To travel with friends, or travel alone… Part One

Two new friends, Riley and Cece, joined me in Kyoto, Japan for the first four days of my January 2017 week-long trip. The final three days, I remained alone. There were ups and downs, challenges and laughter. This trip got me thinking. How does traveling with friends or traveling alone impact a traveller’s experience, and is one option more advantageous than the other?

I began writing this blog with the intention to produce a quick comparison, but while writing, I realized that this is not a simple topic. As a result, I split this blog into Parts One and Two. Rather than produce a systematic comparison, this is rather a collection of experiences that I use to present  both positive and challenging things about both types of travel.

ABOUT ME

Firstly, I should establish that I consider myself an extrovert. I love meeting new people, and tend to make friends fairly easily. With the exception of awkward teenage years, I’ve always been outgoing. As the oldest of three, I have always been the assertive big sister. I loved adventure films, like the Indiana Jones series and the book and movie, The Beach. I grew up in England within a multicultural family with bilingual parents. From infancy, our family traveled to Spain to see grandparents, aunts and uncles. I first travelled alone with my aunt at age eight, and as an adult, later moved to Canada. I now reside in South Korea.

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Humayma archaeological site, Jordan

BACKGROUND TO MY TRAVEL EXPERIENCES

I just took a week long trip to Kyoto, as mentioned above. In the summer of 2015, I also visited Kyoto with my university friend Beth. We stayed there for a week, and thereafter toured Thailand for a month. She returned home, while I continued travelling solo in Thailand, and later Cambodia and Vietnam.

My first time traveling or backpacking alone was in 2012. I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey for a few days. I discovered the experience of traveling alone exhilarating and addictive! I later traveled to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with another university friend, Ana.

In Jordan 0f 2012, I travelled on numerous occasions with groups of friends. As part of an student archaeological team based in Aqaba, we took weekend trips throughout the country over a period of six weeks. These included Wadi Rum, Petra, Jerash, the Dead Sea and desert camping with the local bedouin. We were grouped together to travel as units. I often traveled with my closest friends, Erin and Mike, however each weekend trip brought different hangout friends, and these included Miranda, Aaron, Lou, and Victoria.

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Petra, Jordan – From left: Aaron, Miranda, Sarah, myself and Mike

I’ve also traveled with romantic partners (former boyfriends). We visited Spain, England, Italy, Canada, America, The Philippines, Mexico and travelled through S. Korea. Finally,  as an adult, I’ve travelled with my sister Vivien, brother Joel, and aunty Angela. These were trips to various locations within England, France and Spain.

TRAVELING WITH BOYFRIENDS

They say that if you want to know if a new boyfriend or girlfriend is the right one for you, take a trip together. Travel is stressful. It can be long, uncomfortable, and you are forced to deal with language barriers, cultural differences, frustrations, scams, heat, hunger and irritability from lack of sleep to name just a few.

I travelled to Rome, first with one partner Jeff in 2009, and later, in 2015 with another partner, Wayne. On both occasions, friction began right away. Petty things caused small arguments.  I wanted to shop for footwear which Jeff had low tolerance for. Wayne enjoyed shopping, but we bickered about other things. Our hotel was located a twenty minute train ride from most of the locations that we visited which seemed to extend our travel unbearably at the most exhausting of moments. The forty degree August heat and the lack of air conditioning in our room caused restless sleep, and as a result, our week there was memorable for all the wrong reasons. In the future, I will prioritise having some alone time to indulge in my interests where necessary, and ensure that distance to sites, temperatures anticipated and hotel comfort are addressed better.

COMMUNICATION, COMPROMISE AND FLEXIBILITY

Before we set out for Israel, Ana and I discussed our travel style and needs beforehand. I discovered that she was not interested in going to religious sites, and she wanted a more relaxing vacation pace while I wanted to challenge myself, do lots of walking and see pretty much everything.

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With Ana, overlooking the Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

At our hostel located within the old city of Jerusalem, we met travellers, Roxanna and David, and while Ana relaxed at the hostel, I travelled up to Bethlehem with Roxanna and David.

