Following on from my blog about ‘why travel alone?’, it’s only fair to balance the argument and look at the reasons why you should travel abroad with family, a friend or a partner.
The two styles of travel are unique and come with their own list of pros and cons. Travelling with someone can enrich your experience and
bring you closer with the person you take a trip with. But before I dive into the reasons why you should, your selection of travel buddy has to be thought through. Friendships and even relationships can be put under immense strain while travelling. You will be spending a lot of time with this person. Along with the many high points, there will also be low points. It is critical that you are confident that the person you leave with will be a positive influence on your trip and not a whining, whinging, dead weight.
When on a gap year abroad, it’s important to expect the unexpected. Things don’t always happen as you would expect them to. Bookings could get mixed ups, a taxi man could drive you to the wrong destination or you could get lost – to name only a few! When you’re on your own, problems seem huge. You feel lonely and worried. I often find silly mistakes abroad can be comical when with a friend. In Berlin, I travelled with a close friend and ended up completely lost on a hunt for a restaurant – turns out, we were reading the map upside down. It was freezing cold and we were hungry, but both of us were uncontrollably laughing. We gave up our hunt and ended up at a pitch black restaurant, eating food we couldn’t see and the experience was incredible. Had I been alone, I would have probably given up. The moral of the story is to travel with someone who can adapt, who is easy going and who can read maps!
When you face a problem which cannot be simple solved through laughter, such as loosing your passport or injuring yourself, a travel companion can provide support, be a shoulder to cry on and help you with the practical things. I had my passport stolen while travelling and it was immensely helpful having a friend with me in the long, never-ending queues at the consulate. Remember that this support works both ways. Be prepared to be the rock if they need you. Be patient and remember to remain upbeat.
If you were to travel to the same destination several times, travelling with a different companion each time, every experience would be completely unique. Take Italy as an example. I went with my mum several years ago and she has a huge passion for art, resulting in hours of gallery trawling. Without her, I may have been lost in the galleries, lacking understanding of the significance of any of the great works of art that I was looking at. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I began to learn the difference between the Raphaels and the Di Vincis. I plan to visit the same part of Italy with my partner, a motosport fanatic, with zero artistic skill. On this trip, we will be doing a driving tour in an Italian car. We will be visiting limited galleries and focusing more on outdoor activities and walking. Every travelling companion brings new ideas and interests to the table and this can be exciting. Obviously, the more people tagging along, the more interests to cater for- which can cause its own problems! Plan the trip together and make sure that you include trips and activities that all of you enjoy. It’s about compromise and you never know, soon their passion may become yours!
The next positive about travelling in twos or more is that the cost is ultimately cheaper. You can share rooms and half your accommodation costs. Often trips have a single supplement, which you can avoid by being a couple or group. It also means that if one of you loses your bank card, you can help each other out. If you are going to a country where vendors haggle on the streets, you will also find that you are bothered less than when you are alone.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, travelling with someone means no more selfies! If all of the other reasons above have not convinced you, surely, this will. Travelling alone means that there is only one person taking photos. I think it is universally agreed that selfies do not flatter the subject. Take turns and get more creative with your pictures. It also means that if you forget to take your camera out, there is a good chance your partner didn’t.
Hopefully, by now you can see both types of travel, solo or group, comes with its own challenges and benefits. Travelling with someone is always fun provided you compromise and plan together. You will get to know that person out of their comfort zone and you will both display moments of strength and weakness that you may never have experiences in the safety of your familiar home environments.
At Oyster, we send many solo travellers on gap years abroad. The beauty of being part of a programme is that you start alone, but you meet friends while you are away and often friends you meet become future travel companions. If you are interested in going travelling on your own gap year, check out Oyster’s website for lots of exciting ideas.