Taking a gap year comes with a serious amount of planning: destinations, itineraries, accommodation, budget, what to pack... not to mention who to go with, or whether to go with anyone at all. There's a significant amount of difference between going it alone or doing it with a friend, so we've put together all of the pros and cons in a helpful advice feature for you.
Many potential travellers start things off by travelling alone - around 60% of the people who set off on a gap year adventure do so solo. That's not to say it isn't great fun travelling with a friend or partner, but both ways provide hugely varying experiences for the individual traveller, and more people prefer to find their feet on their own before joining up with friends, if they do at all.
It's important to remember that although we say 'travelling alone', you won't be alone. If you're worried about feeling isolated or alone when your travels begin, you don't need to be - you have to remember that you're going to meet people when you're out there - what kind of place would it be if you didn't? There are hundreds and thousands of students and gap year travellers working their way round the very same places you intend on visiting - you're bound to bump into at least one!
If you're signing up for a gap-year of volunteering or working abroad, you won't have to look to make friends, you'll have an already pre-made group of people you'll get to know really quickly. If you're starting off on your own, you won't be alone for very long (whether you like it or not!) - the beauty of solo travel is that you never know who you might meet.
When travelling alone, you appear to be a lot more approachable than those who are travelling - a single person is a lot more approachable than a group right - so if you're shy and find it hard to talk to strangers and strike up a conversation (who doesn't - strangers can be scary, especially if you're alone) then not to worry, the likelihood of them talking to you first is a lot higher.
From a practical point of view, if you have a limited amount of time or a restrictive schedule for travelling, going alone is ideal. Travelling alone allows you to be selfish - you don't have to traipse around that ancient ruin or that market that your friend wanted to see - you will have as much time to yourself doing whatever you want. whenever you want. Travelling solo also allows you to be a lot more flexible - you can chat to people, open your mind to new ideas and change your plans according to what's going on, and you don't have to check with anyone else. As with all things however, there are a few negatives - nothing is ever perfect. From a financial point of view, travelling alone can be expensive - there's no one to share the costs of things like rooms and taxis, or sharing burdens like looking after luggage, navigating or queueing up for tickets - everything is up to you.
There are also a lot of safety concerns when people travel alone but if you follow these simple rules, you should be fine.
Travelling with friends
If you decide to travel with someone else, it's important to determine what you both want from the trip - your individual preferences, expectations and reasons for travelling in the first place should be similar in order for the trip to go smoothly and without those big blow-ups which could cause more trouble than they're worth. It's not going to be a fun trip if you want to go out and explore the local culture and sites and all your friend wants to do is sunbathe - it'll only lead to conflict.
Choosing to travel with someone else can be a lot of fun, and has a great amount of benefits. You will always have company - someone to laugh, cry, confide with, plan stuff with, share experiences with, and you can help each other out in tough situations.
Financing a gap year can sometimes be a concern to people and if you choose to travel with someone else, it can dramatically cut costs such as accommodation, food, drink, activities and transport - there can even be someone to watch your back and look after your backpack whilst you pop to the toilet or into a shop.
Travelling together is a good test of friendship - you'll spend a lot of time together, especially at first, more than you would if you were just living together, so if you make it to the end of your trip without having a huge fight or splitting up and going different ways, you've got a solid friendship and you'll be able to relive the memories of travelling together for a long time afterwards. Remember that it is important to spend a little time apart - even if it's just a couple of hours every couple of days to do your own thing. Your own space is important.
Don't worry about things if you and your friend do decide to split up and do your own separate things. This happens a lot with people who started off travelling together. Don't fight about it, just accept that it's best if you both continue on your own - you can always meet up again later. Separating can give you some valuable space to decide what you want and need and ensures neither of you miss out on what you want to do - you might even have some experiences you wouldn't have otherwise had.
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