Flashpacker Tony Stevens (below) recently joined our hiking adventure in Nepal, and is now a firm convert of solo travel with a group of strangers. Here, he explains why other men like him should jump on the bandwagon too
Men aren’t as brave as we’d have everyone believe (a poorly kept secret I know). We prefer the cosy safety blanket of our better half, or the known quantity of the lads we’ve been mates with since Andy threw up peach vodka on poor Catherine at the year 10 school dance. Rarely do we blokes venture outside our comfort zone when it comes to exploring the world.
Women don’t seem to share the same hang-ups, and are far more likely to go all-in on a solo adventure. Those fearless Amazons make up two-thirds of all solo travellers. Do they know something we don’t?
For all our blustering bravado, us blokes are seemingly crippled by an inability to part with the familiar; or too anxious to risk looking ‘uncool’ if we’re not surrounded by mates. News flash: nobody cares. “Oh my god look at that dude, what a loner” – said no-one ever. But speaking from experience, solo travelling can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, and it doesn’t have to be lonely.
That’s where group adventures come in. You get the best of both worlds – the freedom of a solo experience, and the company of soon-to-be-friends without years of baggage and obligations. Here are eight great reasons why every man should ditch the friends and family, and book a group adventure with a band of strangers:
You’ll make Insta-friends
No not Instagram followers (well possibly those too…) Joining a merry band of solo travellers is an infallible way to meet fascinating people. I’ll refrain from using the ‘like-minded’ cliché and instead say that you’ll meet a lolly scramble of people of all shapes and persuasions.
You’ll become an ingredient in a delicious cauldron of diversity that bonds over a shared sense of adventure. You won’t all have the same politics or go to the same CrossFit gym but the adversity and elation of travel will bring you together like nothing else can.
You’ll gain a lot of couches to crash on
I’ve started a world map pinboard of all the friends I’ve gained on my travels (or theirs), and more importantly, the growing number of international couches I have to crash on.
Having friends in faraway places means you’ve got cheap accommodation across the other side of the globe, and a buddy to show you the local sights. Including where to get the best midnight kebab after too many Snakebites.
You’ll have someone to share in the glory (and the pain)
Perfect for a hike, Rainbow Mountain, near Cusco in the Andes of Peru, is made up of minerals that give it the appearance of 14 different colours.
Hiking past mountains to the summit of a spectacular viewpoint or through the jungle to a secret waterfall can be a transcendent experience and it doesn’t need to be shared. But it can make a glorious moment extra-special when you have someone next to you with the same “THIS IS AWESOME” expression on their face.
Group adventures give you a brigade of wide-eyed travellers to be Alice (or Alex in this case) in Wonderland with. They also give you someone to pinch blister plasters from because you forgot a First Aid kit, or commiserate with over your sunburnt elbows.
You’ll have built-in drinking buddies
A few well-placed beers is still the best icebreaker for bringing a group of strangers together. If everyone’s still cagey around each other after a day or two, then introduce a spot of alcohol into the cauldron and it won’t be long before everyone is dancing around the fire together singing Kumbaya.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned on group adventures it’s that travellers love the hooch, to the extent where they will lug expired casks of red wine for days across Himalayan mountain trails…
You’ll have a lot in common with the people
I said I’d avoid the ‘like-minded’ trope but dammit it’s too tempting. The kind of people who are brave enough to travel solo and join a group of strangers for an out-of-your-comfort-zone experience are bound to have a lot in common.
You’re all travellers, you all have that thirst for discovery, you all share that pathological drive to see every square inch of this magical planet. You’ll be able to chat for hours about all the countries people have visited and the adventures that have yet to be planned. It’s invigorating!
Relinquishing control is liberating
Men like to be in control. I think most of us would admit that. What we might be a bit slower to acknowledge is that losing control sometimes turns us into anxious, surly toddlers. Okay maybe I’m projecting here but I’ve been around enough of my fellow blokes to know a lot us like to have at least one hand on the steering wheel.
But letting go of control and rigidity can be liberating and can reduce your stress and anxiety. Joining a group adventure is the perfect way to throw caution to the wind and let someone else take the wheel. You’ll have all the enjoyment of a life-changing lark, and none of the stress of planning it.
You don’t have to hang out with anyone (if you don’t want to)
I’ve talked at length about the amazing people you’ll meet but you know what? You don’t have to hang out with anyone if you don’t feel like it. I find that hanging out with people constantly can be exhausting. On the flipside there’s also an anxious inner monologue that tells me I’m going to look uncool if I’m not constantly being social. Relax.
It’s nice to have some mates when you feel the urge to interact with humans but equally you need your “you time”. Don’t feel like you have to be social when all you want to do is chill with a good book and a jazz playlist. No one is going to think you’re a weirdo if you take some space, so you be you.
You can make the most of your freedom
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find a lot of your friends (and adventure buddies of old) have settled down. They’re too busy changing nappies and planning anniversary dinners to go on holiday, so what better excuse to cut loose and join a group of like-minded strangers?
At the end of the trip you’ll be hooked on travel and the world will open up for you like spring flowers in bloom. Plus you’ll have a brand new cadre of mates to explore it with.
Images: Shutterstock, Tony Stevens, Flash Pack
Seize the day with these three great escapes
Begin your group adventure here…
Toast a new dawn in Colombia
Climb the iconic Piedra del Peñol near Medellín and kayak across Guatapé reservoir, with rum-tasting in Cartagena and beer and gunpowder in Bogotá (yes, really). Not forgetting a private day-long boat trip around the dreamy Rosario Islands.
Hit your bucket list in winter Finland
Snowmobile across the vast Arctic horizon and watch out for the dancing Northern Lights, then hop on-board for a once-in-a-lifetime husky sleigh ride. Plus, cross-country skiing and lunch in a Lappish kota.
Explore the wild frontiers of Oman
Take on a group hiking challenge across Wahiba Sands desert, with a night in a Bedouin camp, and dune-bashing down giant drifts. Then, wild swim your way through a series of spectacular emerald wadis with hidden caves and waterfalls.