I already have a letter about solo travel, so for this one I’d like to just talk about travelling with others. More precisely – what drives me crazy about travelling with others.
Read my previous letter, number 9, here: I travelled solo.
This topic has been playing on my mind since Italy, a few weeks ago. I didn’t mention it in any of the posts but I thought we could chat about it now. I travelled firstly with about 100 other architecture students in Rome and then went on for a week to visit 2 more cities with just one of my friends. I loved the trip so much and had a wonderful time, but it did remind me why I like to travel solo. Let me tell you why.
1. No alone time
The most difficult thing for me is not being alone. I love being by myself, just listening to my surroundings and the thoughts in my head. I like to sit and read for hours if I want to. When you travel with someone else, or with a couple of people, you literally live with them and spend every waking moment with them. It’s suffocating! I find myself sneaking out early just to get some time alone.
2. “Whatever you want to do”
When I visit a city or place I normally have a pretty good idea of what I want to do. Whilst I like winging it and seeing where I end up, I normally have a strong list in my head. To me, it’s non-negotiable and I will do what I want. For others? Not so much. The phrase that drives me up the wall is “we’ll do whatever you want to do”. No! I WILL do whatever I want to do, YOU do whatever you want to do. My ideal travel partner would be someone that has a backbone and doesn’t mind splitting up and exploring by themselves. Just because something is on my list, doesn’t mean it needs to be on theirs.
3. Home time
A big problem I find is when you have different ideas of when to head home, or to your hostel. When I travel on my own it completely varies day to day. I’ll decide based on what I’m doing, the weather, how hungry I am and whether I have something to do. Most of all, when I’m visiting a new place, I want to make the most of it. For me that means leaving no stone un-turned and spending time relaxing and enjoying my surroundings. I love to watch the sunset and experience places during nighttime as they completely change. Some people like to head back before dinner to get their mandatory dose of facebook.
THIS drives me insane. Why come on holiday if all you really want to do is find the next WiFi spot and see what people are doing back home? Connected to this is the use of google maps. I don’t understand why you need to use maps on your phone when you can get a perfectly good paper map that doesn’t run out of battery. People didn’t always use their phones to get around, so why use them now? Also, part of the fun of travelling is painfully trying to figure out how to get to the next destination, failing, and ending finding something new anyway. Google maps ruins all the fun!
Travelling solo is easy. You can choose when to leave, come back, what to do and most importantly, how fast to do it. On a big scale, that could mean how long to spend in a country. On a small scale, it could be how long to spend enjoying a piece of art in a gallery. There is always a compromise of pace when you travel with others. As you might’ve guessed, I’m not great with compromise. Travelling alone means you can go as slow as you like – or as fast as you can!
6. You get to know them a little too well
Travelling with someone else is even more intense than just living with them. You not only sleep in the same room with them, you also eat with them, go to attractions with them, walk everywhere together, go shopping, go to sleep, wake up…. etc. You even get to know their bowel movements. It can be quite overwhelming. Getting to know someone better can be a massive pro of course, but it can not be. Travelling solo allows you not only to get to know yourself better, but to get to know complete strangers. I know what I prefer.
7. There will be judgement
It may not be said out loud, or even thought by all parties, but you may start to judge your travel companions. Why aren’t they showering? I don’t remember them brushing their teeth. We split the bill but they ate way more than me! Is that all they’re going to tip? That was rude… It may only be little things, but it’s very likely you’re going to judge each other. It’s natural. But when you spend every waking moment with other people it can consume your mind.
8. It’s not as easy to meet other people
When you travel solo, a big aim is to meet other people. Not because you’re going to become best friends and spend all day with them; but to have an interesting conversation, share a drink and maybe take a day trip with them. It’s easy to meet people because you’re on your own, and so are the other travellers who want to meet people (surprise surprise). If you’re already in an established travel pair or group, there isn’t such a need to meet others.
9. What if you miss something?
Naturally, when you’re deep in conversation with someone, you notice less around you. It’s physics – your brain can only do so much. Walking around with someone is a far less vivid experience than walking on your own. The conversations you have in your head will be much more animated when your only focus is your surroundings.
10. You look like a tourist
My last point. A group, or even a couple, with a noticeable tan, some new sunglasses and cameras round their necks are tourists from a locals point of view. Take one person out of the group and send them off to explore on their own, and suddenly they are more mysterious. Now they might not be a tourist. What if they are a fellow local? What if they’re a photographer, a business person, a student? Take Rome, for example. I sat on my own in Piazza Navona for about an hour at midday and not one person bothered me trying to sell things. To them, I wasn’t a tourist. They know how yo pick out tourists, and a solo traveller is not their market.
The point of this post? It’s not to say I’ll never travel with another human again. I have great friends who I’d like to travel with, one day I’d love to travel with my boyfriend and I can’t wait to travel with my future friends that I’ll meet on the road. So many of my greatest memories include other people, but they are the people I met whilst travelling. It’s a very special kind of friendship. I just wanted to point out some of the more obscure, sometimes comical things that I have noticed when travelling with others, opposed to travelling alone.
Most of all, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and that I may have either inspired you to travel solo, or just put you off travelling with friends!
All the love,