Solo travel is terrifying when you first start out, even now I get nervous when I’m about to head out on a trip alone. Even though, like many aspects of life, it does get easier with practice, sometimes it takes a few mindset shifts to really get the hang of it.
I always feel that slight panic before I board a plane to a foreign country, especially as I am trying to visit a completely different country every time I head off on my travels. The biggest difference I felt on my last trip though, was that I was actively trying to alter my mindset, to give myself the room to just enjoy travelling solo.
Travelling solo and overcoming fear
When you are on your own, your internal dialogue can run away with you, it’s easier to overthink everything and dwell on the little things. This can take you away from what makes solo travel so amazing!
Having the confidence to travel solo comes down to having faith in your own ability to look after yourself and problem solve under pressure. Not having that safety net of a friend or family member puts a lot of people off travelling alone, especially women.
The truth is, the world is a whole lot safer than we give it credit for and you are a hell of a lot more capable and robust than you think!
How did I overcome the fear of being alone?
When it came to learning to feel safe in my own company, I had to remind myself that there is always a solution to a problem. Whenever I thought of something that could potentially go wrong, I made myself think of 3 solutions to that problem.
Problem: I won’t be able to find my way to the hostel and I’ll be wandering around the streets of Croatia in the dark late in the night.
Solution 1: I can go into a bar and ask for directions, it’s a busy tourist area and bars are open late most nights
Solution 2: I have my phone, I can call the hostel and get them to guide me
Solution 3: I have data roaming on my phone, I could use the maps app
Having a plan A, B & C meant that it was harder for my brain to put up a good enough argument for me to believe that I didn’t have my shit together. I already knew what I would do if that issue did arise, so what was there to worry about?
*This is a technique I learned through my counselling and CBT sessions and applies to all walks of life!
Eating alone – Is it embarrassing?
If you are too busy thinking about what other people will think of you if you sit down in a restaurant alone, then you need to shift that thinking to focus on the delicious food you’re about to devour!
Eating alone isn’t weird. Let’s say you were out shopping by yourself and you realised you were really hungry, so you head to a coffee shop, grab a sandwich and a coffee, would you feel embarrassed? Probably not, because you’re too busy thinking about the delicious sandwich and coffee you are drinking and all the awesome stuff you just bought.
It’s all about choosing what to focus your attention on and when you notice your focus starting to shift to the ‘what will people think of me?‘ mindset, you need to gently guide it to a new area, the yummy food area!
When I sit down to eat on my own when I’m travelling, I let myself relax and just enjoy the fact that I have the space to breathe and enjoy my food, rather than trying to eat and have a conversation with someone. You never talk to each other when you’re eating the food anyway. It’s simply because we are brought up to see food as a social thing, something to be shared with others, that we feel awkward when that isn’t the case.
Combating boredom like a boss!
Yes, it is easier to get bored when you are a solo traveller, but once again, it all depends on if you let yourself be bored!
Keeping myself busy was the ideal way for me to enjoy every part of solo travel. I forced myself to book excursions and plan days out, so I wasn’t just wandering around looking for things to do on the day. Even on the days where I just let myself chill, I planned a where and when, so I still had some type of structure.
In any good hostel, you’ll be able to get advice from the reception for the best things to see and do, some might even let you book tickets at a discounted rate!
Make sure you get yourself out of the hostel, don’t just set up somewhere and spend the entire day twiddling your thumbs. Join a walking tour or be your own tour guide and use a guide book to plan your own tour.
On the days where I had no plan, I found it would get to about 11am and I’d be bored. I like to spend a little time getting to know my surroundings once I get somewhere, but my attention span dwindles very quickly.
*Top tip: The open top tour buses found in many of the bigger cities like Barcelona, London and elsewhere in Europe are amazing for helping you see more of your location and getting you out for the whole day!
Learning whilst you travel
Solo travel is always a learning curve, with every new destination comes new challenges but they are always worth it. Even the bad experiences teach you something and can give you confidence in handling difficult situations.
The trick is to just take that leap and do it. Put fear to one side, it’ll still be there when you get back, but NEVER let it stop you from experiencing all the amazing things the world has to offer!
Want to help me raise money for the Mental Health Foundation?
I will be trekking the Great Wall of China in October with the Mental Health Foundation and I need your help to raise money! Simply head to my Justgiving page and donate as little as £2 to my trek. Mental health services and research only gets around 4% of government funding, which means charities like this are extremely important. They help to provide support and resources for those that need it most and are unable to get it from the NHS. So please, give what you can!