Everywhere you turn these days people are talking about solo travel, particularly solo female travel. It’s become the ultimate symbol of empowerment. By traveling solo you’re basically telling the world that you’re self-sufficient, that you’re capable of achieving your dreams, and that you’re not going to let anything hold you back.
Which is great.
Really, it is. I’m all about expanding your boundaries, and I don’t think that anyone should be dependent on another person when it comes to achieving your dreams.
In a lot of ways, solo travel has been put on this pedestal above all other travel. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes it feels as though there’s this sentiment that you aren’t a real traveler until you travel solo.
Which is ridiculous, of course. There is no right or wrong way to travel (so long as you aren’t being an asshole).
Let me be clear: I admire and respect solo travelers. They have amazing strength and determination, and I’m thrilled to see them inspiring others. In many ways I’m jealous of them, because they have successfully managed to do what so many cannot, all on their own.
That said, I am not a solo traveler.
This partially due to circumstance. While I’m not totally opposed to traveling on my own, I usually have no problem finding people willing to go with me on trips.
But you know what? If I were given the choice, I don’t think I would go it alone — not unless there were absolutely no other options.
When it comes down to it, I simply prefer to share my experiences. I’m willing to sacrifice the guaranteed independence of solo travel to obtain that. For me, it’s worth it.
Over the years I’ve had travel companions ranging from friends to partners to family members. Just like anything else, you have to find the mix that works for you. I don’t think I’d like solo travel (just watch me put my foot in my mouth later). I know from experience that I don’t like travel with large groups.
But paired travel? With a single travel buddy that I can dedicate time and energy to exploring the world with?
Sign me up.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one. After all, there are a ton of benefits that come along with having someone to share the road with.
The Five Biggest Benefits of a Traveling Companion
1. Traveling with a friend is cheaper
Starting on a practical note, it’s often much cheaper to have a friend or loved one with whom you can split costs. Apartment rentals in particular are often cheaper if there are two or more travelers. I use Airbnb a lot, and almost every unit I’ve booked has been cheaper with multiple people, even if there’s a per-person surcharge.
Similarly, campgrounds usually charge by the site, rather than by the head. Many outdoor activities, including camping but also hiking, climbing, kayaking, biking, and more, require expensive gear that can sometimes be shared. Other expenses, like car rentals, are more affordable when split.
2. A traveling companion creates a safety net
I know that sometimes there’s a lot to be said for going out there and making your travel dreams come true on your own. But, you know, sometimes it’s nice to have someone to fall back on. Maybe I’m not as adventurous as I pretend to be, but when I’m with someone else I feel safer, more confident, and more motivated.
As an extreme introvert, left to my own devices on a trip it’s very possible that I would come up with excuses to hide inside all day. Being around a trusted friend or loved one helps force me to go out and see the world without the added anxiety that social interaction sometimes brings.
I’m also the sort of person who sometimes acts a little recklessly. I’ve learned that I need to have someone nearby to be the voice of reason sometimes. And, when something does go wrong (like your car breaks down on the side of the road, or you end up in a questionable neighborhood) you have someone there to help see it through.
3. A travel buddy will push you to your limits, and vice versa
Tara and I do a great job of complementing one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Where social situations make me nervous, her anxieties are almost the exact opposite — including a fear of open spaces. We help one another to pursue those experiences that we wouldn’t on our own.
Tara and I also respect one another enough to know when to back off, or when the stress or anxiety is becoming too much. It’s all about balance, and having a traveling companion that you trust is crucial.
Traveling with someone else will also push you to try new places and activities you may have never considered. When we were in Croatia last summer, Tara really wanted to go on a day trip to Mostar. I didn’t know much about Bosnia, and at first was a little hesitant. It turned out to be one of my favorite experiences on the trip. Without Tara there to suggest it, I never would have gone.
4. Traveling with someone allows you to really know them
“I have found out that ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain
Oh, Mark Twain. Have I mentioned how much I love that man? Beyond his delicious rhetoric and amazing satire, he cuts to the truth like no other. Travel is an amazing way to really get to know a person, and where you stand with them.
This can be a double-edged sword, of course. Being in close quarters with someone, dealing with the stress of organizing and executing travel plans, and handling the inevitable mishaps will undeniably lead to strain. But it also is a test of endurance and flexibility, and gives you an opportunity to grow closer than ever.
5. A traveling companion gives you someone to reminisce with
There have been a few times when I’ve been somewhere truly awe-inspiring on my own and later tried to describe it to another person. My explanations always fall stupendously short.
When witnessing something truly moving, my first inclination is to share that experience with others. It’s part of what makes me a storyteller. To have someone with me in the moment only enhances that.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been somewhere and thought I wish ______ were here. They would really love this. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a moment of solitude, a little secret slice of time between yourself and the universe. But when someone is there to share the moment with you, it allows you to draw in an entirely new perspective. You each bring your own life experiences and thoughts to the table, allowing for a richer experience overall.
Even more importantly, months or years down the road you have someone to reminisce with. Instead of a secret between yourself and the universe, it’s a private secret between the two of you. I’ve found that it’s those moments I rely on when I’m feeling down.
I mean, there really aren’t words to describe what moments like the one above, on Mount Srd in Croatia, meant.
Remember: There is no such thing as the perfect traveling companion
I think some people are intimidated by the idea of traveling with someone else. It’s easy to feel as if your own plans are going to be usurped and dragged astray by a micro-managing companion, especially if you’re a control freak like me. It’s also reasonable to worry that you might inadvertently destroy a perfectly good friendship by discovering that you don’t travel well together.
The truth is that you can’t prepare for everything. Whether you’re traveling with your partner, friend, or a complete stranger there are going to be challenges. This is where flexibility becomes important. If something isn’t working, all of the involved parties need to be open to communicating about it and adjusting if needed. Compromise and negotiation becomes essential to success and, yeah, sometimes it may seem easier to just call it quits and go solo.
And if it turns out that that’s the right travel style for you, then that’s a lesson well learned.
For me, though, I know that whether I’m at my highest highs or my lowest lows I appreciate the ability to share in that moment with another person.