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Leaving the comfort of friends and family back home, of all things familiar, in order to go travel alone is no easy feat.
For the majority of people, solo travel is an incredibly challenging decision. That being said, the rewards for going off on an adventure alone outweigh any fears you might have before leaving.
In my seven years of solo travel as a surprisingly nervous person and my conversations with other travelers, I have learned there are some common anxieties we all face on the road alone, and I’ve put together my tips for how to beat them.
1. Eating alone
It can be surprisingly stressful to find yourself alone with no one for company or anyone to talk to and make decisions with.
I remember I used to get so anxious when I would have to check in at hostels or go and find food by myself. At least for me, there was nothing weirder than going and eating dinner alone in a restaurant.
The great thing was that after a while, you get used to it. I think for the first year I used to always get takeaway food and bring it back to wherever I was staying to eat I was so self-conscious. I got over this anxiety in two ways.
I forced myself to go eat out alone when I was traveling. If there was a good restaurant I wanted to try, I would go, whether or not I had someone with me. Otherwise I worked harder to make friends wherever I was staying, be more outgoing and talk to people.
Oftentimes I would end up out to dinner with people I just met, sharing great food and conversations with new people in an amazing place.
2. Not having any backup
I used to get nervous about the fact that I didn’t have anyone with me in case something went wrong or if I needed help with something. This could be anything from trying to figure out where to go on a map, interpreting a phrase in a foreign language, to even getting sick on the road.
While there isn’t a simple solution to this, I found that over time I learned to be more and more self-sufficient and independent.
A lot of people can’t cope with being alone, and the only way to get over it, is in fact, to be alone. I focused on the outcome, the positives that I knew would come if I learned to be more independent.
Luckily, this doesn’t take very long, and I promise even if you are only traveling solo for a weekend, by the end you’ll come out a different person.
3. Danger danger
While being afraid of being mugged or attacked was never at the top of my list of anxieties on the road, over the years, I am told over and over again by friends, family, and even strangers that I should be more afraid than I actually am.
I got over this by minimizing how often I could be in potentially dangerous situations alone. For example, there are certain places I wouldn’t walk alone in at night or making sure I’ve organized transport from the airport when I arrive in a new place beforehand.
I’m also very careful about what I reveal to strangers, often I don’t tell people straight away that I am alone and I definitely don’t say where I am staying.
I also always leave my plans with someone and make sure to check in often while traveling. Little things like this can go a long way in protecting yourself when you’re traveling alone.
4. Talking to strangers and making friends
Depending on your personality type, if you are anything like me, talking to strangers and making friends isn’t always the easiest thing to do in the world.
Luckily, as a solo traveler, you have a lot of control over this; i.e. you don’t always have to talk to people you don’t want to. You can be outgoing when you want to, and you can be alone when you want to. It’s great.
That being said, there are a few times when you will be forced to talk to people when you probably don’t really feel like it. Checking in at your hotel. At the airport. Asking for directions. Buying tickets to something. Asking someone to take your picture. It happens.
The easiest way to beat them? Be super friendly and outgoing. Force yourself to smile and be approachable. Or if that doesn’t work, join in on a tour. Whether it’s a day tour, an activity or even a long tour, that’s one way to beat that anxiety.
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Do you suffer from anxiety? Share your concerns or advice in the comments below!
32 thoughts on “4 Anxieties You Face As a Solo Traveler and How to Beat Them”
Very relatable – I remember having many of the same thoughts and anxieties a few years back. Luckily, as you say, by forcing yourself it quickly gets better and it’s just a matter of time before the frightening situations starts being fun and rewarding. Great post!
Totally agree xx
Some great points, I think the more you do it the easier it becomes. The key I feel to successful solo travel is planning ahead well and not putting yourself in bad situations.
Agreed Aaron. Like everything in life, take small steps and then you gain confidence and experience. Happy travels.
I would add the people’s face when you say you’re traveling solo. I just started a two-week vacation (the longest I’ve been by myself, though I’ve traveled regurlarly) and even some friends were shocked by the idea. Sometimes they can get in your head and mke you think stuff twice, when in reality there are zero regrets afterwards.
You learn to tune them out!
You absolutely get used to being yourself when you travel alone and its amazing how resilient and self-sufficient you become. I remember when I first headed to Central America by myself I was terrified, particularly as I didn’t speak Spanish then or know anyone there. But 2 years later, after ripping up a ticket home over a year before, I found myself speaking Spanish as well as living, working and journeying all over Latin America by myself still. I was amazed how far I’d come in terms of the confidence I had in my own abilities and the self-motivation I’d grown to go out and get what I really wanted in life without anyone by my side. Exhilarating!
Thanks for sharing! I haven’t done solo travel in awhile and am hoping to do some soon. So far I’ve been trying to “practice” while exploring the local area. Not the same but breaking the habit of avoiding eating dinner alone and taking the time to talk with those around you.
I can totally relate to these! Travelling alone isn’t without its obstacles but it is incredibly rewarding, particularly on a personal level when you realise all you were able to overcome by yourself, be it shyness to talk to strangers or gaining courage to eat by yourself!
Come on, the number 1 anxiety has to be having to squeeze all your luggage into a tiny airport toilet because you have no one to leave it with 🙂
I hear that Kathryn 🙂 Same happens to me if I’m traveling alone with my two kids and they both have to go to the bathroom at an airport!
