crossing5oceans.com | Published January 5th, 2021 | Last Updated August 31, 2021
Mittenwald Mountain Trail, Germany
I'm often asked if I have a fear of travelling alone. The answer, I did. On my first solo trip to Iceland ten years ago, I spent most of the flight wondering what I was doing. At that time, I questioned my decision, especially since Iceland wasn’t a country explored the same way it is today.
Once I arrived and started walking around by myself, that anxiety dissipated. I began realizing that I was not on a schedule; if I got lost, no big deal, I would find my way back. I had picked a safe country, so walking around the streets was not intimidating. With every step, it became clear that this was fun and exciting instead of something to be afraid of.
The next trip I took was to Scotland approximately six months later, and I realized that the initial fear I had during the Iceland trip was not as intense, and it was pretty much non-existent by the time I hit my 3rd solo trip to Spain.
It’s essential not to put yourself on a timeline; while some may have no anxiety from the get-go, others may still have it years down the road. Just remember to go at your own pace and find the most effective ways to minimize anxious feelings.
Use the suggestions below to help curb the fears of solo travel and start on your way to some fantastic adventures.
Your Own Backyard
1. TRY LOCAL SOLO TRAVEL FIRST - If you’re unsure how you may feel or react to travelling alone, why not venture out on a road trip or a flight to a different area of your own country? If you’ve never travelled solo, this may give you an idea of how you like to spend your time, if you feel comfortable doing so, and if you enjoy doing activities on your own. Plus, going through the process of booking travel, hotels, and walking around in a city you are unfamiliar with will act as a baby step to doing the same activities in a foreign county.
Quebec City - A Road Trip in my Own Backyard
2. CHOOSE A DESTINATION SIMILAR TO YOUR OWN - If this is your first solo trip, heading off into the streets of Egypt or Morocco may not be a wise decision. Being followed by aggressive sellers with very different customs may seem overwhelming or intimidating to a solo travel newbie.
It would be best to look for destinations similar to your own country or places known to be very safe for solo travellers. For example, if you live in North America and are looking for options in Europe, you may be interested in the following safe cities; Reykjavik, Vienna, Prague, Edinburgh, Bruges, and Barcelona.
Even in safe cities there are two cardinal rules; don't go out on the streets alone late at night and you still need to be vigilant about pick pockets. Keep your items in front of you and close to your body. This is sound advice for any city, anywhere in the world.
Planning is Important
3. IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE A PLAN - Making decisions on the fly or arriving at your destination and not knowing where to go will cause more stress than necessary.
Do your research. Know how you are getting to your hotel from the airport so you don't feel anxiety when you land. Do this for any activities that you think may cause you stress when you're in the moment. If you have it written down and know what the steps are, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed.
While it’s good to have a plan for the most important sites you want to see or tours you want to take, remember not to over-schedule yourself either. Find a happy medium, and allow time to relax, wander the streets and take in the destination you're visiting.
Having a Plan Helps Take Anxiety Out of Solo Travel
Join a Tour
4. JOIN A TOUR GROUP UNTIL YOU'RE MORE COMFORTABLE BEING SOLO - Booking a tour is an excellent way to get your bearings in a new city, all while in the safety of a group. If you're nervous to walk the streets by yourself, being surrounded by other people and having a guide lead you will help you see the city while developing familiarity with your surroundings.
Book these tours early on in your trip so you don't experience anxiety about having to go out on your own each day. It's like anything we do, the more you familiarize yourself with something the less nervous you become.
Don’t be late
5. BE ON TIME FOR YOUR MODES OF TRANSPORT - Make sure to leave yourself enough time at airports, train stations, and ferries. Rushing at the last minute to catch pre-booked transportation will only create more stress.
There’s no harm in arriving at a terminal early and having a bite to eat or using an Internet cafe to catch up with friends and family. This advice also applies to pre-booked tours. Ensure you arrive early enough so you don't get left behind. Many tour companies are on tight schedules and will not think twice about leaving if you're not at your meeting location on time.
Give Yourself Time to Relax Before Departure
It's Your Choice
6. ALWAYS REMEMBER, YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT - It's important to know that you can go at your own pace. If you intended to have a day of activities and woke up feeling like you’d be better off spending part of the day relaxing by the hotel pool, do it! If you booked a reservation to have dinner in a restaurant but feel overwhelmed, pick up a meal and take it back to your room. This is your time to do whatever you want, and it’s essential to listen to what your mind and body are telling you.
If you experience anxiety while flying, the following are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years that have greatly helped ease my fears of taking solo flights.
Bring a distraction on the plane. During take-off and landing, listen to your favourite songs and try not to look outside as the plane is leaving the runway or coming in for a landing. Put your head back, close your eyes and get lost in your music.
If you travel often, learning the noises of a plane will help make you familiar. I used to have a moment of panic whenever I heard the landing gear going up and down until I realized what it was, now it doesn't bother me at all.
Look at the flight attendants, the pilots if visible, and even glance at people in business class. These passengers and crew are flying regularly, and they are still here. An odd way to put it, I know, but it helps ease my nerves when I think about how often they fly.
I’m not one for taking medications and don’t necessarily want to suggest it. However, if you experience increased anxiety from flying, it may be an option to speak to your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription medications. If you prefer a more holistic approach, you could try Rescue Remedy or other herbal treatments. (Always check with your doctor before taking any medicines or holistic tinctures).
Learning Common Plane Noises and Distracting Yourself are Two Great Ways to Start Tackling Fears of Flying
The best way to quell solo travel fears is practice, practice, practice, or should I say travel, travel, travel. The more you head out to destinations on your own, the more you will learn, the more confident you will become, and soon enough, those intimidating solo trips will become second nature adventures!