Recently, I was watching a few old YouTube videos that I filmed about 3 years ago. In one, I mention how I didn’t think I’d be travelling solo anytime soon because I was terrified of flying. In truth, I was also suffering from crippling anxiety and didn’t like to stray too far from home.
Fast forward 2 years later and I was desperate to head off on holiday, but at a loss as to who to go with! One day, after deciding I was fed up of waiting around for other people or waiting to be in a relationship so I could head abroad, I booked a 5-day break in Barcelona, completely solo.
Overcoming a Fear of Hostels
I always struggled with social anxiety in particular, I’m still not great at making conversation, but the cheapest accommodation for me was a 6-bed hostel room. The thought of sharing with 5 other people, that I had never met and may not even speak the same language as me, was terrifying.
I had purposely booked a slightly more up-market hostel, the Generator Hostel Barcelona to be exact, just to ease a little of that anxiety. Our room had its own bathroom and secure lockers, so that made me feel a little more comfortable and people came and went regularly, so even if there were some noisy roommates, they were soon gone.
After the first night, you start to realise that hostels aren’t the noisy, chaotic places many perceive them to be. Everyone there has been travelling for some time and when it comes to getting their sleep, most people are very considerate of the people they are sharing with.
Learning to Take Care of Myself
I’ve always been very independent and thought that I’d mastered the art of looking after myself. It wasn’t until I got to a completely different country, in a strange city, that I really learned how to look after myself.
Eating out was the first obstacle, but once you push through those first forays of jitters about eating alone, you don’t even think about it. You’ll be confident enough to stroll into a highly recommended restaurant and ask for a table for one. Even now I’m back to reality, if there’s a restaurant or cafe I really want to try but I’m riding solo, I have no issues going in and asking for a table all to myself!
Another learning curve was making decisions and finding the balance between having fun and staying safe. It can be so easy to stop yourself from doing amazing things, just because you have the ‘what if?’ siren blaring away in your head. The truth of it is, the world is nowhere near as dangerous as you think.
Making Friends and Overcoming Social Anxieties
Not gonna lie, alcohol helped a lot in this process, but once again, you have to decide when enough is enough! I started talking to a girl who was from Austrailia and sleeping in the bunk below me, she then introduced me to people that she had met during her stay and it all snowballed from there!
Staying in hostels may seem like a terrifying prospect if you’re not a social butterfly, but it is the best way to make friends and to really experience a destination. Many hostels will run nights out and events that you can join, offering amazing experiences and the chance to bond with fellow travellers. All it takes is for you to strike up a conversation with 1 person and from there, you’ll be introduced to a huge variety of amazing humans!
Dealing with Homesickness
I’m very close to my family, so I did feel a little homesick on the first day, especially because it was my first day learning the ropes of solo travel. However, by the second day, I had planned an itinerary, I knew what I wanted to see and do and having this plan made things a lot easier. Once I started to chat with people and make friends, the homesickness completely disappeared!
The Trick to Travelling Solo
Getting over that first initial anxiety is the biggest obstacle in your solo travel journey. All it takes is one moment of overwhelming confidence to get that trip booked and once it’s done, you’ll start to feel the first flutter of nerves and excitement!
The first time you do anything is always nerve-racking, whether it’s starting a new gym, going to a new school or your first day on the job, but everything that comes after that first day brings so many more benefits, that they outweigh the initial anxiety.
If you suffer from anxiety or any mental illness, there is absolutely no reason why it should hold you back from living your travel dreams. If anything, it can actually completely change your life for the better. Not only will your anxiety start to subside as you gain confidence and have new experiences, but when you return home, you’ll find that you feel so much more equipped to deal with the stresses of daily life.
You need to convince your brain that you are capable of keeping yourself safe and putting yourself in a stressful situation like solo travel, could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Since heading out on my Barcelona solo trip, I’ve been to Stockholm, planned a charity trek to China and I am also planning another, long-haul solo trip!
The benefits to my mental health, that I’ve seen from travelling solo, are unbelievable to me. My solo travel experiences have made me stronger, more confident and a more equipped human with a renewed love of life and adventure. That’s why I’ll continue to battle anxiety and enjoy the beauty of travelling solo!