Traveling in style: Which type of travel is best?

This semester I have experienced three different types of travel: traveling with a group, traveling with a friend and traveling by myself. Each option has its pros and cons. I will compare these travel types based on the traveling I am doing over spring break.

The best part of group travel is that all the details are taken care of ahead of time. I spent a week visiting Galway and Dublin in Ireland with my study abroad program, so all fees and schedules were managed in advance. When it came time to visit the Book of Kells, instead of debating whether the admission price was worth it, I joined in, determined to make the most of my trip. One morning I joined a walking tour around Dublin’s historic buildings, enjoying the luxury of following someone else’s lead instead of pouring over maps without a clue. I biked around the Aran Islands outside of Galway without having to worry about how to get from the city to the ferry. A big group of friends joined me in biking, walking and eating meals, and even helped me get medicine when I caught a cold.

On the flip side, traveling with a group means doing what the group has planned—and different people have different priorities. There was not as much opportunity to go off and explore on my own. Being with 45 other Americans in Ireland also meant that I had limited interaction with the locals. Sometimes group travel feels like being in a big, shiny bubble, where I am safe and distant from the place I’m visiting.

When I traveled on my own to Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland, I did meet a diverse group of local Irish and Scottish people, who were happy to show me around, give me directions and tell me a bit about their part of the world. I loved listening to their accents and hearing how they described people from other cities. There were enough jokes about the Belfast way of pronouncing vowels that by the time I spoke with people who had heavy Belfast accents, I was able to make out most of what they were saying.

My first night in a Belfast hostel, I met another traveler and we went out and listened to live Irish music. We spent the next day exploring Belfast together, and the following week we met up in London and she showed me around a neighborhood I never would have found on my own.

Individual travel means I plan where to go and what to do, and I get to do it all at my own pace. If I want to wander into a tiny antique shop or walk through a botanic garden for hours, I can. On my own, I get to choose where I want to eat without making compromises or having to ask the group to look for vegetarian options. I have the flexibility to do spur of the moment activities or visit places I’ve read about in books. Traveling alone, I notice more details of the places I visit, because I have to pay more attention than when I am with a group.

As long as I follow the people around me in group travel, I don’t have to worry, but on my own I am constantly on my guard: watching my bags, checking the map, looking for places to go. Solo travel puts a lot of responsibility on my shoulders; I have to juggle bus schedules, hostel reservations, flight delays and, sometimes, facing a language barrier. I tend to get lost with alarming frequency, so that is something else to contend with. Also, traveling alone can be lonely.

Most recently, I have been traveling through England with a friend. We spent almost a week in London and had an incredible time. The truth is, everything is more fun when you have someone to enjoy it with. Getting lost is less scary and taking the wrong train suddenly becomes funny. Sharing the responsibility of travel plans is a relief after solo travel, but sometimes compromise means missing out on things I wanted to do. Traveling with a friend at my side for days on end can sometimes bring out my crabby side if we see too much of each other. Luckily, we have been able to go our separate ways once in a while and pursue our own interests for the day.

Traveling with a friend pushes me to try things I normally would not be interested in. We visited Twinings tea shop in London, and though I had not been especially interested initially, it became one of the highlights of the day. I am fortunate in having a good friend to travel with, because we mainly agreed on what we wanted to visit, and we were able to make the most of our vacation together, sharing lasting memories as we went along.
Three types of travel: which is best?

In the end, it comes down to each individual experience. I like a mix of the three, as they each have their own unique strengths. Which type of travel do you prefer?

Taylor can be reached at tcharwood@stkate.edu.

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