We think backpacking is a brilliant experience, whether you’re with your partner, a group of friends or taking the world on solo. But what are the key differences and things to consider before deciding who (if anyone) you’d like to take along as your travel buddy? I’ve travelled long term solo and gone travelling in a couple and I’ve summed up my thoughts below.
Solo travel vs. travelling in a couple
- Making memories
- Personal space
- Decision making
It’s probably fair to say that most of us travel in order to fill our lives with wonderful experiences and unforgettable memories. Whilst it’s amazing to travel solo, special memories of particular places or favourite days may be shared with people you don’t know that well. You might keep in touch with some travel friends but not all. So, in the future, you might not have anyone to discuss the memory with. There’s certainly something unique about creating memories solo and I encourage you all to step out of your comfort zone by yourself when you have the chance. But travelling as a couple wins a point from me on this one. Reaching a summit or laughing over terrible street food with someone by your side brings a different level of joy.
I think this is the number one reason that people are hesitant to backpack solo so let’s delve a little deeper into this topic.
When travelling in pretty much any country, most women who are with a male partner will feel safer than if they were solo. I love travelling solo and have done so in Latin America, Europe and Asia. But there’s no denying that when I went to the same places with my boyfriend, fewer men (if any) catcalled or tried to be pushy with me.
However, if you’re travelling as a homosexual couple, this experience may be quite different. In certain countries where homosexuality is not widely accepted, or even illegal, you may compromise your safety by being open about the fact you’re travelling with a partner.
Regardless of your gender and sexuality, it’s nice on long distance buses to be able to relax more freely as you know the person next to you is somebody familiar and there are two of you to keep an eye on bags etc. It just takes the pressure off a bit.
To conclude, this one is personal to you and the location. Research the place and the culture, use your common sense to stay safe and always trust your gut instinct.
There are two schools of thought on this one. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule for which is cheaper – it entirely depends on what you and your partner are like with budgeting. Splitting the cost of a private room can be the same or more expensive than the price of two dorm beds. If you’re on a budget, you may opt to stay in a dorm every now and again, but if a private room is a non-negotiable for you and your partner, that may sometimes mean spending more on accommodation.
Any sort of private transport such as a taxi is obviously going to be cheaper when sharing. Plus when travelling with someone, you’re guaranteed to have a person to share with! However, if you mostly travel using public transport, this won’t be an area that saves you much as a couple.
On the flipside, if you’re both tired and not in the mood to cook, you’re more likely to bounce off each other’s energy and opt to eat out or get a takeaway. I definitely cooked more when solo as I found it easier to be disciplined with a routine.
It’s possible to meet just as many people when you’re a couple but you definitely have to put in more effort. As a result, I reckon most couples would agree they engaged with fewer people than if they’d been solo. My partner and I usually stayed in hostels so even if we had a private room, we still socialised with other travellers in communal spaces. We met people on tours, at restaurants and even at the airport! However it’s very easy to cut yourselves off. If you choose to chat with just your partner on a group tour, you’re not going to build a bond with other people there. This may be a positive or negative, depending on what you’re seeking.
It can be exhausting constantly meeting new people and as a solo traveller, it’s sometimes hard to take a break from that. Whereas when you have another person, on days you’re both tired or overstimulated, you can decide just to have a night in together.
I’m a firm believer that learning to spend and enjoy time alone is a vital life skill. When travelling solo, despite being surrounded by people in hostels, there is nobody you have to answer to. If you fancy going for a walk or sitting in a cafe reading a book, you can just go and do that. When travelling as a couple, you need to make a conscious effort to spend time apart.
The same way back at home you both make sure to see your own friends and have separate social lives, you need to do the same abroad. You’re already spending more time together than you usually would!
If you’re a nervous traveller, use this as a great opportunity to become more comfortable by yourself. Go to a cafe near your hostel solo – you’ll be out of your comfort zone but within a few minutes of your partner if you really need them.
Perhaps the most common cause of disagreements when backpacking: deciding what to do, when and where. If you’re a couple and have chosen to go on a trip together, it’s likely that you have similar interests and agree on a preferred style of travel. However it may also highlight flaws in your communication with each other! I think it’s far easier to make snap decisions when solo and allows more spontaneity if you prefer to go with the flow.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! What do you think are the best and worst parts of backpacking solo vs. as a couple?
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