When I go traveling, the first thing I think about, after destination, is companionship.
Do I want any? How much do I want? Do I want an easy life or to go off the beaten track – who would prefer which type of vacation. Do I want a large impersonal tour group with the resulting impersonal tour, or do I want a niche boutique experience?
Travelling with a friend is wonderful.
Someone is there to point out highlights to, or make sure you spot things you would otherwise miss. Someone to confide in when you don’t really like the food, or who understands when you have a migraine and is able to make excuses with your host.
But there are drawbacks. Unless you know a friend well before you travel, you should know that you will get to know that friend well while you travel. Foibles and all.
Travelling alone has benefits too.
Provided you can communicate the language of your host nation well, and can make yourself understood. Provided you have read all of the guide books available. Provided you are aware of scams and huxters at all times, and know how to navigate local transportation. Provided you are 100% confident (and even when you aren’t, pretending that you are) you won’t be taken advantage of. Or maybe you will.
Of all the ways to travel though, I believe that travelling with (or without) a friend in a small group of other travelers is the best, especially if one of the small group happens to be a local guide of some kind.
If you still travel with a good friend this way, there is small risk of damage to the friendship when there are other people to share the ups and downs with.
That way you can concentrate on the wonders around you without worrying if you will crash headlong into the erratic oncoming traffic, miss a foreign traffic signal, or end up in a back alley near a rancid drug den.
The chances are you will find like minded people doing exactly what you are doing. You will never tire of an individual companion, and there are plenty of topics of discussion that even the most introverted feel they can speak confidently.
The beauty of travelling in a smaller tour group is that you can use local transport, which can be exciting, fun and occasionally a little scary but adds to the experience regardless. Many smaller groups also run ecotourism, minimising the carbon footprint of your travels, or recycling as they go, looking out for the local communities in which they operate.
Which of course means a more authentic experience in the long run.