While things seem a little bleak at the moment, we are being forced to slow down, and that is huge positive. Perhaps you have always dreamed about travelling, but never got round to planning it. Or perhaps the current situation of COVID-19 has given you the breathing space to really question your happiness - is a break away travelling on the cards for you then? However you are spending this time of reflection, I hope this article helps.
Many people believe that because I run a travel platform with a focus on solo travel, I have no fear when it comes to travelling alone. But allow me to let you into a not so secret secret, I absolutely do feel the fear before I embark on a solo trip. I feel a weird and wonderful concoction of anxiety inducing nerves, excitement, anticipation, happiness, stress and empowerment - solo travel is not for the faint-hearted. But the difference is, after years of travelling alone, I now know how to manage those emotions.
Travelling alone is a gift.
In fact, travelling alone is one of the bravest things you will ever do. It gives you the opportunity to introduce you to yourself and really dive in to understanding what you are really made of. It will push you far out of your comfort zone, and open your eyes to potentially life changing experiences. But for some, the journey of becoming a solo traveller is not an easy one. I put off travelling alone for 7 years because I was too scared, which is one of the reasons why Go Travel and Talk was created - to empower others to get out there and experience the world for themselves.
Don’t make the same mistake as me.
Follow our 6 tips on fighting the fear of travelling alone and start creating those life changing moments for yourself.
I am almost certain, that even with the most well seasoned travellers, when plans change or you are coming up to the departure date of your first, fifth or even tenth solo trip, the anxiety and fear starts to creep in. It certainly does with me and I have travelled solo for the last 6 years. My mind starts questioning if it is a good idea, will I make any friends and how will I get from A to B... and then the ‘what ifs’ start rearing their ugly heads. Its exhausting.
Whilst we need fear to keep us safe at times, it can also be our own worst enemy, especially when it comes to solo travel. Through years of practicing psychology and my own personal experiences, here is how I push through the fear, so you can too.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE FEAR.
This is really important. If you feel anxious, nervous, scared or worried, acknowledge those emotions and ask why you feel that way. Is it because you are worried about being alone? Or is it because you are worried about safety as a solo traveller? Or is it more generally the fear of the unknown? All of these questions are totally normal and I still ask them before a big trip.
My advice? Speak to friends and fellow travellers. A problem shared is a problem halved - cheesy but true. Join Facebook groups like Girls Love Travel, The Solo Travel Society and tap into the GTT network ~ we have all been in your shoes and know what it is like. Talk to us and let us help you. That is 100% what we are here for ~ to empower you to break out of your comfort zone and have the confidence and support to do so!
Read travel blogs and inspirational books to turn that fear into excitement.
Take safety precautions (more on this below)
To think about your trip - which brings me on to my next point...
OK - so once you have pushed through the initial feeling of fear and that ‘what the f*** am I doing?!,' it is time start some important preparations. Preparation and research is critical to managing your trip anxiety and fear because it makes the ‘unknown’ feel less unknown. It is also very important in terms of sustainability principles and making sure you minimise the negative impact of your travels.
1. Booking flights
Sign up to Jacks flight club and Scott's Cheap Flights to get amazing discounts, deals and super cheap flights. Once you have done this, check out Skyscanner to compare prices. Make sure you do all of this in incognito windows to ensure cookies do not hike up the prices of your flights! Finally, book through Hotels That Help, where a percentage of your money goes towards fighting homelessness in the UK, at no extra cost to you.
2. Travel Insurance
There really is only one provider for this, World Nomads. I have used them for years and they helped me when I have been in some pretty tight spots! World Nomads have excellent excess rates and cover all your valuables, from cameras to laptops. Which, if you are travelling for a long period of time or plan to work on the road, is critical.
Book your accommodation for your first few nights. My top tip if you are travelling solo is: Do not book more than 2 nights before you arrive. You can reassess when you get there, so if you don't like the vibe or prefer to stay in another area, you can change your accommodation without losing any money. And if you really like it, you can extend your stay. If I am staying in hostels (which I recommend if you are new to solo travelling) I book through Hostel World. Check out the reviews to see if it is sociable, clean, friendly staff etc. By booking those first two nights, it helps reduce the fear of the unknown because you can plan your route to your accommodation for when you first arrive - which makes your brain go, ‘ah yes, I know where I are going and what I am doing’. Which brings me on to my next point... If you are interested in volunteering for the first time, book that before you jump on your flight. With a good volunteering organisation, they will set you up with accommodation, airport transfers and you will most likely be with a group of like-minded people all there for the same reason as you meaning you will have an instant connection with them. Make sure you choose a certified volunteering organisation. Head to our About Page and our Partner section. Click on the logos to learn more.
4. Plan route from airport to hostel
Plan your route from your arrival spot to your first accommodation, so when you arrive, you know exactly where you are going. Our travel guides can be really helpful with this as we dedicated a lot of time to our transportation sections. Also, because our travel guides are all written by solo travellers who have been to that particular place, they know what we are talking about and can offer invaluable advice. If you are new to solo travelling, this part can be really intimidating - especially when you step outside the airport / station and you are bombarded by taxi drivers and touts - so make sure you don't miss this step out.
