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Should women travel alone or join a group?

Posted: Saturday, October 20, 2012

I saw a question in a TripAdvisor's Forum from someone who was interested in a Gutsy Women Travel tour to Europe and wanted to know if anyone had experience with them (Gutsy Women is a women's travel company that offers (non-adventure) group tours to a variety of destinations). The snarkiness of many of the replies was appalling, and basically came down to - if a woman is gutsy, she doesn't need to go with a tour group. Of course I think that is an absurd proposition, but it made me think again about the pros and cons of single vs group travel for women.

Many women who travel with us do so because they have no one to travel with: either their spouses/partners don't enjoy travel, want a different kind of trip, or are too busy; and/or their friends aren't active and prefer spa, shopping, or beach vacations. So for many women the choice isn't whether to go with a travel company or with friends and family, it's whether to go with a company or by themselves.

There are pros and cons to each, and ultimately it comes down to the style of travel you enjoy - there isn't a right or wrong, a bold or a timid way. Like so many things in life, we need to be honest with ourselves about what we truly enjoy, not what we think we should enjoy.

Here are some questions that can help you decide what type of travel is right for you.

  1. Do you enjoy trip planning? Is it fun to pick a destination and then spend time on the internet planning where you'll stay and what you'll do when you're there, possibly making some contacts with people before you go who you can meet when you're there? Or does that feel like work? Do you prefer to put that all in someone else's hands so all you need to do is pack?

  2. Do you like planning how to get around, possibly renting a car or taking public transport? Or do you find you can focus more on where you are if you don't have to figure out how to get there?

  3. Do you like complete spontaneity, deciding every day what to do? Or do you prefer not having to think about what to do every day, but instead being able to follow a prearranged plan?

  4. Do you enjoy being on your own? Do you find it easy to start up conversations and meet new people? Do you like dining alone? Or do you enjoy the camaraderie inherent in group travel when everyone is sharing the same adventure?

  5. Do you like problem-solving all the little things that inevitably come up when you're traveling? Or do you like the idea of someone else having to do that?

  6. Do you like navigating a foreign culture and figuring out how to communicate when you don't know the language? Or is that anxiety-provoking and something you don't enjoy?

The answers to these questions can change with the circumstances and the destination. For example, much of Europe is easy to navigate - many people can speak some English, signs are often in English, and public transportation is usually quite good. I've travelled there by myself and while I find it is less relaxing and more work than being part of a group, there are times that feels like a reasonable tradeoff for the freedom and spontaneity that independent travel brings - although I do always miss the camaraderie of group travel. On the other hand I have not been tempted to travel independently in Bulgaria, where the alphabet is Cyrillic and most people outside the cities speak very little English. I think I could find my way around, but I know I would understand much less about where I was and what I was seeing. And it definitely would not be relaxing.

If you have never done either and you're not sure which you prefer, I recommend starting with a group - you'll learn alot about how to travel and about what you like. Once you have some confidence, you can decide whether or not trying solo travel has any interest for you. If women-only adventure travel sounds appealing, check out all our trips on our continually updated Trip Calendar.

The only serious mistake you can make is staying at home when your heart wants to be on the road.

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