Hi, since I was working as a waitress in the centr of Prague seeing many tourists who just lunch or even diner!! alone, I never feel awkvard when sit in restaurant/coffee and enjoying the moment by myself. I always think of all those peole I served, how they were super nice to me, sweet calm enjoying their travels…and act like them now:)
I travelled by myself for the first time just recently. I loved the experience! I actually found it easier to deal with these above mentioned anxieties with the thought in mind that no one around knew me nor would I be likely to ever see them again. Most people were extremely friendly, I had no problems chatting to other travellers and everyone tends to be so engrossed in their own company and activities they take little notice of a lone traveller.
Happy to hear you had a lovely experience as a solo traveler. I like your way of thinking 🙂
That’s great Amanda, I’ve been planning my first solo trip also. Where you’ve been? I’m really excited and nervous at the same time 🙂
Thank you for this information .i like your website because it have a lot of articles that they happen in everyday of our life.
Thanks for sharing this.
I generally travel solo and everyone seems to ask “Why would you go there alone?”
I think that if you always wait for someone else to do something, you may never do anything.
My Tips: http://thirtykdays.com/2015/04/why-would-you-travel-alone/
Good points, thanks you for sharing. I totally agree that not having any backup can be tiring and overwhelming at times.
I was completely surprised to find myself fighting anxiety right a few weeks ago at the beginning of my RTW trip, having done much traveling before. The idea of solo traveling for one year suddenly became reality and I started to have serious doubts whether I could make it that long. Since I had quit my job, given up my flat and sold everything I owned, there was no turning back for me at this point and I knew I had to be patient. As you suggest, it doesn’t take long to overcome these fears, and only a few weeks later I couldn’t be any happier.
In addition, to first-time solo travelers I suggest to start with shorter trips to “easy” tourist locations in order to become more confident before traveling to places with few public transport options or simply traveling during low season when it’s more difficult to meet fellow travelers. In case the anxiety still hits you, slowing down your pace usually works for me.
Andrea, excellent suggestions too. Especially the slowing down one. I didn’t realize that is what I do until I read it. Thanks
Just stumbled across this post Liz- How inspirational, travelling alone is definitely a scary thought but what a wonderful thing to be able to do and you’ve made some great points that are sure to give those who are a little anxious- a vital push
Some simple yet so helpful tips. I think traveling alone helps to learn more about ourselves and then you have the opportunity to include or exclude others. Nice post.
Almost all of my travel is alone and the biggest challenge is how self-conscious I get about being alone, which is weird really. I love being alone but at dinner time as the sun sets and the couples come out in full force I feel almost embarrassed. LOL I’m embarrassed to say I am embarrassed. bleh. It is easy for me to talk to strangers but I can’t seem to move it from chatting to “let’s go for a bite to eat”. There’s usually a big age difference and if there isn’t then it is the couple thing. Awkward. It doesn’t stop me from travelling alone or enjoying it immensely but it is a pain.
Thank you for sharing these tips. I guess there is no better way but to think positive at all time. You have to be mentally prepared when you do solo travel and make sure you have a back up plans when these hassles happen.
Im sitting and writing you from Auckland New Zealand when Im usually from the United States. I feel as if I took a bigger bite than people usually do but here I am, my first time outside of the US traveling New Zealand for a whole month by myself. Ive had so many people say how inspiring it is and a handful of people look at me as if Im crazy. My anxiety has definitely spiked since I arrived ( lol its only my second day) and what I realized is I feel completely scared. Im away from people who I personally know and love. In addition, Im learning that I have no control over my trip and though I can have plans I still need to learn how to live by the saying “it is what it is”. My trip is my trip and I get caught up in the thought of making sure its perfect so others can go “ohhh, ahhh” but accepting things for what it is has left me in an uncomfortable place yet given me a chance of growth. facing these anxieties is a lot of easier said than done but thats life I feel like.
I’ve just come across your article as I’m due to travel to Venice in a couple of months’ time by myself. I’ve had horrible anxiety for a long time, but have a thirst to see the world and travel. Not the easiest combination because a part of me wants to go out there, while the other part sends me into panic and makes me want to hide away from the world.
I already feel so nervous; I know I’ll be safe and ok but it’s just the thought of it. I did a solo travel for the first time back in February when I went to the Middle East and I was surprisingly fine! Hopefully I’ll be ok with this trip: who knows I might come back with some wonderful stories, lots of inspiration and feeling refreshed!
I was googling on how to fight with my anxiety and depression for my upcoming solo trip. It’s not really a ‘solo trip’, but i’m meeting my husband across the border in 5 hours bus trip… I may sound hideous, but im suffering frm a severe anxiety and depression…
Liz, cn u advice me what I should prepare for myself?? As I’m facing the ‘what if’ thoughts in my mind now…
Totally agree with all your suggestions! I recently went on my first major trip on my own and by chance I lost my wallet. Luckily I had spare cards in a different location but it did make me realise that it’s nice to have someone with you so that you have each other as a backup.
And it definitely takes a while to get used to eating along! But once you have done it for a while you don’t even notice anymore and it becomes quite normal! – Also you may even get chatting to the local staff whilst sitting which is nice! 🙂
Thanks for sharing! I have done solo travel for several times and am hoping to do some more soon
I have been traveled solo three time since 2013. I enjoyed it but i feel anxiety or depressed when I planed my 10 days japan trip recently. I woke up at the mid night and think I can’ t leave my family and I can’ t stay at a room alone. I don’ t know what does it happen. I hope I can cure it.