How to be a fearless solo traveller

Solo travel has become a super-hot trend. You only need to go on social media to see dozens of solitary bloggers posing against a stunning backdrop of some kind. Even just a quick google will bring up countless results discussing the topic. It’s a huge phenomenon, and it’s only set to grow in the coming year. But, despite the media’s glamorous portrayal, solo travel is still a daunting challenge which is nearly impossible for many.

And that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to be afraid of something you’ve never done before. But it’s not a reason to cancel your trip. Perhaps you have a dream destination in mind, but you don’t feel confident enough to go alone. Or, maybe you were excited about your future travels but now find yourself lying awake at night terrified by all the things that could go wrong. Solo travel will always feel intimidating, but it’s only impossible if you believe it to be.

Here are a few ways to confront those solo travel fears so you can plan your trip with confidence.

Start small

Build up your confidence with mini weekend trips away

You don’t have to go big to travel solo. In fact, you don even need to leave the country. If you’re considering it for the first time, start small by taking little trips away on a spare weekend. Make a list of close by attractions and go out and visit them by yourself. Take the time to explore your own country and branch out into some of the neighbouring ones when you feel ready. It’ll give you good practice in booking your itinerary and finding the right accommodation. And, you will still have that safety net of familiarity as home won’t be too far away if it all goes wrong.

It’s a very small taste of solo travel but it will help you determine whether you enjoy the experience enough to try going further afield -a sort of try before you buy. Like all things, solo travel isn’t for everyone, and taking little trips away is a good way to gain confidence in addition to working out whether it’s right for you.

Give yourself a plan

Whether you’re someone who likes to wing it a bit or if you prefer to book everything in advance, it’s a good idea to arrive at your destination with a plan. One of the hardest aspects of solo travel is not knowing exactly what you’re about to walk into, which can be daunting. Research your destination as much as you need to feel prepared. Familiarise yourself with how the public transport works and most importantly, how to pay. Make sure you have the accommodation for the first couple of nights booked in advance, so you know you’ve got somewhere safe to get over jetlag when you arrive.

Research the culture if it’s different from your own in case you come across any important rules or dress codes that would be handy to know about. You might never feel fully prepared to travel solo but having some basic knowledge about where you’re going, and a strong itinerary will help you adjust a lot quicker on the road.

Research your questions and concerns

If you want to travel solo but you get put off by how much of a challenge it seems to be, write down a list of what worries you the most. Bringing these concerns out into the open and identifying them will allow you to confront them more directly. Start researching them. Whether it’s to do with safety or how to survive a long-haul flight, nothing is too small that you won’t find the answers to.

I found that the best way to calm my pre-travel anxieties was looking up how other travellers had dealt with these problems. Seeing other people talk about how to tackle the issues that made solo travel challenging made me feel a lot more confident about my trip. After all, they survived so there was no reason why it should be any different for me. So, join groups on Facebook and hunt for advice on YouTube, and you’ll soon see how much support there is out there in the solo travel community.

Stick to the beaten track at first

There’s a reason why some destinations are so popular

Solo travel is all about getting out there and seeing the world for yourself, but there’s no point starting off with a destination so far out of your comfort zone that you just want to get on the next flight home. Instead, stick to the path well-trodden. Go to popular places and stay where the tourists are. It may not seem such an appealing idea, and too many tourists can make sightseeing a struggle at the best of times. But, sticking to areas which have a lot more visitors will give you the chance to be around like-minded people, and you will feel much safer. The locals will be much more used to tourists which means the transport will be easier to navigate and you will have a lot more choice for accommodation.

Save the big wilderness adventure for when you’ve built up enough experience and confidence in yourself to succeed. Solo travel is all about pushing yourself but when it comes to the crux of it, safety is paramount.

Choose a destination close to your own language and culture first

If it’s your first time travelling solo or you just don feel confident enough, think about ways to make it easier for yourself. Choose a destination which is similar to what you’re used to in language and culture and build from there. My first solo trip was to New Zealand precisely for this reason. I’m so glad I did it because I was able to gain confidence in travelling without having to struggle with a language barrier. It was comforting to know that if I got lost, all I needed to do was just ask.

Yes, going to New Zealand meant travelling halfway across the globe, but when I arrived it didn’t take me at all long to get used to it. So, if you want to travel solo, consider the ways you can make it easier for yourself when choosing where to go. Knowing that you won’t be completely out of your depth will help you feel a lot calmer about the prospect of being out there by yourself

Don’t travel at night

Safety is a number one concern when travelling so do whatever it takes to give yourself some peace of mind. Buy that expensive security kit or have a dummy purse handy in case of theft if you want to. Nothing is too over the top if you feel more secure. But most importantly, don’t travel alone at night and you will save yourself from a lot of potential stress and harm.

Make sure that your transport arrives at your destination in the daylight hours. The last thing you want is to navigate a foreign environment in the dark, especially if you’ve just arrived. Public transport is a lot trickier to figure out at night so it’s best to just avoid it if you’re by yourself. Make a set of safety rules and stick to them. Listen to your gut and avoid being solo when it’s dark. If you turn these practices into habits, then you will double your chances of staying safe on the road.

Take a tour to start you off

Tour groups are full of like-minded people

The easiest way to travel solo is to join a tour group. It’s a great way to ease yourself in and you don’t have to worry about transport, your itinerary, and sometimes even your accommodation. Loneliness isn’t an option as you spend about 24/7 with a group of like-minded people from all over the globe. Tours are great for travellers with all levels of experiences and you can do them pretty much anywhere. Since your entire itinerary is planned out, all you’re required to do is just sit back and enjoy the experience.

You might even be tempted to do an activity or two you might have never considered doing by yourself (did someone say bungee jump??). If you would prefer to be a little more independent but still have that safety net of a tour, then opt for ones which are flexible. You have the same itinerary, but you get to control when you travel, giving you a lot more freedom on your trip.

If you want to know more about tours for solo travellers, I’ve written a piece about the pros and cons which you can see here: The pros and cons of doing a group tour as a solo traveller.

Don’t overthink it

As with anything that feels more than a little daunting, don’t overthink it or you might never go. Solo travel is only impossible if you believe it to be. Instead, try turning the challenging aspects of it into positive goals for yourself. You don’t think you’re good at planning? Prove yourself wrong and start booking your itinerary. You’re not sure how to pack for four months? Yeah, that takes a bit of practice… But you’ll figure it out. Think about what you want to achieve from solo travel, whether it’s completing a hike up a mountain, a diving course, or even just crossing off a bucket list sightseeing activity.

Taking that first leap and making the decision to travel solo is the hardest part, but if we never did anything that scared us we would never leave the comfort of our own home. So if you’re entertaining the idea, take the plunge and get out there. Don’t wait for someone to join you because realistically, you might just miss your chance.

You can do this

It’s hard to shake the idea that travelling solo feels like you’ll be completely alone in a big wide world; that you’re an explorer heading off into unknown and uncharted territory. Although it certainly is a new experience, nothing can be further from the truth. Thousands of people have travelled solo and very rarely does anyone regret it.

Yes, there will always be low points but the highs make everything worth it. As a solo traveller, I’ve done things I never in a million years thought I could do. I’ve swum with sharks (they were big too!) and completed an eight-hour hike up a mountain in the snow. But most importantly, I challenged myself to get out there by myself and didn’t regret it for a moment.

Solo travel will always have its challenges but it would be a pity to miss out on something you desperately want to do because it feels too daunting to be possible.

So, I hope you find these suggestions helpful and maybe convince you to try out a trip of your own, even for a weekend, to show yourself what you’re made of.

***

Thanks for reading,

F x 

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