by Vanessa Ullman
Photography courtesy of Brittany Chang
One is the loneliest number. This lyric may apply to many things in life, but traveling is not one of them. Even though it is fun to voyage across the country with friends and family, it is no secret that traveling by yourself can be less stress inducing.
Whether it is a long flight or a quick road trip, traveling alone has a number of unspoken perks. The most noticeable difference is the extra freedom you can feel. Groups tend to travel a lot more slowly than solo business people or more experienced individual travelers. Traveling alone allows you to explore a city at your own pace, while group excursions often require group consensus.
Another subtler difference that traveling alone adds is the ability to make quick decisions. In groups, informal polls are taken before stopping at bathrooms, restaurants or even taking Ubers. Once you eliminate the need to ask for the opinions of others, the trip can go more smoothly. If you want to stop for food, you can. If you choose not to use the bathroom, you don’t have to wait for others outside of it. This is a huge bonus if you are traveling on a time crunch, because you don’t have to waste time making compromises on what to do.
A somewhat less obvious advantage is the reduced risk of losing luggage. It is impossible to predict whether one’s luggage will get lost before a flight, but the more people in your group, the higher the probability that someone is going to be standing at the baggage carousel watching it go round endlessly. Requiring that everyone has to wait too while forms are filled out, information shared and promises are given about when the missing bag may show up. The only downside, however, is that if you are traveling solo and this happens, you will have to deal with the hassle and stress of lost luggage on your own.
If you are not taking a plane to your destination, is it can still be fun. While it might not be ideal to drive several hours by yourself, for some drivers there are a handful of pluses. You get to choose your own music or podcast, or may even choose to sit in silence. You can roll the windows down and sing your heart out, or you can listen to the traffic updates on Sirius XM. You can listen to weird local radio stations that you know your friends would never like. Backseat drivers are not there to correct your driving skills, and you can stop for gas, food or bathrooms at your leisure. The freedom that comes with traveling alone is rare on vacations with friends and family.
Traveling alone still comes with its own flaws and stressful situations. Whether it is sitting between two strangers on a flight, or getting lost on a road trip, being alone can be difficult. It is hard to drive for long periods of time by yourself without getting tired; some cars can only handle so many hours before something breaks down. With a companion or two, the drive can be easily broken up into multiple shifts as to not tire out one person at the wheel.
Airports can also get confusing without having a partner who knows their way around. Even though there are help desks at airports, it is much easier to travel with someone else who knows where to go. Changing terminals at an unfamiliar airport can be tough, especially when you are in a different country or somewhere where you don’t speak the language.
It is tough to choose whether traveling alone or in a group is “better”. There are certainly perks to both. That said, if you decide to travel alone, make sure to be prepared for an easy airport walk through, but a potentially less interesting flight. If you’re traveling with a group, the airport might be a hassle, but it will be worth it to sit next to your friends on a long flight. Whatever you choose to do, have fun, and appreciate the people, or lack thereof, around you.