It terrified me to take my first solo trip
When I tell people I made the spontaneous decision to take a solo trip to the Australian Outback, they say things like “You’re so brave” or “I could never do that.” But the truth is, if I can do it, anyone can. I was incredibly anxious to take that first solo trip, and I faced some situations that greatly tested my mental strength. However, the challenges of solo travel are part of what make it so enriching and valuable.
It is very likely that you will face stressful situations while traveling alone, but what this means is that you will be given an opportunity to develop and improve your inner self. Here are a few tips on how to anticipate, mitigate and manage anxiety while traveling alone so you can emerge with newfound strength, wisdom and confidence.
So many issues that arise while traveling can be prevented by proper planning. Ensuring that a solo trip runs smoothly requires hours of careful preparation and thoughtful consideration – and you’ll still probably encounter issues that you didn’t account for. You will have to consider things that you don’t normally have to think about. And the bigger the trip, the more factors to consider.
For example, when traveling within your home country, it’s not necessary to consider beforehand how you plan to get from the airport to your hotel; you just hail a taxi or order an Uber once you arrive. But if you are traveling to another country, it’s not always that simple. If you don’t speak the language, you’ll have to consider how you can communicate to someone else where you need to go. Do you have the hotel’s address stored someplace you can reach it without using internet/data? You won’t be able to use your phone to Google it if you haven’t first organized international data or purchased a local SIM card - even more things to consider.
Arriving in a new place is oftentimes the most overwhelming part of a solo trip, but you can mitigate this stress by making your transition as seamless as possible. Perhaps your hotel has an airport shuttle you can use. They might even arrange to have you picked up from the airport if you reach out to them in advance. If you must take a taxi, Uber or public transportation, know this ahead of time so you can prepare by having the proper documents, cash, passes and anything else you might need. Don’t be stuck at the baggage claim thinking, “Now what?”
Mitigate: Understand what constitutes a real danger.
Many people are afraid of flying, myself included. Once while on a simple 3-hour domestic flight, I felt a change in speed and pressure and, in the matter of seconds, had totally convinced myself that the plane had experienced engine failure. I genuinely feared for my life and certainly gave the poor woman in the seat next to me a good fright. Lucky for us both, I was wrong. The plane did not go down, and everything was perfectly fine. What this taught me is that many of my fears and worries are self-induced. However, there are real threats to solo travelers, and you should take care to acknowledge and minimize your vulnerability.
Here are some things you can do to minimize your risk as a solo traveler
Choose your travel destination wisely. (Here are some of our favorite solo- friendly cities!) If you do choose to visit a somewhat iffy area, take extra precautions. Regardless of where you are in the world, maintain an awareness of your surroundings at all times. This isn’t meant to encourage you to become neurotic about it, constantly checking over your shoulder for strange followers. This just means take note of the people around you and be cognizant of your environment.
Choose your activities wisely. I mostly try to avoid being out late at night alone, but if you plan to partake in nighttime activities, make sure you know where you are going, arrange transportation, and mind your alcohol intake. (Here are a few ideas on things to safely do at night as a solo traveler in New Orleans, but there are are some tips in here that apply to any travel destination.)
For a comprehensive list of safety do’s and don’ts click here!
Basically, if you take all the proper precautions to not put yourself in a bad situation, you will minimize your risk and therefore, minimize your stress and anxiety.
You might be tempted to overlook this one, but I can speak from experience when I say that your breath has the power to drastically alter your mental state. In fact, breathing properly is such an important factor in managing all forms of stress. There is a reason people will tell you to take slow, deep breaths when in a state of stress, breathing patterns actually effect your brain’s nervous system and may induce either feelings of anxiety or feelings of calmness. Here is a great TED Talk discussing the importance of breath that will do a better job explaining its significance than I ever could.
If you encounter a situation that throws you into a mental tailspin, say you miss your flight, encounter an issue with your hotel reservation or find yourself in the wrong neighborhood, take a moment to calm yourself by simply taking a deep breath. When your mind is spinning, you can’t think clearly. Taking a moment to calm yourself by breathing deeply will help declutter your mind so that you can develop a new plan of action.
Let it go
If I am being perfectly honest here, I will admit that managing anxiety while traveling solo is easier said than done. Throughout my own struggle with this issue, I have made many mistakes. There are many times when I let myself become consumed by stress and anxiety, not only while traveling solo but in daily life. My fears tend to manifest as an internal battle that keep me from fully enjoying whatever it is I might be doing. Fear and worry cloud my thoughts and keep me from being fully mentally present and enjoying the experience. It’s one thing to just be there, it’s another to be present.
I encourage you to learn from my mistakes, but also my successes. Don’t get so caught up in your own head that you forget to embrace the experience for all that it is. Set yourself up for solo travel success by having a good plan and minimizing the likelihood of mishap and danger. But, when things don’t go as planned, let it go. Take a deep breath and have a little faith in yourself.
I thoroughly surprised myself on my first ever solo trip. Though I stumbled a few times and didn’t plan nearly well enough, I went into that trip with a strong determination to overcome any obstacles that came my way. I kept my cool and rolled with the punches. I left feeling empowered, strong, confident and capable, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
If I can do it, so can you.
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Author: Madeline Freret
Madeline joined the Astrid Solo Travel Advisor team as a Content and Digital Marketing Manager in 2018. She believes that traveling is an essential aspect of life that allows you to see yourself, other people, places and things in a new light. She is passionate about trying new things, having a curious mind and seeking joy wherever she goes. To read more about her and each one of our Solo Travel Advisors, head over to the About page!