Solo travel v group touring – seeking the best travel experience

TheRationalOptimist is all about solo travel:

I’ve never seen group travel as an appealing way to see a city or a country. Being herded on and off coaches like little lost lambs, or blindly following a tour leader’s raised flag through throngs of amused locals – where’s the fun in that?

Travelling to the beat of your own drum, whether it be alone or with a friend, has distinct advantages.

First and foremost, you can do whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want. No need to be up at 6am to climb onto the coach in a sleepless daze to reach the next destination, and if you fall in love with a place you can stay longer and really get to know it rather than having to stick to a tour’s itinerary. You have the freedom to eat your lunch at that cute little hole-in-the-wall that seems to be so popular with the locals, rather than being served the bog standard set menu at a characterless restaurant.

Secondly, there is nothing worse than being stuck with a loudmouth and ignorant traveller all day, every day on a group tour, and there will inevitably be people that rub you up the wrong way. There is no escape from annoying people on a group tour, since you’re forced to be on the same bus every day and to partake in the same activities. Trying to keep your rage in check is one thing, but things would be even more awkward if you’ve shagged one or two people in the group and have to see them again, day after day, in the sober light of the breakfast table. Oops. At least when you’re travelling solo, you have the luxury of hiding away at a cafe to people watch or read a good book when you need some alone time.

And finally, the most beautiful thing about solo travel is the challenge of doing things your own way and finding your own little hidden gems in a city. It’s the satisfaction of knowing that you managed to navigate, haggle, and explore a foreign place all by yourself. Oh, and maybe a little help from your Lonely Planet guide!

PerfectlyRandom advocates group touring:

Now I’ll admit, there have been times that I have wanted to tear my hair out when travelling in a group situation for some of the very reasons outlined by TheRationalOptimist above. But there are so many good things about travelling in a group that you really have to weigh it up against the handful of cons.

For starters, you’ll never be on a bus, looking out the window, spot two cows shagging and have no one to point it out to. If you’re travelling with a partner or friend, and they feel like having an early night, you’ll still have someone to go out with – and when you feel like having a quiet one, you won’t feel guilty about holding them back because they’ll have someone to go out with.

If you’re travelling in a group, you can rely on others to take up the slack so you only have to think and make decisions about half the time, meaning your brain can really have a proper holiday. And if you’re actually on an organised tour you can lower decision making time to less than 10% – being beer, wine or tequila, or do the extra add on and go canyoning or sit in a hammock and chill?

Even if you’re seething with anger, you’ll never be bored thanks to the diversity of characters you’ll meet, and one of the most enjoyable parts of your travels may actually be closing ranks with other like-minded folk and rallying against a perceived enemy i.e. that ignorant, loud mouthed braggart who complains about every cute local eatery because the owners don’t understand that he’s a vegetarian.

Plus for a bossy boots like me, it means there’s always someone you can charm into doing your evil bidding, whether that’s buying you tickets when they go to the bus station, saving you the best seat on the bus without you having to get up early, or bringing you water when you’re languishing with a hangover from the night before.

And if all that isn’t enough to convince you – well, if you’re not travelling in a group, you won’t be able to split an enormous, giant pizza that hardly fits through the door when in Bolivia – and who wants to miss out on that?!


2 thoughts on “Solo travel v group touring – seeking the best travel experience

  1. All good points, ladies! I’ve got to say that for me, the travelling solo thing can be fun for a little while but it really lacks easy access to an important element for me, which is sharing. Sharing good times with a complete stranger can be brilliant, and I have done this on many an occasion… but there is something about sharing that special moment that takes your breath away with a friend, family member or lover, and being able to keep sharing that for years to come, that keeps me learning towards travelling with company.

  2. Pingback: Looking past limits | Laugh Lots, Travel Often

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