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Travel Solo or with a Group

Travel Solo or with a Group, Travel Instinct vs LogicTo travel about the world solo is to live on the winds of intuition, instinct, and your own decision making capabilities; to travel with other people is to have a sense of “safety in numbers” but also to loose a good deal of your own self [...]

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Travel Solo or with a Group, Travel Instinct vs Logic

To travel about the world solo is to live on the winds of intuition, instinct, and your own decision making capabilities; to travel with other people is to have a sense of “safety in numbers” but also to loose a good deal of your own self autonomy in the depths of logical reasoning and a group decision making process.

I received two comments on the previous entry to this travelogue, Travel to Damascus, that I feel warrant further discussion:

“You failed to emphasize one of the most important parts of this article. How you modified your normal behavior due to your travel partner . . . People (I don’t exclude myself here) are forever getting in trouble when they are with others. Going faster than they feel they should, going down roads they shouldn’t, continuing when they should stop. I am not talking about showing off, just generally ignoring your instinct . . .” – Motorcycle Bob

“Being a woman who’s done a lot of traveling on her own, I certainly have developed this sense. What CT_Bob commented really resonated with me… I think that myself (and others) are much less likely to listen to this sense when traveling in bigger groups. I’ve done a couple of very dumb things when I’ve been traveling with big gaggles of girls that I would NEVER do if I was alone.” – Caitlyn

There is an interesting human tendency that both Motorcycle Bob and Caitlyn point out: it is often vastly more difficult to follow your intuition and instinct when travel with other people than it is when traveling alone. And I agree fully with Bob that this often has nothing to do with showing off or trying to seem macho, intelligent, etc. . . Rather I feel that it has to do with the basic ways that humans tend to communicate with each other and how these methods usurps our natural defensive instincts.

Emotional responses and instinctual feelings cannot be communicated very well between humans without verbal interpretation. Humans mostly rely on verbal symbols: words. Simply put, when you travel with other people you must make decisions by interpreting your feelings into words and communicating them within a sense of reason.

Emotional responses and intuitive feelings often seems to be completely illogical phenomenons.

Emotional responses and intuitive feelings are difficult to communicate within the frame of words.

But as soon as you frame your emotional responses in the form of words you have already stepped outside of the bounds of instinct and feeling: you are now into the realm of reason. I am convinced that reason has little to do with anything that humans decide to do. It is my impression that reason is just the sensible backlash of justification for our otherwise animal rashness.

It is far easier to ignore your deeply felt intuitive urges than it is to put them into words and explain them to another person.

Perhaps this is why so many people continue going down bad roads that they would normally avoid on their own when traveling with other people.

We are taught to think of humans as being rational creatures who think out their decisions. We expect our companions speak to us within a certain frame of reason. The structure of our language almost demands this.

Who would not answer the warning: “I have a bad feeling about this” with the blunt answer: “why?”

There is little intelligible “why” to bad feelings. It is difficult to unravel them to be explained to another person. They just feel bad. They just feel like warning signals being thrown up from the depths of your gut. You can not explain them (or at least I can’t) without being with a partner with a good sense of the metaphysical who understands where they are coming from. Most often, bad feelings are easier to ignore than explain.

Nonsensical is exactly what emotional responses seem to be, and it is very difficult to speak nonsense. Try it. So all too often I have found myself keeping quiet and standing still when my legs tell me to walk away if I am in a situation with other people.

When acting in a group, instinct gives way to logic, as verbal communication relies upon sense to be understood, and verbal communication is the main mode of sharing feelings between people.

I have observed many groups completely hamstringed in travel by the simplest of decisions. Has anyone ever tried to go on a big family vacation? How much time do you spend asking everyone what they want to do? What they think of this? Where they want to go next? I suspect that large portions of time in group travel are taken up with the act of making the simpliest of decisions.

Perhaps this is why humans almost invariably find themselves electing leaders to make decisions for entire groups. Perhaps it was evolutionarily more successful for groups of humans to rely on the intuition and instincts of a single leader rather than the logic of an entire group.

