I’d always wanted to travel alone.
It’s not that I don’t like to travel with others – but as a fiercely independent (and frequently bored) teen, the idea of complete freedom on the other side of the world appealed. Greatly.
Potentially because I was so young, I hadn’t really considered solo travel as a woman might be dangerous. Or that anything about traveling might be dangerous.
And with the overwhelm of knowing I was leaving for a long trip (3 months of teaching and backpacking SouthEast Asia) – my emotions were leaning a lot more towards ‘sad’ than ‘scared.’
It wasn’t until I almost choked on a multi-vitamin alone in the bathroom at Changi Airport, that the jet lag caught up with me, and I had my first wave of ‘what am I doing?’
The Fear Of Solo Travel.
For those considering solo travel, the ‘what if’ is generally the thing holding them back. What if something happens when you’re alone (like you choke in a bathroom stall with no one there to give you the Heimlich)
What if you get lost, or you don’t make any friends?
Being alone on the other side of the world is daunting, and it’s normal to be fearful of solo travel. It wouldn’t be exciting if it wasn’t a little scary.
My first trip was full of ‘have I made a mistake?’ moments. Like my first day teaching, where it was so hot I thought I was going to pass out. Or my first solo border crossing after spending the night on a bus. |
But the answer to that question always turned out to be no.
Solo travel is one of the most valuable, rewarding experiences you can have. You’ll see amazing things, meet amazing people – and the self-esteem it gives you is unrivaled.
That being said, it doesn’t mean it’s not normal to be scared.
Five years later, I still get nervous going to new places, especially as a woman alone. Here are 11 things I’ve learned that will help you overcome your fears and embrace solo travel:
- Accept the fear
Anyone who’s struggled with anxiety knows that trying to suppress fear makes it worse. It’s ok that you’re scared, so stop trying to fight it.
Acknowledge your fears, be patient with yourself, and be proud of yourself for facing them. One of the most satisfying aspects of solo travel is being terrified of going somewhere, and then doing it anyway.
- Take it slow
Work your way up to it. If you need to take some group trips before you feel confident enough for solo travel, that’s fine.
You can also work your way through destinations that feel safe until you’re ready to tackle ones that are a little more daunting.
- Embrace the Adventure
I’ve heard it said that some people can’t differentiate between fear and excitement. Personally, I can, but if you’re one of the lucky aforementioned people, use it to your advantage.
If you’re scared of doing something, it generally means that it’s worth doing. Try to focus on all the amazing things you’ll get to see and do, and the experiences you’re hoping to have.
Re-frame your narrative with you as a daring explorer rather than a scared newbie alone.
- Stay in contact with friends
Traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to feel alone. Staying connected with friends on social media or facetime can help keep your fear under control.
Your friends and family will likely want to live vicariously through you, so let them know where you are, what you’re up to, and call them if you get scared or overwhelmed.
- Be prepared
Avoid researching bad press and sensationalist articles on your destination, but it doesn’t hurt to do a little research pre-boarding.
Make sure that you know where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and a little background about the place. Being prepared will give you a sense of control that can be helpful when fear rears its head.
- But be spontaneous
Don’t let your itinerary stop you from making the most of your trip. One of the best parts of traveling, especially solo, is having the flexibility to say ‘yes’ to whatever comes up.
Whether that’s heading to a roof party with friends you’ve made on a boat, or accepting an invitation to a traditional Cambodian wedding, don’t let your fear rule you and make you miss out.
- Rationalize your thoughts
Sometimes, especially when jumping into a completely new situation, we have a tendency to catastrophize.
Either by talking to someone else about your fears, or journaling, get out of your head for a while and shift your perspective.
- Use Escapism
Sounds counterintuitive when you’re literally going on an escape.
But using digital escapism (aka – movies, music, books) can help you overcome your fears and channel that back into excitement.
Make a movie or tv playlist with films that make you want to travel. Read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ on the plane. Listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack (Only half-joking)
- Connect with other solo travelers
I don’t mean on the trip (although you probably will). I mean online, through social media, through blogs.
Speak to other travelers about their experiences to get a grasp of what to expect.
Most solo travelers have nothing but wonders to report (myself included) so it’s highly likely you’ll find relief by hearing their stories and getting their advice.
- Trust your instincts
This is a universal piece of advice – use it in every situation, because your instincts are always right.
If you get bad vibes at any point, trust your instinct and get out of there. Whether that’s at a hostel, getting a taxi, or even just about a destination as a whole – trusting yourself completely will protect you from most danger.
- Be selective on where you stay
Hostels, by and large, are very safe. I’ve never had any safety issues in any hostels or hotels I’ve stayed at.
However, I do usually book female-only dorms if I stay in a hostel – it personally makes me feel more comfortable, which lessens my anxieties about traveling.
Only you know what makes you anxious and what doesn’t – plan your itinerary around what will give you the most enjoyable trip. Knowing that you’ve done everything you can to reduce your fears will make you more excited to leave and bring down your anxiety.
Traveling alone is incredible.
It gives you complete freedom over what you do, where you go and how you spend your time.
It’s normal to have some anxiety – but don’t let it stop you from seeing the world!