Figuring out your preferences and personal style of travel can be a bit of trial and error, and the travelling alone Vs group travel decision can sometimes have you in a pickle when planning a trip. This debate can divide travellers, but we must remember that there is no right way to travel. Kudos to all who are willing to head out there and see the world, however they wish, as there are so many who have no interest in doing so… but you may need a helping hand in figuring out the travel style that suits you best.
I’m back from a few months of travelling! Much to the disappointment of the parents, I took a much-needed career break and switched the office for the endless skies of Australia and the pristine beaches of the Philippines. I began the trip with my sister, showing her my favourite slices of Melbourne life, then I went up the coast to see a friend in Bellingen, New South Wales. After that trip into lush Aussie countryside, I caught a plane with five good chums (three more joined us later) to island hop in the Philippines… and I was a bit nervous to say the least!
I’ve never travelled in a large group of friends. I have either travelled with a single partner-in-crime or alone, and while both have their pros and cons, I was yet to travel in a large group of friends. Alex is well-versed in group holidays and knows how to travel with friends (and keep them!) but for me, the Philippines was a learning experience to compare to my times where I’ve travelled alone.
Travelling alone Vs Group travel: the debate
Life will always be simpler with only a few people in the mix and the longer the trip, the harder it may be to travel in a large group. But in saying this, planning a short trip with great mates can be exceptionally exciting and open up a whole new experience for solo travellers!
The pros and cons of group travel:
- PRO: You get to know your friends on a whole new level: being around each other 24/7 and facing new experiences together can pull you closer. You support one another through any tough times, you laugh together through the good times, you talk deep into the night on personal issues – your relationships will be on another level after the trip.
- PRO: Sharing memories that will last a lifetime: an exotic trip with your friends will bound to create some awesome memories and stories. Even if stories come from pretty unfortunate events (one of our group got speared by a stingray on the first day – pretty scary), the memories will last a good while.
- PRO: You have more confidence to explore off the beaten track: with your crew at your side, risk-taking confidence increases and you don’t think twice about exploring off the beaten path. Who cares that you delve deep into Manila and then can’t get home? You’re with the dream team.
- PRO: If your group is large enough, you can split off: not everyone in a big group will want to do the same things every day. Embrace the freedom and splinter off for the day – rejoin in the evening and swap stories over dinner! It’s good to know that there’s an element of freedom (even if you don’t need to exercise it) and not all plans have to be controlled by the mass.
- CON: Different people travelling for different reasons: when planning the trip, make sure everyone is wanting similar things from the trip, or it may cause frustrations. If there are some party animals in the mix of a holiday focused on relaxation and health, it could cause rifts and divisions.
- CON: Decision making: it can be darn frustrating when no decisions are being made. Especially when it comes to finding a place to eat, as the term ‘hangry’ gets pretty familiar. Decision making without being bossy is an art form, but sometimes it’s better to be slightly bossy than waste an hour or so running round in circles and not getting anywhere.
- CON: Travelling with the wrong friends: friends can still be life-long friends, but not make ideal travel buddies – not everyone flourishes in these environments. If you’re going on a once-in-a-lifetime group trip, you have to make sure you’re going with the right people. Just remember that a good traveller has laid-back, relaxed and easy-going vibes. There is no time for drama queens, uber princesses or fussy people… your nerves will be frazzled in no time! And luckily, my friends were as laid-back as hell. Thank god.
The pros and cons of travelling alone:
- PRO: You won’t argue with yourself: there can be plenty of pressure when travelling; it can be exhausting and can make some quite anxious when on the go constantly. If you’re in a group, arguments can break out if tensions are high, but you can forget about that drama if you’re going solo. If you meet any other travellers on the road who turn out a bit mental, you can can just grab your bag and move on. No life-long friendships damaged here!
- PRO: You are really living in the present: when travelling in a large group, I didn’t feel as present as when I’m solo or with just one other person. Having so much fun with my friends (oh woe is me) distracted me from soaking up my surroundings and absorbing the atmosphere in the same fashion as when alone. When solo I’m more acutely aware of new sights and sounds, mainly because no one else will be having an eye out for me,
- PRO: No need to compromise: you can be completely selfish with your time and how you spend it. If you want to eat from the same seafood BBQ joint every night, no one will stop you. Or if you want to suddenly take a detour, there’s no one you have to convince to follow.
- PRO: You put yourself out there: to avoid going crazy lonely (see below), you put yourself out there by striking up conversations with complete strangers. And you can meet some of the most kind, funny and intriguing people! When travelling in a group, many tend to stay in their comfort zone and stick to their own. And this can be tough when travelling solo and being faced with groups of friends who aren’t keen on taking time out from their squad to talk to a newbie…
- CON: The crushing feeling of loneliness: O.k. so it’s not ‘crushing’, but it certainly is nerve-wracking! Some days you’re fine wandering alone, doing your thing…. other days, you just want to be having a hearty laugh over a meal with friends. When you find yourself in a place that’s not entirely friendly to solo travellers, it can make you weary and disheartened. And having no one to rub sunscreen on your back can be the icing on the cake.
- CON: No support network: if shit hits the fan and you get sick, or worse, get stung by a stingray, it can be a pretty scary situation when you’re on your ownsome. Hopefully you’ll have kind staff at your accommodation who won’t leave you for dead. Hopefully you have a new traveller friend who can supply you with water. But when you’re feeling crappy – physically or emotionally – you can be pretty miserable without a friendly face to placate your worries.
- CON: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”: experiencing an adventure on your own does leave fantastic memories, but you don’t get those nostalgic catch-ups with someone who shared the journey with you. You can tell people what happened on your trip – they may get bored in the third hour of your narration – and they can smile and nod, but sharing memories with loved ones is pretty special. You can snap those photos and jot down in your journal, but reuniting with a friend over wine to walk down memory lane is also pretty damn good. Also, they’ll be able to confirm that it wasn’t all just an exciting dream.
Although I can see both pros and cons for group travel, I was pretty lucky as our time in the Philippines was a blinding success – it was a brilliant time with brilliant people. Just one of those trips where no one pissed each other off and everyone got along scarily well…
The key for a short trip in a big group is to have a plan and itinerary agreed. Have it locked down so most group decisions will only have to revolve around food, drink and transport. Minimal fuss when on the road is key, and these rare trips (when a bunch of you are free and able to go on a trip together) should be grabbed by both hands. Solo travelling can happen whenever, and after this recent trip, I’m glad that my worries of group travel didn’t stop me from buying that plane ticket.
Travelling alone Vs group travel – which party do you support?
All photographs by Sophie Saint