Whether you’re planning your gap year after Uni., organising an interrail trip around Europe in the summer, or looking into a language course abroad before you start your outstandingly well paid graduate job in September (lucky you!), there is one question which will always spring to mind during the process: to go it alone, or not to go it alone?
There’s no doubt about it, it’s a tricky one. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic opportunity to share what will probably be some of the best months of your life with someone special. Someone who understands that when you return home and all your other friends just want you to SHUT UP about the indescribable beauty of Ankor Wat, or those awesome Australian guys you met on Fraser Island.
On the other hand, if you decide to trek around the world with your ‘bessie mate’ who you’ve, like, known since you were 5 and do everything with – then you have to deal with the fact that there is a chance that spending 6 months in cramped hostels, on uncomfortable buses and abnormally hot or cold countries (we Brits love to complain about the weather… Why that is when our so-called ‘moderate’ climate is more like the less extreme, comedy version of the Day after Tomorrow for the majority of the year, is anyone’s guess) may result in massive friendship failure.
So what’s a traveller to do? Well, I can only really speak from experience here, and I’m sure that you’ve already guessed where my allegiance lies by the slight undertone of mockery towards ‘bessie mates’ and such. But honestly, I’m not an arrogant ‘I conquered the world without a friend travel buddy in sight’ kind of girl. A more accurate recipe for my preference to travel alone is experience, with a hint of bitterness. In other words, trial and error.
I went travelling before Uni. for half a year, planning the trip and setting out with a friend from school. We stayed together for all of 3 weeks. Reasons for our fleeting, honeymoon-esque period together include her overdosing on pina coladas and vomiting all over our bungalow in between passing out and asking me to take her to hospital. For the record, pina colada spew + bungalow in Cambodia = mosquito central. For the most part, though, it was just that we didn’t work as travelling partners. She pissed me off, I got on her nerves – the whole thing was screaming for an annulment.
So that’s what we did. Or rather what I did. When one of her friends arrived in Thailand to join us, I politely said I was running a mile and headed off as fast as the bus could carry me. Was I anxious? Yes. But I shortly discovered that I had absolutely no reason to be. When I got off the bus a guy asked to borrow my travel guide, asked me where I was staying, and said, “That sounds good, mind if I come with?” Three days later, I met a girl who is now one of my closest friends and lives on the same road as me in Lenton. When I later arrived in Darwin, Australia I had to start from scratch again and within a week I was in a car with two German guys driving through the outback.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. There will be occasional lonely nights, especially if it’s the first night of your first trip so far away from home. Likewise, you may lack someone to get nostalgic over a pint with once you’ve arrived home. Nevertheless, the most common response I received when I asked around as to why people where apprehensive about travelling alone was, “What if you got to a hostel and they were all bastards?” or along those lines at least. The thing is, I can honestly say that I’ve never met anyone who was truly travelling alone. Of course, people that wanted to stay solo did; but I can’t say that a single person I’ve talked to complained about not being able to meet people. It’s just like moving into halls – you arrive on your own, but you don’t stay that way for long.
So if you’re thinking about your gap year or a summer stint away, but no one else is up for it or your friends can’t afford it, don’t let that be the deciding factor – at least consider going solo. You might actually end up having more stories to tell than if you went with a crowd.