The “Solo or Group Travel?” Debate – My Bias
I’ll be forthright and honest – I prefer solo travel. It’s not that I don’t like travelling with friends. I would actually prefer to do that if I could. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I prefer group travel in theory, but prefer solo travel in practice.
Coordinating schedules makes it difficult – nigh impossible – to travel with friends, especially on longer journeys. Solo travel provides more freedom and flexibility. And while solo travel does have its drawbacks, those deficiencies can be readily cured.
So let’s discuss some pros and cons of both solo travel and group travel. But before we continue, please review the scopes and perspectives that I’ll be addressing each of the questions presented in the Road Trip Survival Guide.
Pros of Solo Travel
Freedom & Flexibility. It’s not as difficult to get a group of two or three people on the same page for a short weekend road trip. But if you want to travel longer – say a couple of weeks or a couple of months – then it’s a lot more difficult to coordinate schedules. Not only do you have to liberate yourself from family, work, and other obligations. You also have to get at least one other person to align their time off to match yours. That’s not an easy feat unless your friends happen to be as committed to long term travel as you. If I had to wait for my friends to free up their schedules to join me on a road trip, I’d never get to leave home.
Your Route & Your Pace. When you’re driving by yourself, you get to go where you want to go and nowhere that you don’t. You control the destinations, the route, and the pace. It’s your decision – and your decision alone – whether you deviate, detour, extend your trip, cut it short, or go off on some random, unplanned adventure. You stop for breaks when you are hungry or tired, and not because your passenger has a tiny bladder.
More Room & Privacy. Because I planned to be gone for 6 months, I packed a lot of cargo. Relegated to the tiny cabin of my truck after the conversion van died, Remy and I were in cramped quarters. I can’t imagine how someone else – especially someone who doesn’t share my minimalist packing philosophy – could have fit in my vehicle. And because of the way I was travelling (sleeping in my vehicle and taking baths in creeks) I had to do things that – frankly – would have been embarrassing in front of a friend.
Cons of Solo Travel
Loneliness. There’s no denying it. Spending weeks or months on the road by yourself does get lonely. You can combat this a number of ways. Give rides to hitchhikers. Go to bars, cafés, or other public spaces and socialize with locals. Or for a more steady companion, bring a furry friend.
Heightened Danger. Travelling alone makes you more vulnerable to being the victim of a crime. There’s no one else to help defend an attack, no one else to call for help, and no witnesses to act as a deterrent.
Bigger Challenge. This could be either a pro or a con, depending on how you look at challenges. I would count this as a pro, because you earn better bragging rights if you complete the trip on your own without help. But to earn those rights, you have to endure a trip with no one to lean on. No one to help you, no one to help make decisions, and no one to contribute resources.
Pros of Group Travel
Shared Experiences & Memories. My biggest regret from the North American Road Trip is that I had no one to share my memories with. Sure, I posted frequent updates both on this website and on Facebook. Most of my friends have seen my trip photos. But they weren’t there. They didn’t get to experience the magic of Mount Hood with me. None of them got to meet my new hitchhiker friends. They didn’t get to stand in awe of the Grand Canyon, Black Rock Desert, or Canadian Rockies with me. These memories truly exist in only one place – my mind. They are shared with no one, and that sucks. This is the main reason I opt for group travel when I can.
Safety In Numbers. Being able to rely on other people is good not just for safety from crime, but also safety from accidents. You have more resources to draw upon, dispersed among your travel companions. For example… If you lose your wallet, you could limp back home using your companion’s money. You also have more brainpower to draw on when making difficult decisions and solving problems.
Easier to Meet People. Maybe this is just me. As an introvert, I tend to be more outgoing when I’m surrounded by my friends. I’m inclined to believe that most people are more sociable toward strangers when accompanied by their friends. Or maybe the comfort of being around your friends offers little incentive to meet new people. It probably depends on the person.
Cons of Group Travel
Coordinating Schedules. If I didn’t make my point before, then let me try again. The biggest pro of solo travel is the biggest con of group travel. Coordinating schedules among multiple people is a pain in the ass, if not outright impossible. Everyone has obligations at home. Getting two individuals’ schedules to align for longer than a weekend is like trying to measure the position and velocity of a subatomic particle.
Yes, that was a quantum physics joke. You are welcome.
Divergent Paths. I lived in Washington for a while with 19 other students. One day we took a train up to visit Baltimore. Our group was paralyzed by indecision. Everyone wanted to do something different, and there was no consensus. Me and one of my roommates – recognizing that we were both grown adults – split off from the rest of the group and spent a fun day exploring Baltimore. The more people in your group and the longer your trip is, the less consensus you’ll have. You’ll want to visit the World’s Largest Soybean while your travel buddy wants to visit the National Butter Museum. If you can agree on the broad strokes of your trip, then it’s doable. But you have to be willing to split up for periods of time to allow everyone to pursue their interests. Or else “compromise” and spend your day at the National Butter Museum.
Close Quarters. It is said that if two people can survive a long trip together, their relationship can survive anything. Group travel will force you to spend a lot of time with someone. Sure, you may split off for an hour at the National Butter Museum. But most days, you’re travelling together, sleeping together, eating meals together, and more. When you’re around someone that long, their idiosyncrasies and annoying habits come out. If those habits are not irritating on day #1, they probably will be by day #14. Group travel is a good way for friends to get on each other’s nerves. You might want to think long and hard about whether you want to jeopardize your friendships by going off on a long trip with your friends.
Have I missed anything? Do you prefer to travel on your own or with friends? Why? Do you have questions? Do none of these solutions work for you because of specific circumstances that I haven’t considered? Whatever you’re thinking – I would love your feedback! Help me make this Road Trip Survival Guide the best it can be.