10 Top Tips for Conquering Your Solo Travel Anxiety
Traveling alone, whether for the first time or the 50th, can be inspiring, invigorating, and, yes, a little nerve-wracking. For those still harboring stomach butterflies, we curated a list of 10 top tips for conquering solo travel fears—including advice from folks who have been there—and how to make plans for a trip that's both safe and adventurous.
Before the trip:
Choose your destination wisely.
If you’re flying solo for the first time, you’re going to want to make it as easy as possible on yourself. We recommend choosing a destination that’s known for safety and gender equality, as well as somewhere that’s easily walkable and typically has friendly locals—whether or not you’re looking to socialize. (Our article on the best solo travel destinations for women has a few suggestions for the ladies.) Once you’ve picked your paradise, dig in further. Figure out if there are any popular tourist scams where you’re headed, and read up on the country’s etiquette to make sure you don’t inadvertently offend locals.
Plan a detailed itinerary.
Arriving in a new city with only your hotel address is the easiest way to feel overwhelmed. Before taking off, make a list of places you want to see, then sketch out a timeframe for when to do it all. Even if you don’t stick to the plan entirely, it’ll help knowing that you’ve got well-researched options to turn to in a pinch. If there is a particular attraction, museum, or tour you want to see, buy tickets before you leave—it’ll save you time and minimize the risk of falling into tourist traps. If you’re not an adventurous eater or have dietary restrictions, make restaurant reservations in advance, too—and research dishes on the menu (especially if they’re in a language you don’t speak) to make sure you’ll be comfortable with them. Even if you are up for eating anything, putting in the work ahead of time will ensure you don’t skip out on the best bites.
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Gather everything you might need.
Packing clothes can be left until the week of the trip, but there are certain things to think about ahead of time. Headed to a place with an unfamiliar language? Learn and practice basic phrases using a translation app: Google Translate lets you download languages offline for when you don’t have internet access and also has speaking features for communicating with others in real time. If you’d rather keep it old-school and off-the-grid, purchase a simple, inexpensive phrase pocket book to take along. Also, be sure to make copies of your passport, important documents, emergency numbers, and travel insurance cards. It’s important to store this info in multiple places in case your phone or purse gets stolen abroad. You might even want to consider adding some additional safety purchases to your packing list, like a money belt, first aid kit, luggage locks, and portable phone charger.
Talk to people who have been through it.
At the end of the day, the best people to soothe your solo travel worries are those who can say, “Been there, done that.” There are tons of online groups for solo travelers whose members are happy to share first-hand advice and tips. In some larger groups, you’ll be able to connect with travelers from all over the world—maybe even someone traveling to the same place as you. A few of our favorites: Facebook groups like Girls LOVE Travel and The Solo Female Traveler Network; websites like Wanderful; and Instagram accounts like @sheisnotlost.
Make plans to check in.
If others are stressed for you, chances are you’ll be stressed, too. Make plans to check in with loved ones who may be worried about your adventure, and set guidelines for how much communication they can expect—whether that’s a daily check-in or just a simple text once you’ve arrived safely. Even if you don’t plan to purchase an international phone plan, take advantage of the WiFi in your hotel or a café to video chat with FaceTime, message with WhatsApp, or post your fun pics and updates on social media.
Put pen to paper.
If you’ve planned out where to go, what to do, and everything you’ll need, and you’re still a bundle of nerves, write about how you’re feeling. Use a special worry relief journal or just a regular notebook to try to spell out everything that’s making you anxious. Then, either by yourself or with the help of a loved one or therapist (you can use an online therapy service like Talkspace for more convenient access), take a look at each issue and think about what you can do to appease it or reduce the risk of it happening. Writing down positive thoughts—what you’re looking forward to, your plans, how conquering this trip will make you feel afterward—is a good way to transform anxiety into excitement.
On the trip:
Journal during the trip.
Speaking of putting that pen to paper—why not bring your journal along for the ride? If something you were worried about turned out better than you expected, write about it to remind yourself of the success. If something did go wrong, reflecting on it can help work out any negative feelings so you can move forward.
If you’ve never meditated before, download an app like Headspace or Calm to take you through the basics. Through their guided meditations and mindfulness techniques, you’ll learn how to settle your brain during times of stress and have a quick outlet to help deal with in-the-moment panics.
Be friendly, but don’t reveal you’re alone right away.
When you’re traveling alone, it’s exciting to meet other friendly travelers and locals—but remember to prioritize safety. Kiersten Rich of The Blonde Abroad shares one of her key solo travel tips: “If you ever feel uncomfortable, remember ‘you are never alone,'” she writes. “If you are getting strange questions or want to get out of a conversation, it’s easy to say something along the lines of, ‘My boyfriend just went to use the restroom and I’ve got to run to meet him’ or, ‘My parents will be here any minute, but it was nice to meet you.'” Simply put, never reveal you’re a solo traveler the second you meet someone new.
Take a break if you need to.
It can be tempting to have a “go, go, go” mindset throughout a trip because you want to make the most of the limited time you have. However, if something happens that triggers anxiety, don’t be afraid to take a step back and recover. “If you ever experience something stressful and traumatizing, book yourself a fancy hotel room, treat yourself to room service, and have a long hot bath to relax,” writes Nomadic Matt blogger Lauren Juliff, a solo traveler who’s experienced major anxiety. Remember, just because you’re in a foreign place doesn’t mean you can’t take some time to relax. Adventure will still be waiting for you when you’re ready.
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