5. Plan what to see and do whilst you are there
Research is so important, for many reasons including sustainability and being aware of certain customs and traditions. But it can also help you get excited and have things to look forward to, focusing the mind on things other than the fear! So research what you want to see and experience, what the public transportation is like, what are the customs, what is the food like etc. Be careful when booking things like tours. It is often much better to do it when you are in the country and go with local provider so you know your money is going back to the country you are visiting.
6. Share your plans with your parents
To keep the worry at bay (yours and your parents) include them in your plans. I create detailed itineraries for my parents - even if I (and they) know I won't stick to them, it puts their mind at rest and gives them a really good idea of what I will be getting up to.
7. Make sure can use your phone and data in the country you are visiting
This will help when you are out exploring and out of WIFI; making you feel a little more secure. I always make sure I have maps.me downloaded before I leave for my trip and I also research if I need to get a local sim and what is the best way to go about it. Staying connected can really help fight the fear.
8. Take safety precautions
Like getting a money belt, taking two bank cards and storing them separately, not getting blind drunk at night, taking an attack alarm with you, always getting a taxi when it is dark (even if it is a short distance), downloading apps like ‘find my friends’ or tracker apps for your parents. Having these nailed down will just give you that little bit more confidence when travelling alone. Each of our country overviews for our travel guides include a 'safety precaution' section, so make sure you check them out when planning your trip!
If you still feel nervous about going it alone, get on Facebook and join some travel groups. I love the following, but there are plenty others out there:
----> and obviously there is the Go Travel and Talk Facebook page.
The above groups can give you invaluable support when you are travelling solo and there is also the option of meeting up with the people you 'meet' through the groups, if they are in the same place as you at the same time.
Chat to family and friends about your upcoming solo trip. Be open and don’t bottle up your feelings. But just be aware, that if you express doubt to your parents, if they are anything like mine, they may try and convince you to not go. Stay strong in your decision. I promise you, all you have to do is get on the plane, the rest will take care of itself.
This is a really important step in your solo travel journey. Pack like a pro so you have everything you need to feel confident in exploring solo. And if you can fit it all into hand luggage to reduce your carbon emissions, that is even better.
Top 11 items I ALWAYS pack as a solo traveller:
**The ones I have linked are the ones I actually use and they have been great!
2. Battery Pack
3. Money Belt
4. A Good Book
5. Ear plugs & Sleeping Mask
6. Reusable water bottle or water bladder
7. A multi adapter
8. Headphones and ipod (or just use your iphone)
9. Pack of cards - great for making new friends
10. A journal and pen.
11. A really good and supportive day bag.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: For your backpack, a great way to maximise space is to use packing cubes - they have revolutionised my packing since I started using them! If you would like a more extensive packing list, check out our article on Backpacking Essentials For South America. While the article was written with South America in mind, it can be used universally and it is VERY detailed.
This is probably one of the scariest moments if you are new to solo travel and I still find this bit nerve wracking and intimidating.
Checking into your hostel. Queue heart palpitations.
I PROMISE YOU: As soon as you check in and you go to your dorm, you will meet at least one person. If you don't head down to the bar or the cafe and start up a conversation. One of the most beautiful parts of travelling alone is the people you will meet - they are so open and so friendly and incredibly inviting, because they are in EXACTLY the same situation as you. Make sure you sign up to a free walking tour which is an excellent way to meet people or maybe a group activity such as a hike or a boozy night out if that is your thing. Ask your hostel as soon as you get there what is on offer.
I have made some of the greatest friends through my solo travels and I am sure you will do too.
We wrote a post on solo travel and those moments of loneliness so if you are struggling to meet someone and feel lonely, check it out. And if you are still struggling, feel free to contact me on the Go Travel and Talk Instagram and lets chat.
Not everything goes to plan. You might not meet someone you click with straight away, and you might not like the hostel you check into. Remember this is your trip, so do what you want to do. If the hostel isn't right for you, change it. If you are not meeting people you connect with, reach out on Facebook groups, join organised tours or enjoy your own company for the day with a good book.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: PUSH YOURSELF. Push yourself to start that conversation with that stranger, push yourself to go on that free walking tour on your own, push yourself to try new things and push yourself to explore new places. It will all be worth it.
PUSH THROUGH THE FEAR.
You are so much braver and stronger than you give yourself credit for.
You're here aren't you?!
Remember, it is totally normal to feel everything you are feeling before travelling alone, but I promise you, you will regret it if you don't go. I have been in your shoes and I have taken the leap of faith, and I have had the most incredible experiences because of it, and for me personally, it has been life changing.
You have one life, SO LIVE IT.
And let me let you into a little secret - most of what you are worrying about, is very unlikely to happen. Fear has a nasty habit of making stuff up in our heads and blowing things out of proportion. As long as you are sensible and take safety precautions, there is no reason why this won’t be the most incredible experience of your life - and speaking from experience - I know it will be.
I hope these tips on fighting the fear of travelling alone help and if you have any questions, worries or concerns, please email me or send me a message on the Go Travel and Talk Instagram, I would love to help.