Travel is a tricky thing. The purpose of it, I suppose, is to explore new parts of the world and cultures, to meet interesting people, to take a break from real life. I have been traveling since I was very young, with my parents, with my friends and sometimes just by myself. After a while, I began to notice that depending on the group of people I am with, or not with at all, there are certain types of restrictions that crop up, warping the travel experience. These are things that affect the way you see the place, and your impression of it.
Here are some of my insights.
With my family, the restriction is personal freedom. I am not free to enjoy the place as I want to, for there is usually more of a rigid schedule when it comes to parents. That being said, I tend to get a more educational view of the place with them. We see a lot of sights, go to a lot of museums and absorb the history of our destination. We eat at fancier places, stay at nicer hotels, but the experience is highly biased, very tourist-driven. Sometimes I feel as though we become trapped in a bubble, never straying into local life. An unfortunate phenomenon.
With friends, the restriction is usually money. You have to follow a strict budget, carefully analyzing your trip through a financial lens. With peers, you are likely to stay in hostels, eat at small restaurants or even just street side grub more often than not. You meet fellow travelers who come from other parts of the world (or country, depending on where you are). It is cheaper to spend your time exploring, browsing or hiking. If you are out in nature, you take your time drinking in the sights. If you are in the city, you tackle it neighborhood by neighborhood. It's not time that holds you back but financial freedom.
Solo travel is a bit different. Depending on your personality, you may feel very restricted or not at all. Personally, I often find myself held back by fear. It takes a certain amount of courage to go on tours alone, eat at restaurants alone, explore shops alone. It is difficult to empty your mind of thoughts that tell you how silly you look all by yourself in a room full of people who know each other. This is probably the most difficult aspect of solo travel. However, you also have the greatest amount of freedom. You have no one to tell you what to do, no one to take care of or worry about. You can change your plans on a whim, stop for as long as you want to take a perfect photograph and eat whatever you like. Every decision is yours and yours alone, made by you, for you. It is a rare luxury to have the world revolve around you for a moment, in a place where nobody knows your name.