I’m sure we’ve all heard about the benefits of travel abroad alone. It’s an incredible way to build confidence, meet people, and experience a new culture in your unique way. However, all this said, climbing on a plane to take your first trip alone into a new country can be a daunting task. Maybe you’ve heard incredible stories of individual’s adventures when they were traveling solo or simply want to see what you are capable of, yet there is a little tug in the center of your chest preventing you from booking that ticket.
It’s important to remember that it’s okay to be afraid to travel alone. It’s new and unfamiliar so naturally will cause some anxiety. However, if you’ve been toying with booking that plane ticket for your first solo trip, but feel there is something holding you back, look no further. These are 7 tips and tricks for overcoming your fear of solo travel.
Name what you’re afraid of
Are you afraid of running out of money? Getting lost? Being lonely?
If you plaster a name of what it is that scares you, it makes it easier to grapple with. If you’re afraid of running out of money, choose a location that would know you’ll have easy access to an ATM or somewhere that the use of credit cards is popular (I highly recommend getting a travel credit card with a point system attached to it).
If you’re worried about getting lost, choose a country that speaks your native language and is notoriously friendly. Keep a slip of paper on you at all times that has the address of where you’re staying and a phone number you can use to contact it. In a worst case scenario, if your phone had died do Google Maps isn’t an option and your physical map had vanished, you can ask someone for help or find a cab driver to take you back to your accommodation.
Feeling lonely can be tricky when abroad. The best way to curb this is to venture out a meet people! Meeting people at hostels is great. I’ve also found that asking a stranger to take your picture then offering to take theirs is a fun way to strike up a conversation. The first couple times are a little scary (though, honestly, will you ever see that person again?), but after a couple tries you’ll become a pro, I promise.
No matter what it is that worries you about traveling abroad, it needs a name. It needs a name so it can be grappled with and overcome. There are so many incredible adventures out there waiting for you.
Prep, prep, prep
When travel anywhere, it’s helpful to have a solid plan in place. Spontaneity can make for a great adventure, but it, unfortunately, rarely helps ease anxiety. Make note of where you’re going to be staying and when. Keeping track of the addresses and contact information for those accomodations is a plus.
Before leaving, make a list of things you want to see each day. Having a rough itinerary for every day that you’re traveling will help prevent the idle moment where your scratching your head and wondering what to do next. This is where the anxiety sets in.
Research methods of public transportation, tips for cultural practices, how accessible is WiFi, typical meals, and popular attractions. Your day-to-day plan can always change, but having a daily schedule for every day you’re traveling might ease up on the solo traveling anxiety.
Visit a country known to be safe to solo travelers
Switzerland, Japan, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Chile, Portugal, Austria… there are so many cities and countries around the world that are perfectly safe for solo travelers!
Recently, the US Department of State began attributing numbers to various cities and countries around the world based their levels of safety. These numbers, ranging one to four, are designed to inform travelers what kind of caution they should use when traveling in those places.
The levels are as follows:
- Level 1 (Blue) – Exercise normal caution
- Level 2 (Yellow) – Exercise increased caution
- Level 3 (Orange) – Reconsider travel
- Level 4 (Red) – Do not travel
Only 11 countries are categorized as level 4 and you can probably guess which they are: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Somali, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
I think it’s also important to note that just because a country has a level 3, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. Cuba is ranked as level 3 and I felt perfectly safe traveling there alone. For anything below a level 4, do some research and use your best judgement. Ultimately, where you choose to travel should be someplace that you think you’ll be completely comfortable.
Take a couple of group tours
There were a couple days while I was in Spain that I started feeling very lonely. I was in a bustling city, but felt like I had no one to share my experiences with. This was quickly solved when I signed up for a couple group tours. From Madrid, I went to Toledo on a bus with people from all over the world. From Barcelona, I went to Montserrat under similar circumstances. Even though I didn’t make buddy-buddy with the people in my tour group, I still felt more connected.
Weirdly, being surrounded by complete strangers in a foreign city when you’re all doing the same thing can make you feel more comfortable. Many tourist day trips such as the two I mentioned, offer tours in several languages. I of course joined the English-speaking course and therefore met several native English-speaking people. While it was strange to hear an American accent in Spain, it made me feel a little more at home.
Have someone back home you’re calling regularly to encourage you
On my first solo trip to Spain, I probably called my mom every other day just to tell her what I was doing (and to let her know that I was a-okay). By relaying to her all the cool things I was experiencing and seeing, I felt reinvigorated about my solo travel. I slowly became more adventurous, more willing to chat with locals and try strange new foods.
My mom didn’t even need to say encouraging words. All it took was me vocalizing my daily stories that made my confidence skyrocket.
In the end, you’re worst fears about your first solo trip most likely won’t happen. When it comes to hearing scary stories of things that have happened abroad, we only ever hear the bad. Rarely do we hear the good. You might take your first solo trip and find it isn’t for you, but you won’t know until you try. Traveling alone can be a breathtaking and enlightening experience. I urge everyone to at least travel alone once in their life, even if it’s somewhere close by.