Simple, nonsensical, illogical emotional responses keep a traveler safe. If you listen to your gut, the world becomes a fairly secure place to travel. But when you logically try to disseminate bad feelings, it is normal to be left at a loss.

Usurping feeling and instinct in exchange for logic is a recipe for disaster when traveling. I am of the opinion that traveling with a partner or group of people that you are not intuitively “on” with is vastly more dangerous than traveling alone. When you are alone, you make your own decisions from your heart, and not your head. When in a group, it is difficult to communicate your own intuitive urges and will all too often ignore it.

You then stand to eat the consequences of the actions of your equally instinct daunted companions and could be drawn into situations and circumstances that you are not comfortable in.

Traveling by yourself is to live completely on your own volition. You are safest when you listen to gut.

I cannot travel in groups. I realized this early on. I like to decide things for myself and not have to run my intentions before a court, jury, and judge before acting them out. I feel something, I do it; I think something, I do it. It is an automatic response that I have been trying to cultivate for many years.

If you must phrase an intention within a question, the moment is all too often already gone. If you must stop in the street and ask your companion if they want to do the idea that you thought of, very often the time as passed to enact such an idea. Traveling is little more than a patchwork of rapidly strung together moments. If you do something or if you don’t rests on a split moment’s time; if you go left or if you go right is always decided on a lightning quick whim. If I pass an interesting looking person on a street, I do not have time to think out whether or not I want to talk to them. I either act or I don’t. If I debate the moment, the moment passes me by.

This rapid procession of decision making is one of the aspects of traveling that I love most.

I had a bad feeling about a couchsurfing host in Damascus, and I removed myself from the situation based upon this feeling and not upon logic. I am fortunate that I am traveling with another highly experienced traveler who also knows how to listen to her gut and not her head. If I was not traveling with Chaya, I may not have voiced my apprehension about the situation, and stuck us both in a pit. Logically, there was little reason not to stay with the CS host. There were very few aspects of the encounter that I could have perceived as warning signs, but not enough to leave the situation. Rather, my warning mostly came from my guts, and they could not be explain other than by saying, “I don’t have a good feeling about this, lets get out of here.”

If Chaya was to ask me why I had a bad feeling about the CS host, I could not have given a justifiable response. If I was with someone other than Chaya, then I may not have said anything at all. My instincts, not my mouth, were doing the talking, and instincts seldom manifest themselves in words.

Solo or Group Travel?

Solo travel does not demand verbal communication to make decisions: you simply feel out a situation and then act upon it. You do not need to think something out logically, justify and debate it with another person: you just do it. If you travel with other people, you need to speak out your intentions.

I feel that many travelers put themselves in compromising situations because they travel with partners or in groups that do not share similar emotional responses. This is often vastly more dangerous than traveling alone.

To perpetually think logically about safety when traveling is to tie yourself up in an unending knot. Instincts and emotional warnings are concise packets of long assembled information that is meant to keep you safe. Intuition as a zip folder of massive amounts of data that you can receive and interpret very quickly. There is far too much information in an instinctual response to have time to reason it out and communicate it with another person. You are struck with a feeling that is derived from your entire life’s stock of experiences, and you must act upon it immediately to stay safe.

I have found no other way to navigate the ongoing seas of travel other than to just feel out my surroundings and trust my emotional responses. I run when my legs begin running, and I stand still when my feet refuse to move. I have an iron willed belief that my body knows what is good for it.

I ain’t dead yet.

Travel Solo or with a Group, Travel Instinct vs Logic


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Filed under: Middle East, Syria

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3715 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

1 comment… add one

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  • Byron J. Gaudette July 8, 2009, 2:39 am

    I traveled in Mexico, and even all the way into Guatemala, with a group of about 3-5 people, sometimes more. I was at kind of a low point before that, and being around other good people was just what I needed. It was a great experience, but ultimately, I will always return to traveling solo. Both have upsides and downsides, I am just too much of an independent person. Everyone will eventually go their own ways.

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