Travelling Alone or With Friends?

Solo traveller

Travelling Alone or With Friends?

Thinking about taking a gap year but not sure if it is best to travel alone or with friends? Many potential travellers wonder 'is it okay to travel alone?' and many people will simply not consider travelling because they have no one to go with. Some have safety concerns, others worry about homesickness and some just wonder if travelling alone could be seen as a bit weird. But let's set the record straight; it's most definitely okay to travel alone! In fact it's a brilliant way to travel, opening many doors to meeting local people and making friends with other travellers.

Travelling alone? You're not alone!

You may be surprised to learn that many people start off by travelling alone. Currently, around 60% of people who set off on a gap year do so alone. That's not to say it's not great fun travelling with a friend or partner, as both ways provide excellent yet different experiences. The important thing to remember is that you'll meet people as you travel around. If you sign up with an organised gap tour or get involved in a placement volunteering or get a paid job abroad, you'll have a ready-made group of people that you will get to know very quickly. Even if you start out on your own, you won't be alone for long as you'll soon be making new friends around the world. It's easy to say, but trust us, it will happen!

How do I decide whether to travel alone or with friends?

The decision to travel alone or with friends will be based on your current situation, individual preferences, expectations and the reasons for travelling in the first place. Your preference may change over time; at different stages of your life you might choose to travel with friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or just take trips by yourself. Each time is different, but every time is just as fun!

If you are travelling with a companion it's important to determine what kind of trip you want, and make sure you have similar expectations. Consider if the person you plan to travel with has the same interests as you and is travelling for similar reasons. A lot will depend on where you want to go. Make sure you both want to visit the same destinations and do the same things - it's not going to be a fun trip if you want to explore the local culture and your friend's priority is to top up their tan on a beach. Think about the type of activities that really interest you and make sure that you, and any friends you travel with, are on the same page.

Pros and cons of travelling with friends

  • Choosing to share your gap year with someone else can also be a lot of fun, and has many benefits. You know you will always have company and never be lonely.
  • You can plan exciting activities together and share the same experiences. You can rely on them and help each other out in tough situations. You share special moments together and can reflect on what you've seen and done together for years afterwards.
  • There are the practical advantages of travelling as a pair. Financing your gap year can be a concern and if you choose to travel with someone else it can cut your costs. For example, you can share travel costs like accommodation and food and even share your kit. There is always someone to watch your back and look after your backpack while you nip to the loo or into a shop.
  • Travelling together is also a good test of friendship. You will spend more time together than you would if you were living, working and studying together. If you make it to the end without falling out then you know you have a rock-solid relationship. The best thing about travelling together is that you will share the most amazing memories!
  • Top tip: It's important and healthy to occasionally spend a little time apart from one another. It doesn't have to be a long time, just a couple of hours to do your own thing like shopping, or going for a swim or a walk.
  • Don't worry if you and your friend decide you want different things from the trip and end up going your separate ways. This happens a lot. Just don't fight about it and simply accept that it's best if you continue on your own; you can always hook up again at a later date. It could give you some valuable space to do what you both want and make sure neither of you miss out on your dream activities. You can meet new people and have some unique experiences you might otherwise not have had.

Pros and cons of travelling alone

  • Most people who book a gap year end up travelling by themselves - fact! So hopefully this will reassure anybody who is concerned about taking the plunge alone. Remember, even if you start off travelling alone, you can guarantee you won't be on your own for long.
  • Solo travel is a different experience but a wonderful one. You have complete freedom to choose exactly what you want to do and where you want to go because your time and budget is your own. You have far more flexibility and are therefore open to lots of new, exciting opportunities.
  • You may enjoy being by yourself so much that you want to keep it that way, but if you feel the need to be with people then it doesn't take much effort to make new friends. This is especially true if you are on a well-trodden travellers circuit where you'll have no trouble meeting up with others. Meeting new people is easy and fun and you don't have to stick with people that you don't get along with.
  • Travelling alone allows you plenty of time for quiet thinking and self-reflection. You may find yourself setting new ideas and goals when you have the opportunity for some peace and quiet on your own.
  • It is natural to be anxious about being lonely or wonder if you really have the self-confidence to travel alone. The thought of talking to strangers and meeting new people can be quite scary. Another common concern is about safety on your gap year. Those travelling alone may feel slightly more vulnerable, and this can be a particular concern for women travelling alone. If you have any worries on this score, then check out our advice for female travellers and put your mind at rest.
  • When travelling solo it is far easier to meet new people and make friends with the locals because you will immediately appear more approachable. You will probably find that people start talking to you without you even having to initiate a conversation. It's easier to start talking to someone who is on their own than it is to start a conversation with a group of people. So if you are considering going solo, please don't worry. You will be fine and will be bound to have a great time!
  • If you are completely overawed by the thought of travelling alone, then Gap 360 can plan some tours into your trip to ensure that you will be mixing with others and making friends from the get-go. Get in touch with one of our travel advisors and start planning your perfect trip today!