Traveling alone can be scary, especially if it’s your first time and you’re going to a place you’ve never been before. Maybe you’re wondering if you will get lonely, or what you’re going to do if something happens, and you need help. In this post, I am also going to give you tips on how to gain the confidence to travel solo and reduce your anxiety around traveling alone.
How to Gain the Confidence to Travel Solo
(One of the few pics I have of me traveling solo – always take pictures because you’re going to look back and want them!!)
My Experience with Solo Travel
My experience with solo traveling consists of trips within the US to cities like Austin and San Diego, as well as a month-long trip to Europe that I took when I was 19. I have also explored a lot of the cities or towns in Washington or Oregon alone, along with hiking or camping alone. I am someone with a lot of anxiety that I have had to manage over the years, but it hasn’t held me back from solo travel. So, know that it is possible once you build up some confidence, even if you have anxiety! No one knows you or who you are and this can give you the opportunity to be who you want to be.
Why You Should Travel Solo
There are lots of reasons to take a solo trip. First, if you have always wanted to travel but matching your schedule or budget up with your friends or family has been a challenge, this is a great option. This is what ultimately led me to backpacking Europe. I didn’t know anyone who had the time, not to mention the budget to travel with me since most of my friends at the time were in college and living on a college budget. My family couldn’t take more than a month off of work with their jobs, understandably.
Another reason to solo travel is that it gives you more freedom and pushes you out of your comfort zone. After my trips, I realized that there is no better way to get to know yourself than to spend time alone in a new place. You’ll see the world in a new way and it’s easier to meet people when you are traveling by yourself.
How to Gain the Confidence to Travel Solo and Reduce Anxiety
Start Out Small
Before jumping into a big trip, if you’re not feeling very confident, start small. Try going somewhere only a few hours away, or to another city in your country. Do things that you would normally do at home like thrifting or visiting bookstores. Try to pinpoint what makes you nervous about traveling alone and work on finding solutions for that during your trip.
During your trip you can also try meeting up with locals from travel groups. Just because you are traveling solo doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Most of the memories I have from my trips has been from meeting others to do things with. Some groups you might check out if you’re traveling alone could be Girls Love Travel and Outdoorsy Gals. I’m sure there are also other travel-related Facebook groups, these are just two that I am active in and see a lot of meetups happening from.
Starting out small can build your confidence so that you are ready for a bigger trip or one that is further away from your home. If you’re really not enjoying yourself, you can always go home just a few hours. This is a better alternative than booking a trip across the world if you’re not ready and having to cut your trip short.
Before you leave, research! I am not a planner, but I do write down a list of some activities or shops on my phone that I don’t want to miss. If I am traveling out of the country I will make sure I know how to reach my connection at airports, some common phrases if English is not the dominant language, and what the currency is if I’m not sure. I also make sure to have the directions to where I am staying and how best to get there whether it’s by public transportation, Uber, or walking.
If you aren’t a planner, you should at least research some of these basic things that will reduce your stress while traveling and keep you safe when you’re trying to figure things out. Looking like a confused traveller can put a target on your back for theft and scams. Researching and watching vlogs of where you’re traveling to can increase your excitement about your trip, lower anxiety, and give you somewhat of an idea on where you are going.
Get Comfortable Being By Yourself
If a trip a few hours away is still too big, even just going to the store alone if you don’t usually, can be the step you need. Go somewhere you already enjoy and you might realize it’s not as scary as it seems. When traveling solo, you’ll want to be comfortable being by yourself. If you’re not right now, work your way to getting there. When traveling solo, you won’t always be alone necessarily. But there are times that you will be, so this is important!
Trust Your Abilities to Problem-Solve
You need to trust in your abilities to problem-solve because not everything goes according to plan when you travel. There are times when I missed my train, I got lost, or other problems like that. You’re going to need to problem solve! Everything is figure-out-able, you just need to take a breath to think things through and what your next step will be. You are depending on yourself when you travel alone. You should be prepared to handle problems on your own and be able to ask others for help if you need it. You’ll look back on these times of problem-solving and be proud of how you figured things out. Ultimately this will build your confidence and help you realize you are capable of more than you thought.
Jump in and Figure it Out as You Go
Sometimes the best way to gain confidence is to just jump into it. When I booked my trip to Europe, there was no way that I thought I was ready to travel by myself. I took the leap because I knew it was something that I wanted to do, and I figured it out as I went. I made a lot of questionable decisions in the beginning and was not a skilled traveler and got myself into a lot of problems. But, by the end of it, I realized I was capable.
If I let my fear of being alone or lonely affect buying the trip, I wouldn’t have gone. I gained so much more confidence along the way than I could have before the trip. If you truly don’t think you are ready and it’s not in your best interest. Follow the previous tips to start small and get comfortable being by yourself. But if it’s fear holding you back, sometimes you just need to jump in.
Join a Tour Group or Stay in a Hostel
I recommend doing social activities if you are going to be traveling solo. Hostels are a great way to meet people! If you’re traveling in Europe, doing walking tours or inviting someone at your hostel to go on a walking tour with you or go to get lunch or something is great. It’s also as easy as just introducing yourself to other solo travellers and asking where they are from. The best hostels to meet people in will have common areas like a bar or lounge. I have a post here on how to choose a hostel.
Another option would be to go with a tour group like EF College Break. EF College Break is for 18 to 29-year-olds. Contiki is another option for all ages. Tour group can be great because almost everything is planned out for you and booked already. It is a little more expensive but if you keep worrying about the ‘what ifs’ this is a good way to take your first trip. I personally haven’t used a tour group before but think that I would consider it for my next trip depending on the destination.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong (or right!) that could throw off your schedule. Maybe you meet someone at a hostel and they invite you to go do something that actually sounds fun. If you have a strict schedule in place, you might miss out on some opportunities. You might also run into a hard time navigating and go over the time you budgeted for transportation. This is personally why I don’t intensely plan. I tried to but just realized that for some reason or another something would come up and it would cause more stress trying to fit everything in. I think that as long as you are flexible, this can reduce the stress and anxiety.
Make Safe Decisions
Nothing has made me more anxious than when I run into situations that are not safe! Which, to be fair, is usually due to problems that have popped up or times when I didn’t plan. Use your best judgement and make safe decisions. If someone does not give me a good vibe I won’t engage them in any way and I try not to be alone at night.
That’s all I have for this post. I hope some of these tips will help you gain the confidence to travel solo and reduce your anxiety around it. I really think it’s something that everyone should experience at least once!
For more travel-related content, be sure to check out some of the posts below!
- Travel Guide to Austin, Texas
- How to Plan a Trip to Europe
- San Diego Travel Guide
- Eurail & Everything You Need to Know About Traveling Europe by Train
- Hostel Etiquette: 10 Unspoken Rules (You Should Know!)
If you have any more questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram @maddie_deer, here. If you have any tips on traveling solo if you have before, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Some of Travel Favorites