Written by Milly Whitehead on 15 / 12 / 2017
Gap Year Advice
Group or solo gap year travel... which is best for you?
So, is it best to travel solo or as part of a group on your gap year? How do you know which suits you better? The decisions can be daunting so here are a few of the benefits of each to help you along the planning process.
Unless you are going on a tour, group travel programs involve some form of volunteering. Not only does this allow you to give back to people and places who really need it, boost your CV and learn some new skills, volunteering gives you the opportunity to really immerse yourself in a place, it’s people, culture, community and environment. Volunteering also means you will stick around a bit longer in each place allowing you to really get to know the local people, you will leave having learned more about them and yourself than you thought possible.
How to meet people when you’re travelling…it’s a scary thought that can rattle even the most confident of people. Being part of a group means you have a ready-made friendship group of like-minded people and the support system this brings. You can recreate yourself and be who you really want to be, pressure free. For many people taking a gap year is partly about overcoming shyness, travelling as part of a group enables you to do this in your own time, without missing out on opportunities along the way. People you meet travelling will stay lifelong friends with whom you can endlessly reminisce.
As a young traveller, you’ll consider safety in your planning however it isn’t the top of your list but, trust me…it is for your parents. Travelling in a group means you have a support system in the event that something goes wrong and everything you do has been tried and tested with excellent safety records. Here at The Leap, we provide you and your parents 24/7 back up support in the case of emergency.
Planning your travels can be very time consuming, complicated and all-in-all a little overwhelming. By joining a group trip there’s an itinerary arranged for you that enables you to see the best of everything without putting those planning hours in. You’ll also get a bit of breathing room, especially at weekends so you can still have the spontaneous adventures every traveller dreams of.
Let’s take The Leap’s program to Ecuador as an example… this 5-week program takes the team to 4 different destinations across 3 different environments. Imagine the weeks of planning and headaches trying to do that solo.
Solo travel can take you to some fantastic remote, beautiful locations but will you get a leader that is an expert in the local cultures? Or a guide that can take you off the tourist trail to find the village that grows the best vanilla or makes the most delicious sugar-cane wine? Group travel takes you to places and people you just wouldn’t be able to access solo. Join The Leap's group trip to Peru and you get the chance to live in three different remote, indigenous communities, learning their culture and heritage from the people themselves. In Namibia, you live and work with two passionate conservation scientists working to create a reserve for the endangered Black Rhino – something you couldn’t get involved in if you were travelling solo.
I’m not saying that being part of a group will stop you from being homesick…everyone gets homesick at some point, but you won’t be lonely. There will always be someone there to share pictures of your dog with, or chat about all the different foods you’re going to gorge on once you’re home.
For some people travel is all about escaping structure, they want to wake up at whatever time they want, be able to make and change plans at the last minute and have no other responsibilities than the basic needs of life. If this all rings true for you then solo travel is the one.
Solo travel gives you a complete sense of freedom, you may have an itinerary that you’ve set in advance but it was made by you and therefore you are free to change it. You can stay that extra week in Brazil before heading on to Argentina so you don’t miss the carnival, or take a boat trip to a remote Indian Ocean island because you’re free to set your own plans.
Pawing over a map… researching the best hostel… finding the best hike up that illusive mountain… getting the best deal on a multi-use bus ticket. Some people love to plan, the planning can be just as much part of the joy as the actual travelling itself. Solo travel gives you an endless opportunity to plan and perfect the finest details of your trip.
You’ll sometimes find that solo travel is cheaper than group trips, which include lots of the extras mentioned above. If you’re travelling on a tight budget planning a solo trip is probably for you.
Mix it up and do a bit of both. If you are a first-time traveller or slightly nervous or shy… start with a group. It will build your confidence to go on and make the best of future solo travel and all the opportunities you’ll be lucky enough to happen upon as you make the most of your gap year.
Ultimately, everyone travels for the same reasons – to push boundaries, conquer fears and insecurities and see the world. You have to do it in the way that most suits you as a person.
on 15 / 12 / 2017