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At the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem. From left: Ana, Roxanna, David and myself

As a fellow Greek and Roman History student, Ana was interested in going to Roman historical sites and the Dead Sea, so we rented a car and, together with Roxanna, visited Masada, the mountain plateau fortress where the rebel Jewish group, the Sicarii, took their stand against a Roman siege in 73AD (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masada). When we descended, since I enjoy physical challenges, I walked down the snake path while Ana and Roxanna took the less strenuous cable-car.  Thus, although Ana and I had different travel styles, we had agreed in advance to be flexible as we travelled together to accommodate our different preferences.

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The Snake Path, a blistering hot, one hour walk down from the Masada fortress. This aerial shot was taken by Ana looking down at me from the cable car

 

PATIENCE

In 2012, I visited Granada, Spain, with aunty Angela. We both wanted to see the Moorish legacy, Al Alhambra palace (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra), so we booked a twin room at Hotel Atenas in central Granada. On this occasion, Patience was a very important ingredient for traveling together successfully. Fresh from my travels in Israel, I was eager to get going in the mornings. My aunty however, has trouble sleeping. Despite this challenge, she was driven and wanted to maximise our short trip there.

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Mosaic courtyards, Granada – With aunty Angela

Aunty Angela took more time getting her day started, so while she prepared, I would wonder the neighbourhood, scope out potential breakfast cafes and take photos of local architecture. When I returned, aunty Angela would be ready to leave.

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Photographing the honeycomb ceiling, Al Alhambra, Granada

INDEPENDANCE = COURAGE, NEW FRIENDS AND PERSONAL GROWTH

The first time I travelled alone, I visited Istanbul. I was worried before traveling and arranged to be collected from the airport and transported to my hostel to ease my nerves. On arrival (Bahaus hostel, Sultanahmet), I met outgoing staff and travellers. Straight away, my fears subsided and my courage grew. Thus began my “romance” with traveling alone.

I realized that it was so easy to make friends with other guests. After venturing out alone on my first day, I joined Bahaus travellers and together we toured the Topkapi Palace, the Spice and Grand Basaar, the Hagia Sophia, and enjoyed a cruise on the Bosphorus strait. This was the singular, most formative adventure that emboldened me to travel the world.

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At the Topkapi Palace overlooking the Bosphorus, Istanbul, with new friends, Chris, (myself), Romain and Nisa

In 2015, I travelled from Koh Samui to Phuket, Thailand. On this trip, I discovered that traveling alone promotes growth by testing your levels of endurance. The journey was physically exhausting as it was twelve hours long, and I switched vehicles (including a ferry) at least seven times. The last vehicle on my journey had no suspension and each bump on the twisty, never-ending roads made me feel like I would throw up. I additionally put myself in a dangerous situation by mouthing off at a Thai head honcho who disrespected me in a jungle clearing. That day,  I wished I had a travel companion there for emotional support. This experience taught me about my limitations for discomfort, ability to befriend travellers out of necessity, and to support each other in tricky situations. See my blog, “My Journey from Hell,” here: (https://travelandtash.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/the-journey-from-hell/).

The aforementioned situation quickly reminded me of the advantage of having travel companions. As a unit, Beth and I had numerous advantages. We had navigated our way to  various locations, tag-teamed to negotiate down fares with tuk tuk drivers (Bangkok), identified scams such as misinformation about the location of train stations (Hellfire Pass), warded off threatening packs of dogs (Kanchanaburi and Ayuthaya), and more importantly, supported each other emotionally while experiencing travel fatigue (everywhere). Also, I felt like I had a special friend with whom to share these amazing adventures.img_20150527_230553

In Part Two, I will address the importance of stamina, opportunities to meet new people and managing money. Finally, I will disclose my personal lessons and recommendations from travelling alone and with others.

Thanks for reading! Please share and subscribe.

What is one thought you agree or disagree with here? Can you add any other reasons why you prefer to travel with friends or travel alone? What have you learned about yourself through travel? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

Keep Learning!

