Traveling With People is Better
Traveling alone can be very lonely.
If given the choice, it is always better to travel with friends. The good news is once you get on the road, it is easy to find traveling companions. So although you may leave your front door and get on the plane alone, you likely will not be alone for long.
Let’s not dance around it, loneliness sucks. Lonely is a feeling that hurts.
Being alone, in a foreign country and not being able to speak the language can be very isolating and lonely to the point of suffering.
Loneliness Will Happen
The time this was most pronounced for me was when I was on a 2 month tour of China and Thailand. I was a couple of weeks into my trip and I met a great group of people at a hostel. We went to a bar together and hung out and had a good time.
But then I went on a 3 day backpacking trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge by myself. That was fine for a while. I experienced solitude… until loneliness inevitably creeped in. I started to feel very isolated. I had no one to share what was going on inside my little brain box. Due to the language barrier, it was difficult to relate to my host in the mountains and the people I met on the hiking trail.
A couple of days later I saw my old companions in another town and I literally chased them down. I ran through the sea of Chinese people to hang out with the only 2 other foreigners in town, whether they liked it or not.
I was desperate not to be alone.
If you are in China or another place very different than the U.S. you can be surrounded by people but still be isolated. That is because the most you can do to relate is share a smile. It doesn’t go deeper than that. But if you are human, you need to do more than share a smile. You need someone or a group to share your struggles, your favorite foods, and all the crazy stuff you saw that day.
The benefits of traveling with others is huge. You can rely on each other for resources in emergencies and you can bond in an intimate way that may not be possible in your home country. When you are in the middle of China, you suddenly have a lot more in common with the guy from Iowa than if you both were in the States.
Traveling With Others Creates Amazing Memories
One of my best memories I have with my dad is when I was 15 and we went to Egypt. One morning, I snuck away with my dad and we walked away from the Western style hotel we were staying in and went walking around the streets of Cairo.
We came across a coffee shop and there were some hard hitting Egyptian gangstas chilling in their gangster coffee shop drinking Turkish coffee.
My dad ordered us both Turkish coffees. This was a big deal for a kid that was raised Mormon. That was as close to a Clark Griswald and Rusty beer moment as we ever got. This was just one of several amazing memories that I have from traveling with family. I am sure you have several too.
Traveling With Others is Safer
Another time, my traveling companion really saved my ass in what could be described as a traveling financial emergency.
I flushed my ATM card down the toilet on my first day in Europe at the Amsterdam train station. I was only 21 or 22 at the time.
I was talked into believing an awkward fanny pack would prevent me from being pickpocketed. This money belt with an uncomfortable belt strap went under your clothes and made no sense.
“Excuse me sir, I am going to pull down my pants now so I can access my money and pay you for these cigarettes”
So I am fumbling with my new shit fanny pack after using the restroom and in one motion the horrible happens: I bend over to flush the toilet as my ATM card falls out of my belt strap and directly into the toilet as it flushes to oblivion.
My Amsterdam buzz turned to panic in an instant. My only access to cash flushed to the famous Amsterdam canals.
I remember asking a train station employee if there was anything they could do to rescue my ATM card. As if they might be able to send a team of spelunkers on a rescue mission into the sewer.
Because I was with my sister, I was able to use her ATM card until I got some cash wired to me about a week later. Had I been alone, I do not think things would have turned out so well for me.
I did end up getting pickpocketed about three weeks later. Fanny packs will not protect you from being stupid and being at a part of town you shouldn’t be.
When I look back through my traveling experiences, they are almost always better when I travel with someone else. But that does not mean that if I can not find someone to go with me to Thailand for 3 weeks that I am going to stay home. As long as I am not going to Iran or North Korea, I can be fairly confident that I will be able to meet people along the way to share my travel adventures with. I just need to go where my people are, introduce myself, and go with the flow. When I am in China and I meet someone from the U.S., we immediately have a lot to talk about.
So yes, buy that plane ticket and schedule that trip alone. Just be sure to line up some activities so you can be sure to meet some like minded folks when you get there.