After a 2.5 week whirlwind tour of Turkey, our group of 6 disbanded at 8:30am on Thursday morning. In true “I’m on vacation so I DON’T CARE!” fashion, we went out until 5am the night before, so the goodbyes were short, sweet, and hurt like, well… like we had been out until 5am. Looking back on our time together as a group, there were definite ups and downs. Would I call the 2 hour hunt for our apartment in Istanbul in 90 degree heat a highlight? No. But overall it was an absolute blast and I am so glad to have gained 3 new friends.
I’ve now had a chance to reflect upon the experience of group versus solo travel, and in this two-part Top 5 Series, I present some of my strongest opinions on the topic. Read on and decide for yourself if group, solo, or a combination of the two is for you.
Photography is a big part of why I travel. I love capturing unique moments in global destinations that cannot be matched at home. That said, hundreds of pictures without subjects are boring. Great, you got a decent photo of Machu Picchu—you and 100,000 other people this year. Now, Machu Picchu with you and your trekking group doing simultaneous heel clicks in the foreground… priceless. When you travel with friends, you have subjects and also someone to grab your camera and get you in the frame. It also doesn’t hurt to be able to share photos. Just missed the lion’s yawn at full tilt? No problem—your friend to the right has you covered. Now hand over that SD card.
My compliments to the…
Chef… map navigator… fluent French speaker… history buff… Whatever it may be, everyone brings something different to the table when they become a part of a travel group. I’m not much of a cook but 3 members of our Turkey group sure were, and I reaped the delicious benefits. While in South America I was able to negotiate lower rates with taxi drivers in Spanish as my friends looked on in wonder. No one person will be an expert at all things relevant to travel so teaming up with comrades will always expand your combined capabilities.
Safety in numbers
While I’ve rarely felt unsafe when on my own, there is no denying the fact that the more familiar bodies in your vicinity, the less likely you are to feel vulnerable. Someone is always watching your back, making sure that you make it to your next destination in one piece. I know my mother, for one, appreciates that.
$plitting the bill
While grocery, restaurant, and lodging expenses are higher when providing for a flock, there are often fiscal benefits when dividing by a number greater than one. On my own, it’s quite expensive to purchase the multiple ingredients necessary to whip up a dish in the hostel kitchen or to secure a private room at a nice hotel. Similarly, I lose out when ordering individual glasses of wine versus a bottle. When your party is large enough to finish off a product, or fill up a space, your pocketbook benefits.
Balancing “group time” and “me time”
Ultimately, your decisions are still your own when traveling with a group. Sure, it’s easy to go with the flow and always stay together as a unit. You always have someone to pal around with if that’s what you’re looking for. However, if you feel like branching off for some alone time you absolutely can, and should. When with the right group, you have activity companions when you want them, and room to check out new things on your own when you don’t. And if anyone in your group isn’t OK with that, then sneak out of the bathroom window at dinner. I won’t tell anyone.