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19 thoughts on “To travel with friends, or travel alone… Part One”

  1. Wow! This is great Tash. I love it! I feel I’m right there with you!!
    So much fun you have had traveling the world!
    Just don’t stop doing what you love!! But making sure you stay safe. The Thailand experience was a very valuable one, not one to hold you back, but you don’t every want to be in the same boat again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent series and looking forward to the second part! There’s so many aspects to travelling alone or with others, and you managed to hit upon plenty of worthwhile points. I really enjoyed our experiences in Jordan together or with our small group of friends from the excavation team! Those are days I will not forget….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome, Miranda! Yes… I’d like to blog on our archaeology experience at some point too… I wish I had my diary from then to refer to, but it’s packed safely away in Canada! Thank you for your amazing encouragement! x

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  3. I usually travel alone and prefer it that way, but I do love meeting up with friends for a few days at a time. It really is a nice change of pace and gives me someone special to share that experience with. But I find that I experience more of a place, meet more people, and am generally happier when I travel by myself.

    Looking forward to part 2!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Exposing the less glamorous side of traveling the world, be it alone or with a partner/friend. I think most people who haven’t travelled just see the photos and think it was all a dream holiday. Little do they realize how much planning and effort goes into getting to that photo op. Thanks for sharing this with us. Looking forward to part two! My fiancée and I are setting off on 10 month journey so I’m sure we’ll go through a lot of the situations you ‘ve described here.

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  5. loved reading this! I have never really travelled alone, and have a lot of respect for those who do! It must be daunting at times. Definitely pros and cons to both! Thanks for sharing your experiences! PS you have been to a lot of cool places!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment! ^^ Traveling alone definitely has it’s challenges, but then again, negotiating with travel partners is also challenging! If only things were simpler!

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  6. I’ve had all kinds of travel partners- friends, family, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends (post break-up!) and also, just myself. I think each has their pros and cons (well, travelling with an ex doesn’t have that many pros) so it’s difficult to say which is best. I’m open to all as long as I get to go somewhere new but, since I’m a bit of a planner and alpha female, I do find it difficult to travel with another strong character. That’s my only prequisite haha!

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  7. This is a great post because it raises the important question of what type of travelers we are. I haven’t done nearly as much traveling as yourself but from the trips I’ve done, I know that slow travel is the ONLY way I like to explore. I cannot pack a gazillion destinations in a short amount of time. My body and mind will not have it, and I quickly will burnout. As far as companions go, I myself enjoy having a basic idea of where I’d like to go and see, but don’t have the need to plan every little detail. I know I cannot travel with people that have the need to control the entire trip, I need people that are open to spontaneity and change of plans. And above all, if I am traveling with others, I need them to be open to the idea of splitting up so they can do what they want and I can do the same. That’s why I am looking forward to solo traveling, but I am super open to also traveling with others!

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  8. i admire your independent and adventurous spirit. i haven’t traveled as extensively as you have and the few travels i have are always with family. and we do our vacations very slowly and leisurely. so i will be living this adventurous traveling lifestyle in your writings. do keep sharing.

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  9. I’ve done one trip alone and numerous others with friends/family and have found a drastic difference in my experience and what I allow myself to get involved in. With someone along with me, I’m definitely more outgoing and willing and interested in doing more. Alone, I made sure to be back in the room before dark and didn’t venture too far from where I was staying. I think my comfortable distance of travel/experience shrank alone and that made me realize I definitely appreciate not only the safety that a friend provides, but the fun we can have together too.

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  10. Traveling on your own or with others can be stressful. I’ve always found traveling with a loved one calms me, whereas traveling with friends stresses me out more than anything. It drives me nuts when you agree on certain places and then the day of people back out. My trip to Osaka was the worst cause I went with new friends in Korea who worked together and had different vacation days. I was so frustrated! I’d much rather travel with a guy haha.

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  11. Thanks for your reply, Kate! Traveling with friends can definitely be stressful. Unfortunately, I’ve also found traveling with partners almost as challenging. I think my balance is traveling either with a friend who, from past experience, I know I travel well with, or alternately, on my own!

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