than if they were in a group.
Cons of solo travel
There are some downsides to travelling alone. Here are some points to consider.
1. Shared experience
When you return from your adventure, you will no doubt find yourself in a pub or a bar retelling stories from your time as a temporary nomad. These stories will be great but being able to reminisce with a travel partner is unique.
It creates a bond and shared experience that only you two or the group share. Sharing your experiences through photos or social media is not quite the same as sharing it with another person.
2. The financial cost of being a single traveller
There can be occasions when being alone can make it more expensive. If you are on an organised tour you will often pay a single supplement. There are ways of avoiding this and some companies organise group adventures for single travellers.
We feel safer when we are in groups. Being alone can be daunting if it is your first time or you have little experience of solo adventure. During my solo adventures, I have yet to receive any hostility or feel in real danger at any time. The best way to offset the feeling of danger is to start in your own country.
I would never carry any weapons on any of my adventures. That includes the occasions I have spent in Northern Ethiopia and the Sinai region of Egypt. Strangers are very unlikely to welcome you into their region if you are carrying weapons. If you do choose to carry a weapon, you have to be prepared to use it.
4. Taking videos and photos
When travelling alone it can a right pain to film the adventure. Having a travel buddy to share the filming with makes the job much easier. Taking photos alone is relatively easy unless you are after a selfie. When travelling solo, you will become a master of the self-timer.
Having a buddy or group to travel with is a great source of motivation. Humans work better in groups than as individuals. This is through hundreds of thousands of years of having to work in ‘tribes’ to achieve challenging goals.
It can be challenging to stay mentally focused whilst you are on a physically challenging, solo adventure. If you can stay motivated as an individual, you will feel a new sense of self-worth that you may not have felt before. Staying motivated in a group is usually easier. Try to be the person that does the motivating, rather than being the motivated.
Adams final thoughts
There are benefits to travelling alone or with a group. It’s a very individual feeling. So far I have completed more adventures with groups or with friends. I have had some brilliant experiences but there are also the occasional frictions when you are with fellow travellers.
A lot of novice adventurers are worried about travelling alone which is completely understandable. 99% of people in the world are friendly and generous. Don’t believe what many western media outlets tell us daily, that the world is a dangerous place and we shouldn’t trust strangers. Travelling alone is a liberating experience that everybody should do at least once. Being comfortable in your own company is a life skill that is often undervalued.
Start small, go and walk a mountain alone. Take a long cycle adventure for the night. See how you feel and go from there. You will not regret it.