How Many, If Any?

With a mate on a section of the Thai-Burma railway.

With a mate on a section of the Thai-Burma railway. Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand.

One of the harder things that a traveller will need to decide is whether or not to go it alone or travel with other people. There are pros and cons for both sides and it depends entirely on what you like to do. Advocates of both options provide valid arguments. It is a personal preference but understanding the consequences of each is integral to the betterment of your trip.

I will attempt to outline the important factors.

Solo travelling

If you don’t play well with others this option may be for you.

The big advantage of solo travel is having the freedom to do exactly what you want, when you want to do it. It sounds like a simple decision, think about it; how many times in everyday life have you been with a friend who hasn’t wanted to watch the same movie, eat the same take away or drink as many beers as you? It’s hard work. Include having to organise money, itineraries and a foreign country and it multiplies tenfold.

Personally, I have missed out on visiting places that I have been desperate to see based purely on the desires of others. It can be infuriating, leaving a bitter taste in your mouth. In turn, this creates a kind of tension is not healthy for life on the road. An uneasiness like a gazelle not knowing where the lion lies or a man waiting for his girlfriend to get ready for a night out.

The sense of freedom is the attractive feature. The absence of the need to mortally wound someone is also a major benefit. It suits people who just want to go and not  wait around for others to commit. These sorts of people make friends quickly and easily, probably maintaining well over a thousand Instagram followers and are always posting photos with people on Facebook that have at least four different nationalities represented. If this sounds like you, jump on a plane now.

Life on the road, by yourself, can be lonely though. It seems so free and easy, flitting from place to place as you please and suits some people to the ground. But, if you can’t hold a conversation with complete strangers for weeks on end or detest repeating the same introductions maybe travelling with a friend or partner is more down your alley.

“So, where are you from?…But what country?…Where is that?…I’m from a place near Melbourne…That’s in Australia…Yes, the country Hugh Jackman is from…”

Selfies. Ruining good photos for years. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

Selfies. Ruining good photos for years. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

And repeat…

Travel with friends/partners

NOTE: There will be arguments. Sometimes lots of arguments. This is the nature of being trapped with another person, everyday, for an extended period of time. I’m not talking about marriage; I’m talking about travel partners.

If you struggle doing things by yourself or feel like you have reached the threshold of your desired quota of friends, take someone with you. But be warned; this can be dangerous and I know many a relationship that has been tested by the strain of overseas travel. I have witnessed people depart from the airport as best buddies only to return as mortal enemies, willing to decapitate each other Street Fighter style.

I am a travel partner advocate. Maybe it’s because I have someone there to share the experience with. Someone I can say to, “Remember when we saw this…drank that…got scammed here…nearly got arrested there?” I think that it’s more to do with someone else being able to validate my stories. If someone gets to drive the tour boat through a Cambodian floating village, but no one was there to witness it, did it really happen?

The most convenient benefit is that you’re travelling with your own personal photographer. Do you like the view and but  also want to be in the photo? Grab said travel companion to take the snap. It’s easier than trying to hold your camera at an absurd angle, taking a thousand selfies that generally only show half your face because you can’t get it right. Let’s be realistic- there are only so many selfies a person can take in front of landmarks before you get over it anyway. Unless, of course, you are trying to create some kind of selfie diary, or whatever fad is trending. Social media has a lot to answer for.

The most interesting travel partner, as funny as it may seem, can be family members. Family never hold back when voicing opinions. Siblings can, and will, say whatever comes to mind without fear of reprisals. This honesty is refreshing and rarely tests the fabric of the family bond. If one member is pissed off at another, a terse “F**k off!” followed by an hour of silence usually gets the job done without the worry of being cut from the Christmas card list or thrown from the tour bus.

Taking your partner, on the other hand, is a different prospect. If things go sour, you could be living a relationship destroying nightmare. Keep in mind; you are stuck with this person for the entirety of your journey, sharing hotel rooms, buses, tours and flights- just to name a few. There could also be public embarrassment and shaming involved. That’s when you know the s**t has really hit the fan. On a positive note, no matter what the outcome here, you will have learnt whether or not this person is right for you. Let’s call it really expensive relationship counselling.

Chiang Mai Night Markets. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chiang Mai Night Markets. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In the end, it is all about preparation. Be aware which friends annoy you if you spend large amounts of time together and choose not to travel with them. Know that if you travel alone, there could be times you will feel lonely and isolated. Generally it will be in the wash up that you realise which form of travel best suits you and what you want to achieve. Having a friend to share your experiences with is of great benefit but flying solo is equally as enriching. Whatever the choice, never live with regret, just be thankful for the experience.

Wayward Tip: it doesn’t make a difference. Guaranteed, you will never agree with a travel partner for the whole trip. But if you do, marry them. Seriously, if you never disagree, that person deserves to be your life partner.

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