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Last Updated on 23/12/2020
Travelling solo for the first time is a big decision. It’s doesn’t tend to be something you choose to do lightly, and it takes a huge amount of courage to commit to it. In the time leading up to your trip, you feel half elated, half alone, like you’re the only person in the universe stepping out into the unknown.
It’s only when you’re out there that you meet hundreds of solo travellers all striving to see the world for their own personal reasons but bound by a sense of shared community. It’s inspiring. Every solo traveller has taken that leap of faith and trusted themselves in their capability. A strong sense of adventure has conquered that paralysing fear that it will all go horribly wrong.
But perhaps the most striking similarity between solo travellers on the road is that behind each one was a naysayer attempting to derail their plans.
You will always come across naysayers as a solo traveller
If you choose to travel solo you’re bound to experience a naysayer at some point. If you’re lucky enough to not be personally on the receiving end then you don’t have to look very far to find them.
For every tragic incident involving a budding young traveller overseas, there are those who are quick to condemn them for making such a ‘silly decision’ and ‘choosing to go there all on their own’. If they happened to be female then it’s ‘too bad’ for ‘didn’t she realise that it’s far too dangerous for a woman to travel by herself?’
For naysayers, it’s entirely the fault of those who had the audacity to enrich their lives with adventure because how dare they? They knowingly risked their lives, right? They should have known to stay at home, lock the doors and throw away the key.
Travelling is best done in the safety of your own home. Who needs to go anywhere when you have the boundless capabilities of television? Who needs to physically go to the Amazon rainforest when you can watch it on your screens free of the uncomfortable possibility that you might get bitten by something poisonous. Right?
It’s a disheartening sentiment, especially for a first-time solo traveller. Naysayers inflame those anxieties already lurking near the surface. They poke holes in your plans with needling worries you’re already too familiar with.
We all know that dogged rhetoric they wield reminding you that it’s far too dangerous because look at what happened to X, Y and Z. Or they ask you what would happen if you ran out of money halfway through your trip. Another favourite is questioning you about how travelling will impact your career because surely you can hardly put frolicking about in Southeast Asia for five months on your CV?
How to deal with naysayers
Photo credit: KAL VISUALS
The truth is solo travel scares them. They tut and say they could never do it by themselves and it’s not because of the danger. Statistically, it’s more dangerous to stay at home than travel. If overseas tragedies were a dime a dozen they would hardly make the news.
As for money, you can easily find a job, do a Workaway or join a WWOOFing community (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to save money if necessary. Also, travel actually enhances your career. Where else are you going to get stellar intercultural and problem-solving skills?
No, naysayers are afraid of your success in travelling solo because it forces them to face how they’re leading their own lives. It’s an existential crisis waiting to happen. From their point of view, a life spent watching travel documentaries is all well and good just as long as everyone around you is doing it too. Travel remains an unattainable dream. Something just beyond reach that you might just get around to one day.
As soon as someone breaks the mould and makes that wishful thinking a reality then the illusion is shattered. That faraway place becomes a possibility and along with it comes the worry that they may have missed out on it. A naysayer doesn’t want to question their life choices so it’s far easier to try and deter you from making yours.
Travel and live your best life
Photo credit: iam_os
So I say the best way to deal with a naysayer is to just get out there and travel. Live your solo travelling dream, and most importantly, prove them wrong. Show them that solo travel is possible when you set your mind to it and the fears holding them back are unfounded. (You can read about why you should travel at least once here. )
There’s nothing better than proving a naysayer wrong so use their criticisms as ammunition to drive you further. If you’re planning a solo trip for the first time don’t let the naysayers get you down. They’re more afraid that they’re missing something from their lives because of the fact that you’re happily living yours.
Reassure them if they’re genuinely worried
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that not all naysayers are out to ruin your plans. Whether these concerns come from a friend or a family member, sometimes they just have your best interests at heart. Stepping into the unknown is intimidating but it can be worse for the people you leave at home.
My advice is to reassure them as much as you can. Get them involved in your plans and show them a rough map of your intended whereabouts each day. Give them copies of all your travel documents including travel insurance, and keep in regular contact when you’re on the road. If you can’t manage to talk to them every day give them some prior warning so they don’t end up fretting about you from the other side of the world.
In truth, we owe it to our naysayers. So let’s thank them for making our determination to travel solo even stronger.
For more solo travel tips and advice, check out this amazing article by National Geographic!