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I often find myself on the road alone for long periods of time, but during my journeys people close to my heart come out and join me, breaking up the solo travel nicely. And having been on the road for the best part of a decade (Wtf?! How did that happen?!) I often find myself thinking about the differences between traveling solo vrs traveling with friends.

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The truth is that traveling on your own, in our big scary world, is terrifying. It’s terrifying for the 18 year old kid who has never left his/her country, and it’s terrifying for me, moving onto my 155th country next week. Does it get easier with more experience? Sure, a little. But still, all of us are struck by thoughts of how you’re gonna get from the airport/train station/ferry portto your accomodation (it’s always easier than you imagine), are you gonna meet cool people (yes, guaranteed) and are the bad guys gonna be waiting for you on every steet corner (possibly but stay streetwise, you’ll be fine). We’re bound to stress out at the prospect of stuff going wrong, and when you’re solo, that’s not a nice thought to have. And it’s true, on the rare occasions that things do go wrong, you have no-one to turn to. Phone stolen? Malaria? Broken arm? No shoulder to cry on. That’s the reality.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, traveling solo allows us the opportunity to be anyone we wannabe. You’re no longer restricted by that preconceptions people have of you from your ‘real world’. You can party too hard, go on dates with dubious people, skinny dip and sing karaoke all with zero accountability. It’s liberating, and at the risk of sounding cliche, you can find who you truly wanna be.

Also, traveling on your own ensures you get yourself into situations that simply don’t happen when you’re traveling with your friends. When you’re on your own, local people are so, so much more inclined to invite you for dinner, or for a beer, or even to stay in their family home. They would be intimidated by a group of two or three old friends kidding around, with their in-jokes, and the invitation simply don’t come. Speaking from personal experience, only once have I been invited to stay with a family when I was with friends, that was in Bangladesh, in the slums of Dhaka – amazing experience, but as it turned out we were being used for a visa scam, that’s a whole different story. However, traveling solo, as my facebook followers will testify I am constantly meeting angels from every corner of the earth – hotel owners, Ambassadors, restaurant staff, a never ending stream of good people who are equally curious about you, as you are about them and their country. You’ll get yourself in the most authentic, ridiculous situations. Things you’ll never forget, experiences to tell your Grandkids about. It’s the true essence of travel and it’s a beautiful thing,  one you can only truly harness when you’re alone.

Equally though, thinking back to all the times I’ve had with my closest friends with me on the road, brings back a host of different memories. Laughing until I can’t breath, stories that we share to this day, perhaps ten years on yet we still talk about it regularly on skype. Sharing the most amazing sites in the world, beautiful sunsets and horrific hangovers.  With people you love, there’s beauty in every single event on the road.

Suddenly sleeping rough on that dock in Malaysia, rats scurrying around my head, becomes a funny story you can’t wait to share with others. The twenty four hour bus journey through India with no air-con, however painful, seems to act as a catalyst for fits of hysterics. Running out of money solo – disaster. Running out of money with your best mate – adventure. Quite the contrast.

So when it comes down it, having done both extensively over the last few years, which do I prefer? Let me say this, I think everyone should travel alone at some point in their life, ideally for at least a month. You learn so much about yourself, you develop an inner confidence that you can’t find at home, nor when you’re surround with people you’re comfortable with. You become stronger,  more emotionally aware yet also so much more resilient. You become a warmer soul, yet also far less inclined to take any sh٭t from people. You learn a new level of appreciation for the opportunities you’ve had, and hopefully you realise that to waste them is a crime. You find purpose in the freedom. All hugely positive changes in your being.

But to travel alone all the time is to miss something integral to humanity. We need connections to the people we care about. Travel isn’t only about seeing another historic temple, or ancient church. It’s about sharing life changing experiences together, growing with people, solidifying friendships,  and most of all creating memories. And it takes at least two people to do that.

So you ask me which I prefer? I choose to travel with friends every day of the week, the ‘real world’ often gets in the way, but from the depth of my heart, the travels I’ve had with people I care about are literally the best experiences of my whole life. And I’d guess it’s the same for a lot of people.

Witnessing all the beauty the world has to offer is a privalege few people receive,  but if you can read this in English, with a connectionto the internet, then odds are that you have that privilege. Don’t waste it. Speak to people close to you, make a plan to travel, be sincere, hit the road solo, learn, live and love. Then reconnect, travel together and watch, experience and appreciate the world together. Because afterall “ Happiness is only real when shared

Happiness is only real when shared

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39 thoughts on “Thoughts on Traveling Solo vrs Traveling With People

  1. Having travelled with wrong people, I surelly prefer to travel alone. I made more new friends on my own then when I was travelling with someone. But with time, it begins to be tasteless. It’s frustrating to not be able to share what you live with someone else. I agree when you say that everyone should travel alone at least once in their life cause you learn so much about yourself. But there’s one thing I can’t agree whith you: as a girl travelling alone, I can’t allow myself to drink too much (even if I dream of it), cause there’s no one to ensure that I’ll come back safely in my bed. It may be true for a guy, but not for a girl (or am I too old in my mind for that?).

    Now, explain me how you meet hotel owners, ambassadors etc, cause I only meet backpackers running out of money… lol.

    Very good article anyway.
    Thanks to make us dream big!

