When you’re first afflicted with the travel bug, your trips seem dominated by transport, sleeping arrangements and destinations. But as the bug spreads, as it firmly takes hold, you quickly realise that the lifeblood of travel is much simpler; it’s about the experience. And that experience isn’t driven by flight paths or landmarks or hotels; it’s driven by people, especially the people you enjoy your journey with. That brings us to an age-old question: who should you travel with? Is it best to travel solo, travel with mates, or travel with complete strangers? Here are a few thoughts on each:
Some people swear by solo travel. They argue, it’s what true vagabonding is all about: exploring remote places, meeting different people, but most importantly, discovering yourself. And in many ways, they’re right; trooping the globe without any companionship or support is the ultimate challenge.
But there are numerous limitations to solo travel. For starters, some trips are just too dangerous to undertake by yourself. And others are either too costly or just a lot less fun without company.
My experience is that solo travel is best suited to people looking for something more in life. That doesn’t mean you have to be on the cusp of mental breakdown, it just means that you want a challenge and you don’t want to soften the impact by depending on other people.
I think everyone needs to travel by themselves at some point in life, but solo travel is by no means for everyone all of the time. It can get very exhausting, very quickly. And regardless, there are countless benefits to enjoying your global discoveries with other inspired nomads.
Real mates are more than just people you share a coffee or beer with. They’re soul mates, even if you don’t openly share that fact. They think like you, they act like you, and they want what you want.
With that in mind, it makes complete sense to travel the globe with your mates. In addition to sharing the experience, you get to plan the trip together (arguably half the fun) and reminisce and relive the mischief for many decades to come.
Also, the culture shock of some regions can be mentally draining. And when travelling with your trusted mates, that shock isn’t just cut in half, it’s decimated. Just knowing you can turn to someone to shrug/laugh/scream, is all you need to survive in most foreign situations.
The only real downside of travelling with mates, apart from potential fallouts, is that you’re taking a piece of home with you. If your intention is to learn new ways of life and rediscover yourself, then you may not get the full impact unless you go it alone. With that said, you can’t beat travelling with your mates for pure enjoyment value.
If travelling solo is the ultimate challenge and travelling with your mates is the ultimate enjoyment, then travelling with strangers is the ultimate compromise. On one hand, you have the support of other people, but on the other hand, you don’t know them, so it’s still an exercise in self-discovery.
But aside from the compromising factor, travelling with strangers provides you with a chance to make friends on another dimension. These ‘strangers’ aren’t from home and they aren’t from your destination. They’re usually from an entirely different region and possess the skills, experience and stories to make your trips more memorable than ever.
In some cases, you have no choice but to travel with strangers. Not only do you need their support, but often your mates just aren’t interested in travelling with you (for example, not everyone wants to climb Mt Everest). Other times, it’s just great to meet people whom have similar aspirations. These people can even become your new best friends and before you know it, you’ll just be ‘travelling with mates’ again.
The obvious downside is that you can get stuck with the ‘constant complainer’. The person who just doesn’t enjoy themselves and decides that you shouldn’t enjoy your travels either. This can be somewhat mitigated, but the risk is always there.
To sum it up, travel solo for maximum impact; travel with mates if you’re looking for fun times; and travel with strangers if you want to meet lots of new people. Of course there are exceptions, so just use this as a general guide. And don’t stick to just one; make sure you try all three at some time in life. After all, global travel is founded on exploring the unknown.
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