If you plan to travel by yourself for the first time, it’s natural to feel apprehensive, no matter how keen you are to make it happen. At some stage, anxiety and fear will sneak in. But while fear per se must be welcomed as a positive feeling, oftentimes, it is our approach to fear that we must get in control of.
Fear of travelling alone is often associated with anxiety about being alone in a new place, meeting strangers, getting lost and more. While they may be related to a lack of confidence in yourself, they are often perceived exaggeratedly. But why is this so?
Understanding the psychology of fear
Many individual triggers allow fear to sneak in and thrive on. As feeling afraid of travel is widely regarded negatively, we naturally tend to hide when we feel ashamed of our fear. Nonetheless, fear can help us grow as a person. If you are willing to go on your own but at the same time are scared to travel alone, starting to visualise what’s holding you back is the best way to allow you to move forward with your plan.
One thing we know for certain is that fear is an essential feeling to our survival. It is structured at various levels to create alerts to protect us from real dangers and threats around us. That’s why we shall spend some time getting familiar with the psychology of fear.
Emotional fear is that feeling that we experience when we respond to an imaginative situation or a major change that is going to take place. What happens in a very individual way. Since our brains do not distinguish something happening in our imagination from reality, our minds turn into an enemy while striving to make something happen.
My best tips to cope with the fear of travelling alone
If you are a woman and serious about travelling alone, then you should be prepared to dig deeper to understand where your fear is rooted and why you are scared to travel alone.
These tips are aimed to help you quickly identify why you are afraid of travelling and finally leverage your fear.
1) Ask yourself simple questions like What I am afraid of? Why am I travelling alone? Are you maybe afraid of flying, feeling lonely, homesick, or simply afraid of getting lost or meeting new people? Once you have those answers, jot them down on a piece of paper and make a list going through, from the strongest to the weakest fear.
2) Give a shape and a name to your fears. Try to make clear statements about your fear and go through all of them. Once you have a breakdown of situations, circumstances, facts, places, people or whatever you believe to trigger your fear, visualise each block and develop a plan of action to respond to your fears.
3) Remove the irrational fear and stick to the mere facts. Irrational fear is the emotional part of it that continuously swirls into your mind and tries to talk you out of doing something. It can be an excuse not to try out something, or it may be lying deeper. Try to take the mask off and face your fear.
4) Do practice the common fear situation. Let it happen. Don’t avoid it, nor hide behind it. If you say to yourself: I’m travelling alone but feel paralyzed as to where and when to make it happen, then try it out in a familiar environment: pick a place you have been already with family or friends and travel on your own.
5) Motivation versus Fear. If you let fear grow bigger than your motivation, it’s going to be a hard battle in the first place. You need to know and understand how to leverage fears.
6) Imagine yourself in a difficult situation. What would you do? If you would imagine the worst solo travel scenario, what would it be? If your worst scenario is to get robbed, then work on it and create a plan to tackle that hypothetical situation of being robbed—a simple, thoughtful plan on how you will be keeping your valuables safe when you travel alone.
7) Use fear to hone your skills, like in a rehearsal. Practice at home before leaving. Of course, you need to practice or think about any possible inconveniences that may negatively influence your solo travel or make you feel unhappy and lonely. Still, if you concentrate on those aspects, the risk is that you will attract them into your adventures.
8) Focus on the positives instead. Use travel anticipation to overcome pre-travel anxiety and surround yourself with positive, like-minded travellers who have more experience than yourself. Let someone’s else stories inspire you and build up your confidence about the benefits of solo travelling.
How to face your first solo trip
Well, there is no one recipe to fit all, fortunately, because we are all different. These tips will help you delve into the world of solo travel and get started to travel alone.
- Choose an easy destination to practice with. A place that you are sure you will be able to handle without being afraid has a low-stress impact. It can be a place in your own country or close to where you live. A cultural city trip or an outdoor experience can work very well as a start.
- Travel overseas. If your native language is understood, if you don’t speak your destination’s language, make sure you will mingle with people who speak your own language. This will make things easier. Making yourself understood helps to break the barriers and building a bridge with the locals. I recommend staying with Airbnb to make friends with the locals.
- Make a gradual step-by-step plan. Making one experience at a time and see what suits you best. Don’t overdo. Solo travel is like any sport or activity. You are unlikely to run a marathon on one go if you haven’t run a short distance yet. So find the type of travels that suit you and, most importantly, pace yourself.
- Join a tour of like-minded travellers. A tour for one trip leg of your adventure will do. Sometimes a group of women travelling together can do wonders. It can boost your confidence and help you channel your energy in the right direction: going solo and enjoy it greatly!
Final tips on how to leverage strengths and to travel alone with no fear
As an experienced female solo traveller with +30 years of solo travel in Australia, I went through all the different solo travel stages. From my first timid trips in my 20s (back in the ’80 to the ’90) to more adventurous solo driving in Australia over the past 15 years.
Because I love travelling alone so much, my mission is to help other women experience solo travel. I hope these tips will help you go in the right direction and overcome the fear of travelling alone.
You can learn more about how you can travel with me as a solo female traveller on this page.
Photo Blog Post: Strong Confident Woman: From Shutterstock