  2. Honestly!teary eyes when i read this one.My birthday is coming approaching this 27th of this month Johnny,and i had a plan to travel alone for the first time.But when i read this article,its nice to travel alone for the purpose of knowing yourself better.But then i realize that it is more nicer to spend time on your special day with the real and true persons sorround you.I miss my family.huhuhu.Thank You so much Johnny,I salute you for being who you are and idolize you for that.Thank you so much.One of my birthday wish this month is to see you in person and congratulate you(shake hands) in real.So proud of you.

  3. Traveling alone is a great experience, but I still think some of my best memories come with traveling with the right people. With the right people, you can take breaks for solo experiences, can meet people together, and try out new things that you might normally dismiss on your own. I think it’s great to have a good combo of togetherness and independence, but it’s the best to keep an open mind since you never know where your adventures might lead you!

    Just found your inspiring blog, can’t wait to discover more on it! Your story sounds incredible 🙂

  4. Such a beautiful post. I have also travelled extensively (although not even remotely as close to the number of places you have visited) and I have had my share of experience with solo travel and travelling with friends. I like both. I have had some of the best experiences in South America on my solo trip – and never really felt alone. Yet, I miss travelling with my sister. I remember going on a night boat ride on the Amazon to see the crocodiles (well, their shiny eyes) and thinking of how my sister would be terrified and amazed at the same time.

    I was on a twitter chat yesterday and mentioned my sister all the time – even when talking of how she whines when we take intercontinental flight and start crying after 5 hours (with 9 still remaining). I now “mildly” sedate her.

    Aw, so glad – you brought back to many cool memories! Thank you!

  5. Johny this pos is so cool !! and is very true all the things you said sometimes is good being alone and travel like that, but when you are with friends and family is the best thing in the whole world

  6. I agree that happiness is only real when shared, but that sharing doesn’t necessarily have to be with close friends face to face in my experience. I travel solo on about half my trips, and spending the day in a new city with newfound friends can be just as exciting and fun as it is with old familiar faces! And during every trip I post almost daily travel stories of anywhere between a thousand and 2500 words on my Facebook page, that most of my family and friends back home in Holland like to read. The comments I get on those also greatly increase the happiness caused by the travel bug!

    1. i have to disagree buddy, but each to their own. For me, sharing an amazing experience only feels perfect when it’s with someone I know and love 🙂

  7. i love to travel alone. when you do alone, you meet new people easy and i know when i am back,my friends are there and i will spend time with them.

  8. Thank you for sharing. I recently traveled alone for five weeks on the AT and it was the most amazing experience of my life. Everything you discussed about solo travel, self-confidence, resilience, finding who you are; I experienced all of these. I cannot believe how deliberate solo travel changed who I am as a person. I’m beginning to believe that maybe solo traveling brought out this person I was all along and I just had yet to awaken to. This post also stirred up some Alexander supertramp theory in my head. Thank you again and enjoy your life of adventure!

  9. I travel both solo and with my husband- each has its own joys. Everyone must travel solo at least once because you get so much from it, plus there’s no reason to not travel because you don’t have someone to go with. Yet, there are times when I’m hiking solo and I see this amazing vista and would just like to say to someone next to me ‘Look at where we are!”

  10. Thanks for the great article.
    I tried to go traveling abroad when I was eighteen , and this year I did it twice.
    I agree with you that everyone have to go somewhere they don’t know alone for one time in there life.
    Not only know myself deeply ,but alas make lots of friends and play and learn a lots !!!!

  11. u’re right! agree with every single thing u wrote! I will go on with my solo trip by next year as my graduation trip
    thanks for sharing your experience with us
    good luck to you 🙂

  12. There are pros and cons to both. I’ve traveled both with my friends and family from the start, but most of the time I go solo. I found that I may start my solo journies alone, but I never TRULY am alone. Every single trip I have taken up to this point, I have made new friends in the cities I am visiting. My biggest con for traveling with friends and family is that I don’t reach out to other people as much. When I am traveling solo, I am forced to converse with locals if I want a conversation. I usually end up finding someone I really connect with, and then throughout my trip we meetup on most days at some point. I have found so many lovely people along the way that I have shared random experiences with. It makes every single one of my trips truly unique in their own way! The con for traveling solo is that there are friends of mine I would love to share certain experiences with.

    If I try to hit every country like you are doing, I guess I’ll have many opportunities for both friends and solo traveling!

  13. Couldn’t agree more! I think everyone should experience both if possible. People should constantly strive to push themselves outside of their comfort zone and what better way to do that than to travel solo? ! My first big adventure started as a planned one month trip to Thailand with a group. After only one week with the group, I decided to venture off course and head to Malaysia. My one month trip became a six month solo journey of SE Asia. Best thing I’ve ever done and opened so many doors for future travel. That experience changed me and my life for the better! Solo experiences are indeed so much different. I was constantly being approached by people who were curious about me and my story.I was invited to do so many things that wouldn’t have occurred had I not been alone.
    Just started following your journey recently and am so amazed. Love seeing your pics and reading your work! Good for you!

    1. Recently broke up with my partner of 6years.We both had a huge love for travelling, travelled allot in those 6years. Now I’m going to be a solo traveller.Planning to travel for month over December… Not sure where yet, but hoping for a memorable experience

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