I just got back from a few days in Maui with a group of friends. The variation of travel styles in the group was interesting. Some were super active thrill seekers who hiked in torrential rain faster than I could in perfect condition. Others were beach bums. We accommodated everyone with selective participation and a little compromise.
Overall, I enjoyed the trip very much, though it was very different from one of my solo trips. I loved the time spent with friends goofing around and bonding. On the other hand, there was hardly any interaction with locals or other travelers. It was pretty much a pure, insulated vacation. However, while I missed the cultural interactions and would prefer more of that on a solo trip, I value traveling with others once in a while, especially someone with a different style. The reason: it pushes me out of my comfort zone.
I’m a creature of habit, and I have my routine. One potential pitfall of solo travel (and traveling with the same companion) is that it’s easy to stick to your routine and not try new ways, depending on how spontaneous you are. I don’t mean things like new food or new sights – you can easily experience those anywhere. I’m talking about totally new experiences that you wouldn’t even consider on your own, whether it’s something simple like souvenir shopping or more hardcore like camping for 4 days without a proper shower. There are many examples where I kind of dreaded something my travel companion wanted to do, but once we did it, I appreciated the experience, even if I decide it’s not my thing. The important thing is to just give it a shot with an open mind.
Another good example is I wouldn’t have gone on this trip if not for this group of friends (Hawaii wasn’t high on my list). It was nice to join someone else’s trip where I can turn off my brain and just enjoy the trip. I got a lot out of it. For the lack of interaction with locals and travelers, I got to know people in this group I hadn’t met before, including their heritage which I didn’t know much about. I wouldn’t have experienced any of this without a little push from my friends.
Of course, you need to have enough in common to not clash all the time.
In a nutshell
Life is an adventure. It’s no fun to be wrapped up in your bubble every time. Obviously, spontaneity on solo travel is a goldmine for new experiences, as is the willingness to pre-book new things. A different-styled travel companion can also be a good source, even if they are less experienced overall. It’s almost guaranteed they can add something new to your experiential repertoire, if you are open to it.
Have you benefited from different travel companions?