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Getting Over Your Fear of Travelling solo

8 min read
Solo TravelTravel TipsVacation
Article author: michael
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I remember the first real trip I did many many years ago, with a girlfriend at the time. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and it made me realize what an incredible and rewarding experience travelling can be.

After that first big trip, I didn’t have the opportunity to travel again for a while, both due to lack of funds, as well as multiple attempts to arrange trips with friends who ended up bailing on me in the end.

But finally, after years of trying to make trips happen with others, and failing, I said “screw it!” and decided to take the plunge and go on my first solo trip. I was terrified at first, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.

Why Travel Solo?

Travelling alone is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and experience new things. It’s also a great way to meet new people and make friends, but that’s precisely what scares many people.

Travelling alone can also be a great way to learn about yourself, and what you want out of life. It’s an amazing reality check, and can really help you put things into perspective.

Travelling solo also gives you the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and wherever you want … well, within reason of course. I mean there are still laws and human decency. 😂

When you travel solo, you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s schedule or their likes and dislikes. You’re free to explore wherever you like, and can change your plans at the drop of a hat!

So, How Do You Get Over Your Fear of Travelling Solo?

Well, first off, you need to realize that you’re not alone in your fear of travelling solo. Many people feel the same way, so it’s perfectly normal.

But the truth is, everyone’s situation is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. So, I’m going to share with you some of the things that helped me get over my fear of travelling solo, and that will hopefully help you if you’re looking to do your first solo trip. Some of them will sound like general travel tips, but I promise they’re all things that helped me get over my fear of travelling alone.

Note that while I’ve numbered these tips, they’re neither in any particular order, nor would you need to follow every one of them…

1. Consider starting small or familiar

If you’re not ready to jump into the deep end, then start small. For example, take a weekend trip alone to a nearby city, or even just a day trip alone. This will give you your first taste of being out there on your own, and will hopefully give you the confidence to take on bigger trips in the future.

On the other hand, for me, “starting small” meant travelling from Canada to China alone … which isn’t exactly a small trip, but it was for the purpose of studying Mandarin at a language school in Guilin, China. So although I travelled there alone, while I was there I was surrounded by a lot of other people from all over the world who shared a similar interest, and that made it much less scary for me.

Guilin, China

Guilin, China

So if a small trip to a nearby city sounds a bit too boring for you, then consider a bigger trip, but one that’s still within your comfort zone. One that offers something familiar, possibly related to your interests or hobbies.

2. Consider travelling to a country where you know the language

Planning a big trip alone, to a country where you don’t know the language, may not be the best idea for your first ever solo trip.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s definitely going to be a lot more challenging, and you might feel a lot less at ease as language barriers can be a huge source of anxiety for many people.

Killarney, Ireland

Travelling to a location where you know and speak the language will mean one less thing to worry about, so you can focus more on enjoying your trip.

3. Understand that it’s OK to be alone

One of things that scared me the most when I was travelling alone, was knowing that I was going to be alone the whole time. As someone who’s not very extroverted, I was worried I’d be super lonely and bored, and hell, maybe even seem like a weirdo. Silly thoughts, I know, but that was my fear.

And you know what? I was alone a lot of the time, and I did feel lonely some of those times, and even maybe like a bit of weirdo at times. But I also met a lot of people, and had some amazing experiences both with and without those people.

Sometimes I was alone because I wanted to be, and sometimes I was alone because I just didn’t have anyone to hang out with. But I realized that there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s OK to be alone, and it’s OK to be lonely sometimes.

Case in point - one night while I was in Hue, Vietnam, I was looking for a place to grab dinner. The restaurant I wanted to eat at was packed with people, and I was both intimidated, and also didn’t think I’d even get a spot to sit. So I walked around the streets for a bit but didn’t find anything else that looked good, so I decided instead to go check out the boardwalk near the river for a bit. I ended up meeting a friendly group of university students who wanted to practice their English with me, and after making sure all my belongings were still in my pockets (as this is a known scam in some areas), I thought “why not?”! 😆

We chatted for a good 2 hours, after which point I wanted to call it a night and eat something. So I said my goodbyes, headed to pick up some delicious BBQ pork banh mi from a stand near my hostel and a few beers from my hostel, and had a relaxing dinner in my room on my own while reviewing my pics from the day.

Banh mi in Hue

That banh mi ended up being one of the best I had in Vietnam, and I still remember it to this day.

4. Understand that you don’t need to be having fun all the time

Well, I suppose if you’re an extrovert or an adrenaline junkie, then maybe you do need to be having fun all the time! Otherwise, I think it’s important to understand that you don’t need to be constantly doing something, or constantly having fun.

If, on a particular day, you don’t feel up to doing much, then don’t. If you want to just chill in your hotel/hostel room and watch Netflix, then do. If you want to just go for a random walk and explore the city on foot, go for it. If you want to just sit in a park and read a book, then do it.

And if you find yourself in a city where you’re not really feeling it, then move on to the next city. You don’t need to stay in a place if you’re not enjoying it.

Worst case, if the entire trip was a bust, then consider it a learning experience. You now know what you don’t like, and you can plan your next trip accordingly. Hell, maybe you’ll even have some good stories to tell family/friends about your horrible time in that city! 🤪

5. Safety is key - Know the risks before you go

This should probably be higher up on the list, but a crucial thing for any trip, solo or not, is to find out about the safety of the place you’re going to.

Look up the crime rates, and find out if there are any areas you should avoid. You should also research the local scams to be aware of, and any cultural norms you should be mindful of.

For any trip, but especially so if it’s your first solo trip, my advice would be to stay away from places that are known to be dangerous, or have a high crime rate. I’d also suggest not visiting countries that are politically unstable, have a history of civil unrest, or a bad civil rights record.

6. Plan ahead, but not too much

I’m a planner, and so I like to plan part of my vacation out in advance. I also like to leave room for spontaneity, in case I decide to change plans, but also to include some down time I might end up wanting/needing during the course of my stay in a particular city.

Doing some of the planning in advance can help you feel more at ease, and can also help you feel more confident about your trip.

I personally like to start my 1st day in a city with a walking tour, as it’s a great way to get a feel for the city, and to learn about the history and culture. Some also say walking tours are a great way to meet other travellers, although I haven’t found that to be the case for me personally … so I guess it depends on the tour and the people (and yourself!)

Walking tour in Dublin

I also typically plan out my first few days in a city, but leave the rest open to do whatever I feel, with only loose plans. Intra-city (or possibly country) travel days should also be considered as lost time, so it’s not advisable to plan much, if anything for those days.

7. Just do it!

I know, I know … bit of a cliché, but it’s true. Sometimes you just need to take the plunge and do it.

View from the plane

So there you have it - these are some of the things that helped me get over my fear of travelling solo, and I hope they can help you too.

To summarize the key points:

  • Minimize your discomfort by starting small, or with something familiar.
  • Travel to a place where you know the language, and are therefore more comfortable with communicating.
  • Understand that it’s OK to be alone - you don’t need to make connections everywhere you go!
  • Understand that you don’t need to be having fun all the time.
  • Know the risks before you go, and avoid places that are known to be dangerous.
  • Plan ahead, but leave room for spontaneity.

And finally, if you’ve done the above, stop worrying so much and just do it!

Any other tips/things that helped you get over your fear of travelling solo? Please share them in the comments below!

Until next time,
michael 😀

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