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Solo travel can be daunting if you’ve never done it before.
It’s too scary, you’ll be lonely, the details will be overwhelming without a travel partner.
Those fears are too easy to listen to, and they can convince you to stay home and ignore your desire to travel.
I used to have these same fears. I didn’t think I was strong enough to travel alone. But I still wanted to see the world. It took awhile, but eventually, in the battle between my fears and my wanderlust, travel won.
I can’t travel alone
For as long as I can remember, travel has been a big passion of mine. I took several organized trips to Europe when I was a teenager, which sparked my travel addiction. From then on, I was always dreaming of more places I wanted to visit.
When I was 18 and realized I didn’t need to go on an organized tour, I dragged my best friend to Italy for a week.
Two summers later, I studied abroad in Spain, and even though several people from the group traveled on their own after the program was over, it never occurred to me that I could do that too.
For many years, I didn’t have friends to travel with me. So I spent that time traveling within the US, happily using my vacation time to visit friends and family, but never satisfying that desire to see the world.
I lacked the confidence to try it alone.
I saw one of my closest friends travel alone all the time, but I never considered myself the type of person who could travel solo. After college, when I knew of people setting off to backpack through Europe for three months, I just thought
“I can’t do that” but never asked myself “why not?”
What was I waiting for?
I think I was waiting for a friend to volunteer to go with me or for a boyfriend to appear who wanted to travel. It just didn’t occur to me to plan a trip and go on my own. But when I finally realized that I hadn’t been out of the country in almost eight years, I was determined to make a change.
I finally did ask myself
“why can’t I travel alone?” What was I waiting for?
There was no reason to postpone my dreams simply because I didn’t have a travel partner. My desire to travel overrode my fear of going alone.
Still scared but taking the leap anyway
I started by planning a 10 day trip to Greece, and I used a travel agent to help me sort out the details. I figured it was a good way to test out solo travel without having to worry about getting overwhelmed with all the planning.
It was my safety net in a way. Letting someone else do the planning meant the only hard part left was for me to just go. When I finally got to Greece, the feeling of satisfaction was more than I ever expected. I wondered again what I had been waiting for.
Of course I can do this!
Knowing I was fully capable of traveling on my own, I began taking more solo trips. I was no longer holding myself back from traveling. If I wanted to go somewhere, I just saved my money, planned the trip, and off I went. Places like Croatia, Hong Kong, Australia, and Cambodia were no longer out of reach.
Learning to love solo travel
Nothing beats the confidence boost that comes with traveling alone. Without someone else around to share the burden of decision making, I had to rely on myself more than ever before.
While sometimes that meant a little extra pressure, it also meant I didn’t have to compromise. I had the flexibility to do what I wanted, when I wanted. And that was empowering.
Solo travel was never as lonely as I thought. I always met other travelers along the way, either at a hostel or on a day trip, or even while trying to figure out public transportation. I realized solo travelers are actually much more approachable than people traveling in pairs or a group.
I learned that it was perfectly fine to eat dinner at a restaurant by myself. I figured out how to navigate different transportation systems without knowing the language. Little things that seemed scary became huge triumphs when I found I really was capable of traveling on my own.
Traveling by myself made me realize I’m stronger than I thought I was.
Traveling alone is within your reach.
If you’ve been thinking of going somewhere, there’s no reason you have to wait for a travel partner. Do some research so you know more about the place you’re going to and make plans for at least your first few days to make yourself feel more comfortable.
I had fears when I took my first solo trip, and sometimes I still do, but I pushed past those fears and went anyway. I have never once regretted traveling alone.
If anything, each solo trip encouraged me to take the next one. Don’t let your fears hold you back. Take that leap and give solo travel a try.
Bio: Ali Garland encourages people to travel, shows them how to plan trips, and helps them overcome their travel-related fears on her site Travel Made Simple. She has been traveling for almost 20 years and made it to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She and her husband are expats in Germany. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Ali writes about her personal travels at Ali’s Adventures.
Have you done solo travel? How did you overcome your fears?