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Last Updated on 10/02/2021
Travelling solo is all about discovering new experiences and testing the boundaries of your comfort zone. For some, the uncertainty and the unfamiliar are all part of the adventure. But if you suffer from anxiety, the thought of going on the trip of your dreams can quickly become too much of a nightmare to contemplate.
Ultimately, you know what works for you, but you don’t have to completely rule out solo travel if you suffer from anxiety. So, I’ve compiled a quick list of suggestions below to help you keep those demons at bay and navigate the trip of your dreams.
Don’t rush into something you’re not comfortable with
Photo credit: AnneLaure Artaud
Travelling solo is an amazing experience. I would go as far say there’s just nothing quite like it. But it does have its fair share of challenges. If you suffer from anxiety it is absolutely possible to travel solo. It just takes an extra dose of self-care for you to have the best time.
If you’re feeling particularly worried about the idea of travelling solo, go easy on yourself and take it one step at a time. Start small to build your experience. Visit a neighbouring country first for a couple of days. Maybe even meet up with a friend along the way for some extra support.
You will feel a lot more confident once you’ve had a few practice trips, and it will take some of the pressure off. Ultimately, having a desire to travel the world is commendable, but when it comes to self-care, it’s important to build up your confidence first or run the risk of being put off for life!
Take a deep breath
Photo credit: Anton Darius
Anxiety has the malignant tendency of hitting you without reason or warning. It’s cruel and debilitating and can prevent you from leaving your bed the whole day. You can’t predict how you will feel, and you can’t control every aspect of solo travel.
If you wake up to a particularly bad day or something goes horribly wrong, all you can do is take a deep breath. Don’t beat yourself up.
Not everything about solo travel is as glossy and wonderful as it’s made out to be. You are almost certain to have bad days, terrible weather, and everything going wrong from time to time.
So, when that time comes knocking don’t feel guilty if you can’t summon the willpower to leave your hostel for a day. There’s always tomorrow after all.
Eliminate possible triggers of solo travel anxiety
Photo credit: Mantas Hesthaven
Before you head off on your trip, arm yourself against any potential anxiety triggers by formulating a fool-proof itinerary. Don’t leave anything to chance and crackdown on details that make you feel particularly nervous. Nothing is too small or insignificant to investigate.
For example, a bus fare might be a tiny detail in comparison to a hostel booking but when you’re travelling solo on an unfamiliar public transport system it can be a crucial obstacle.
Don’t forget to buy adequate travel insurance and make sure you know what you’re covered for. In most cases, travel insurance is a redundant bit of support as it’s rarely used. But at times when something does go wrong, it’s a valuable safety net.
Having the knowledge that you are protected if the worst were to happen can have a significant impact on your peace of mind.
Pack smart and prevent stress at the airport
Photo credit: Nils Nedel
Eliminate any airport-provoked travel anxiety by packing your bags well in advance. Write a packing list and invest in a set of packing cubes. A well-ordered set of luggage will make you feel a lot calmer (here’s how to do it).
As tempting as it is, try to avoid shoving your items haphazardly into any hideaway crook or corner because it will increase the chances of you leaving something important behind.
The last thing you want is to panic about whether you remembered to pack your hairbrush halfway through a long-haul flight. And if the contents of your suitcase is a barely contained mess, you’ll only end up turning it all out in a frantic struggle every time you open it to find something.
Do a physical activity
Photo credit: Jared Rice
Solo travel is a constant cycle of movement and inertia. We have bursts of strenuous physical activity where we spend hours on our feet wandering, hiking, and exploring. But we also have long stretches of the trip where we’re slumped into an uncomfortable seat on a plane, bus, and any form of transport which carries us miles to your next destination.
As a result, the lifestyle rarely accommodates regular physical exercise. And, when you’re constantly in a state of jet lag, travelling and, let’s face it, terrible eating habits, your mental health can feel the strain.
So, try to take a moment for yourself here and there. Eat a nutritious meal and go for a short walk or run. Maybe even try out a few yoga poses if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. You will feel much better for it. You owe it to your body to give it some love. After all, it’s carrying you through your adventures.
Maintain a small routine
Photo credit: Juja Han
A wonderful part of solo travel is the exposure to a whole host of new experiences from the food to the culture and the time difference. But there’s a fine line between enjoyment and feeling overwhelmed.
The total unfamiliarity can be a shock to your senses and it can make you feel like you’re losing touch of reality. So, consider grounding yourself with the familiarity of a routine to stick to every day.
Doing something as simple as getting up at the same time every morning will help bring a sense of continuity to an unpredictable lifestyle on the road.
Anxiety is a terrible affliction, and when you’re travelling solo it can sometimes feel like you’re on your own. But in reality, it’s far from the truth in the age of modern technology.
If anxiety strikes when you’re a long way from home, don’t keep it to yourself. Arrange a Skype call and catch up with your friends and family. Or make use of the social aspect of the hostel lifestyle and get to know some of the other travellers so you have a friendly face to look out for.
If you don’t find yourself getting better, try to analyse what could be causing your solo travel anxiety. If you don’t feel comfortable in your hostel, move on to your next destination. You may not get a refund but it’s not worth sacrificing your trip for!