Should I go travelling alone?
There were so many reasons why I wanted to go travelling, but the only real obstacle was whether I should go just by myself.
I'd tried to convince my friends for years to come with me, but job and girlfriend commitments, as well as lack of money meant it just wasn't going to happen.
I was really uncomfortable about travelling alone, but I finally just said to myself, "it is on your own now, or never", so bit the bullet and went for it.
If you are in the same situation I was, I want to give you the reassurance I never had. In retrospect it is definitely the best decision to travel on your own; you ask anyone that has travelled solo and they will tell you the same thing.
To be honest they are all great ways of travelling, having had experience with all three now. This dilemma shouldn't stop you or put doubts in your mind about going - they all have advantages and disadvantages:
The best thing about travelling alone is you do exactly what you want to do, exactly when you want to do it. No waiting around in places you aren't interested in visiting, no missing a bus because your friend was late, etc. This may sound selfish, but this is your experience, you have very little time and money to do this! Your experience will be greatly enhanced and more rewarding by travelling alone.
The main worry is loneliness, but trust me I was terrible at meeting new people before I went, but I had absolutely no problem talking to and meeting people. You have to remember everyone is in the same boat; everyone wants to meet new people, have fun and is in a friendly mood! You can read here for more about Dealing With Loneliness, Culture Shock and Homesickness.
There is an issue of safety in some countries, particular for women travelling alone - you should always check the foreign office of your country for advice on your destinations safety (the UK foreign office site is www.fco.gov.uk).
Buying a personal alarm is a good idea for females travelling alone, wherever you are going.
One thing I was looking in to, which I wouldn't recommend after speaking to people, is looking for a buddy online before you go. This is completely pointless. Firstly a lot people don't even meet in person before they go and secondly you can meet multiple people easily when you first arrive. What if you end up not liking that person and getting stuck with them?
The ease of meeting new and interesting people is one of the biggest benefits of travelling alone.
Travelling With Friend(s)/ Partner
Travelling with a friend or partner does sound very appealing, but it really depends on how well you get on.
If you never argue and have very similar interests/ travel ideas, it should be awesome. You will find it much cheaper to cook food in developed countries and possibly cheaper to get a private room between you, over getting space in a dorm room.
However a lot of people I meet travelling together, don't seem to be having as much fun and often go their separate ways.
Travelling With A Tour Group
Tours are fantastic when they go well - some of my best memories have been with tour groups.
The key there is when they go well.
A terrible tour guide, poor itinerary, bad organisation, quiet group, horrible food, amongst other things can severely ruin your time.
My advice would be never to do a tour that is too long - except in countries with safety issues/ poor transport infrastructures or if the tour company has exceptional reviews - that way you only have to put up with it for a few days rather than weeks.
The time you want to go on tours is when it is either too expensive or hard to do yourself. Also if you want lots of information or have heard great reviews from other travellers. Tour groups do offer a nice break from travelling alone or with friends, as you are guaranteed to meet new people.
Conclusion - What Is The Best Way To Travel?
In summary, they all have advantages and disadvantages. Solo travelling is definitely the most rewarding, but it is good to mix it up. Invite a friend from home to meet you for a few weeks, or tag along with someone you meet. Definitely try a tour or two - some people love them, others hate them - perhaps start with a day tour.
To reiterate my main point, the decision of backpacking alone or with others shouldn't stop you or put doubts in your mind about going travelling.