#Selfie? Or #Groupie? | The Bamboo Blog
Solo Vs Group Travel | Arron Barrett
It’s the million-dollar question, can I see travel the world with nothing more than a rucksack, a lonely planet guide, and my sense of adventure OR do I do it all risk free, without the stress and book a group tour?
As someone who has experienced both during my travels, hopefully a few of these tips may help answer that question.
The Benefits of Solo Travel
We all know of that one person who’s done it, maybe it’s your aunt Jane’s postman’s neighbors grandsons best friend who quit their job or finished university and embarked on a round the world adventure, and you’re always hearing how amazing it is all going. So why can’t you be that brave? Why can’t that be you? You could do that too right?
It’s a scary thought, getting on a flight to a country that you don’t know, where the people speak a language you don’t understand, the thought can be terrifying, but isn’t that part of the adventure?
For me, the hardest part of traveling alone was booking the flight and committing myself, and yes ladies, you heard it, like 99% of men, I was scared by commitment.
But once I had landed and checked myself into a welcoming hostel, the rest kind of took care of itself.
Having the freedom to visit a place at your own pace and leisure is fantastic. What I found great about solo travel is you got to choose when you want to be alone, relax, and do nothing if you really wanted to, and yes also when you want to socialise and mingle with other people I could.
I found meeting people was as easy as I wanted it to be. I’m a talkative guy (perhaps too much on occasion) and I found it easy to start conversation with fellow travellers, and 9 times out of 10, a simple “hello” turns into a “where are you from” which changes into “where are you going next” and that escalates into “do you want to hang out or grab a drink” and bingo.. You can make 100’s of friends from all over the world in the space of a week, and there’s no experience like it.
If you decide you don’t like a place, you can have the attitude of “ah well, no problem move on” you can see somewhere new just by jumping on a bus, train or taxi and you can be somewhere totally different in the morning.
Cost can also be a factor in solo travel, not everyone has a large budget, and it can be easier to do it alone on a less modest one. Hostels in Bangkok for example cost from as little as £1.86 a night, street food from £1 and a beers being sold at 80p your money can go a long way! The more time you have the better!
The Cons Of Solo Travel
Traveling solo of course has it’s not so good points, and I’d be lying if I said I loved it all of the time.
Everyone likes things to run smoothly, and unfortunately with travel and life in general it doesn’t always happen! When traveling solo, there comes a sense of uncertainty. As a pretty spontaneous guy, I did on occasion find myself wondering streets searching for a place to spend the night, with fully booked hostels, and my lack of organisation did play a key part. Of course I missed my fair share of trains/buses, got lost, and once or twice getting falling victim to scam, which perhaps wouldn’t have happened if there were safety in numbers
Even the smallest of inconveniences can feel so much worse when you’re on your own, for example, missing your train station by 3 stops when you’re with your friends could be quite funny, even seen as a mini adventure, but when you are a solo traveller with a 30kg rucksack strapped to your back, even the calmest can lose their cool!
It can get lonely at times even for the strongest, and yes it’s easy to make friends 90% of the time, but inevitably you will have to make important decisions on your own. If you make a wrong choice in a group it’s not so bad, but it can get nerve-wracking solo.
When things DO go to plan, and you find an amazing place, or witness something breath-taking, the moment can often be over in a second and when you have no one to share it with it can take the shine of it. Of course travelling is something you are doing for yourself, but sharing these moments with others can often make the experience twice as epic!
The Pros Of Group Travel
The obvious reasons for group travel, other than it means your parents will be less worried most of the time, is that is it offers hassle, stress and problem free travel most of the time!
I certainly see why people travel alone and it’s a totally different experience to group tours, but when it comes down to it, everyone wants to have fun, relax and have fun. In my experience, I’ve had the most fun travelling in a group.
A structured itinerary often means that you won’t waste time, as most of the key attractions are handed to you on a plate – I saw so many hidden gems along my travels that were not included in guidebooks, which so many people missed because we had someone guiding us who knew the area better than most. On one occasion my group were invited to mediate with the monks (which is a rare opportunity) purely because our guide at the time mentioned our tour and spoke fluent Thai.
Maybe you can’t afford a whole 12 month organised tour but even as an introduction to travelling, group travel gives people an insight to what it’s all about it, without being thrown into the deep end.
When you travel in a group you share experiences, you make bonds with people, you encourage each other to do things perhaps you wouldn’t do if you were alone. If you’re really lucky there might be someone there to cheer you up if you get home sick or hold your hair back if you’re little too drunk (not that I had hair to hold back) but the occasion back rub whilst slouched over a toilet bowl was something money can’t buy!
I love a selfie (you should see my instagram) but the photos I remember aren’t the tipsy selfies or the photo of the beach, it’s the ones where we’re all together, having a good time, acting stupid, pulling ridiculous poses and just enjoying ourselves, that’s what traveling is all about.
The Cons Of Group Travel
Initially for me, it’s the cost. It’s not the cheapest way to travel that is for sure. The people that organise these trips, tours and adventures, have to make money (some more than others) and that comes from you and I.
Others don’t like the idea of having an itinerary put on them. When it comes down to it, no one can force you to do anything you’ve paid for, but at times you can feel obliged to take part in activities that perhaps if you were alone, you’d rather not bother with.
Group travel can be like roulette with the people you traveling with. I know from experience that not everyone will become best friends and get along to put it a nicely, it’s unfortunate, but it’s true.
Maybe you just want to sleep off your hangover after a night out and listen to music, read a book or sunbathe, this isn’t always possible and it can be frustrating at times.
Waiting for others members of the group to sort themselves out, and having to think about other people’s needs before your own, which is fine when you’re at home, but when you’ve spent your hard earned money on a trip of a lifetime, it can feel like it shouldn’t work like that. However, these issues are all part and parcel of group travel.
For me solo travel is something that needs to be experienced by everyone at some point in their lives. Whether it’s a week, a month, or whatever! It changes you as a person as cliché as it sounds.
Of course doing it alone is not for everyone, it takes a very brave person to just jump in at the deep, with no experience. Group travel can be a great way to catch the travel bug by learning the ropes and showing you how it can be done before taking the leap of faith alone.
The key to making a decision is doing plenty of research; if you’re traveling alone then it’s worth finding a friendly hostel that has plenty of good reviews. Read travel/city/lonely planet guides. The same goes for group travel. There are many companies and organisations that want your money and offer little back. If you’re going to embark on an adventure you have a right to be picky! Talk to people that have done it, ask questions, everyone had to start somewhere! I write blogs like this because once upon a time I knew nothing, so if I can help one person with this then I’ve done my job! Whatever you decide… Get out of your comfort zone and do it.
“You don’t need magic to disappear you just need a destination!”