Travel Advice

traveling alone or in a group

observant nomad | traveling alone or with a group

original image: mr and mrs globetrot

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time I was on a plane heading outside the United States, and frankly it’s been far too long. When I graduated college several years ago I promised myself that I’d try to travel somewhere international every year. Well the last time that happened was almost 3 years ago… sad face.

And I really have my heart set on South America this year, I have never been and would love to see the rustic sights of Peru or Argentina. I’ve followed Mr and Mrs Globetrot for a few years now, and Julia just returned from a trip to Peru – and let me tell you, my wanderlust has risen two-fold after drooling over the gorgeous photography.

In the past couple years, I’ve chatted up friends left and right in an attempt to get people on board. And while I have been able to convince people to venture on state-side travel, unfortunately, Peru plans always seem to fall through. It’s been pretty disappointing to feel restricted from pursuing my passion because I can’t seem to find the companions who share my excitement.

Another option I’ve toyed with lately has been going it alone. I truly believe people can travel anywhere as long as they’re self-aware, safe, and open to new experiences. There are a million ways to travel alone, no matter your age or gender. I’ve written about traveling alone before – and funny enough, I did most of my single excursions when I lived in Spain. I didn’t mind traveling alone, being alone was really beneficial and opened me to so many more experiences than if I had been with a friend 24/7.

But I think I’d feel more comfortable jumping back into international solo-traveling with some guidance. So for the last few months I’ve been doing some research on more solo-travel options, like tour groups or buses. Which leads to a bit of a dilemma… traveling solo or with a group?

observant nomad | traveling alone or with a group

original image: mr and mrs globetrot

PROS

  • set your own itinerary
  • go exactly where you want, when you want
  • really immerse yourself within the culture
  • meet more locals
  • people are more likely to talk to you
  • great if you need some ‘me’ time
  • effective way to get to know yourself better
  • can build confidence
  • will lead to unexpected (and amazing) memories
  • budget is specific to your travel wishes

CONS

  • can be lonely
  • not 100% safe to go out at night
  • not able to share the experience with loved ones/friends
  • no immediate support system for emergencies
  • more expensive
  • have to be more aware of surroundings
  • depend on strangers more
  • pressure is all on you (planning, safety, transportation)

observant nomad | traveling alone or with a group | group

original image: mr and mrs globetrot

PROS

  • share your amazing memories with others
  • transforms strangers into friends
  • deepen bonds with existing relationships
  • can be fun even in difficult situations
  • a support system for emergencies
  • different tastes lead to unexpected activities
  • can find entertainment with each other
  • balance responsibilities
  • split costs

CONS

  • can create a ‘bubble of experience’
  • not as immersed
  • have to compromise more
  • sometimes can be awkward or difficult
  • budget is not always within your control
  • feel more like a tourist than a traveler
  • might get stuck with undesirable responsibilities
  • tour buses can feel more party instead of adventure

Obviously there’s no clean cut answer. Solo traveling lends more control – but can also put more pressure on you. In my experience there are higher highs and lower lows. But in the end it’s all on you. There’s also something disappointing about not being able to share your new memories with someone else.

With groups it’s also a bit more of a stark contrast. Some of the pros can actually end up feeling like a con with the wrong group or companion. But in the end you usually end up closer and with a deeper bond than before. It’s nice to have someone to help pass the 12 hour train rides, or when you might get rained into the hostel. It’s also great to have someone who can laugh at your hilarious travel memories when you get back.

___

So hopefully in 2015, you’ll find my climbing the Incan Ruins or riding a speedboat up the Amazon. Whether it’s traveling alone or in a group of adventurers – only time will tell. Have any of you traveled alone, or in South America? What are your thoughts?

What do you think?

Leave A Comment

Although I want to but for safety reasons, I am always scared to travel alone.
I totally agree with the budget and peer pressure in group travels, especially if it’s a big group. I would love to travel solo someday (after doing thorough research about safe places to travel)

Brianna

I agree the ‘what-if’s are always scary when you travel alone. I have done it and felt really comfortable and safe the entire time, but I agree traveling alone in a third world country and for an extended period of time makes my gut do flips – thus the dilemma.

I miss Peru so much. It’s still my favorite place that I’ve been. It’s so expensive to get there but so affordable once you’re there!! I would just die to go back. I was with a group and alone in South America. Here are my thoughts:

1. My experience of Peru was freaking flawless, mostly because I went with people who had been there and knew where to go. It was ideal because we rode a bus from Lima all the way down to Arequipa. The trip cost me a total of $3,500 I think. I think seeing Lima, Cuzco, Aguas Calientes are all must sees. The other must see is the island Amantani – I stayed with a host family and it changed my whole life. Oh and the Uros Islands. Eff. And Islas Ballestas. Annnnd Paracas and the Nazca ruins. I’m telling you, don’t cheap out on Peru. But that’s a two week trip. You COULD do the exact trip I did through metro and it would cost probably about the same. You just enroll for that one single class. I don’t know if they’re going in the spring or fall, but if they do the spring next year I would even think about going again.

2. Being alone can be… weird. I had 3 experiences where I was very glad I wasn’t alone (or was prepared for what I was doing). If you go into the third world, I would say you need someone with you. The people of Peru are pretty not violent but when I went into rural villages, I had males and it was stressed to me how important it was to speak Spanish to establish I could hold my own, but also to leave ALL of my valuables locked away on a bus. Oh and I had a downright molesty massage in the town where you’ll stay if you go to Machu Picchu. Getting a massage there is really common but I recommend not going alone.

3. If you want to go for real, we need to talk. I found amazingly cheap places to stay (I’m talking on a beach, hut with a roof top where you get peruvian coffee and a sunrise view for $30/night).

I just really can’t stress it enough that you shouldn’t cheap out if you go to Peru. Find a group, backpack for 2-3 weeks, see the WHOLE country. For a $1,600 plane ticket, you’ll regret it massively if you don’t. Also Machu Picchu changed my life, but there were even some more amazing places in Peru.

Sigh.
I wanna go back.

Brianna

Of course you give me the most thoughtful response! Thank you so much for your perspective – you definitely confirmed a lot of what my gut was telling me. I think it’s awesome to know that there are plenty of group options outside the larger more ‘party-bus’ focused options. I’d love to really pick your brain the closer to planning something concrete I get… besos!

I love the experience of travelling alone. But to Peru I am not sure if I would feel safe. Being from South America, I have never traveled alone in the continent because I was always afraid of an emergency or getting robbed.
Nowadays that are so many different travel groups, that you might find one which fits your interests. Of course, when travelling with others you have to compromise more, but you get to meet interesting people as well.
= )

Brianna

Thanks Patty! I love hearing from your perspective – esp since you know about south america ;) hopefully I’ll find the perfect fit!

Hi, I travelled alone to Peru last year and never found it scary or dangerous. I would 100% recommend going solo, you have so much freedom and choice over how you spend your time. It is very easy to get around on buses so I don’t think you need someone to do it for you. If you stay in hostels you will meet tons of people. You will also meet locals if you go alone which I feel is really important.

Obviously being able to speak some Spanish is needed, but you can even learn once you are there, I had a great teacher in Cusco.

Solo travel is my favorite :)

I just returned from a trip last night where the first half I did solo, and then met up with some friends to complete the last week. We ended up splitting almost every other day that last week… just because our travel styles were so different & 4 girls was just too many for South America. I think group travel can work well – as long as everyone is clear that it’s ok, and maybe necessary to split once in a while, no hard feelings, no awkwardness, just each person trying to make the most out of their own experience.
Good luck!! xx

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