When I announced my plans for a 2 month solo trip through Southeast Asia and Australia, I received mixed reactions. Some were very encouraging, cheering me on about how amazing my trip will be, how brave I was for doing it, and how they could never do that themselves. Others were taken aback, confused, asking me why? Aren’t you scared? Won’t it be dangerous?
While I know some people were just expressing concern, I resented that I felt I had to defend my choices. Probably what I resented even more was that those questions stirred up and triggered anxieties that I was already experiencing – an inner battle between self-doubt and a long held dream. The truth was, I was scared, I was apprehensive, I did ask myself, am I crazy? Can I really do this?
Turns out, yes I could – and you can too.
While it was sometimes difficult to quiet down all the negative chatter and push those self defeating thoughts out of my mind, I was also excited about fulfilling my dream. Solo travel isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. If you’ve ever contemplated travelling on your own, but have hesitated due to your own misgivings or if others cause you to talk yourself out of it, I am here to tell you that you are not alone. Here are some common anxieties, how to relieve some of them and the wonderful benefits of solo travel.
“I could never do that, I am too afraid.”
Fear is something that is all too familiar to me. I lived much of my life crippled with fear and anxiety whenever I faced a change, the unknown or something new; usually opting to stay where it’s safe and familiar, afraid to do anything on my own. I have learned that waiting for someone else can lead you to miss out on something you really wanted to do.
If you have been considering a solo trip, but find yourself hesitating because you are scared, take baby steps. Try going on a shorter trip on your own to test the waters and get your feet wet. Solo travel doesn’t have to mean a long extended trip across the world. One of my earlier solo travel experiences was a 5 day trip to Sedona, Arizona. The hardest part is making the decision and moving forward with it despite your fear.
Don’t get me wrong – I still had a sob-fest the day before I left for my 2 month trip abroad, doubting my decision. But once I boarded that plane, I felt relaxed and content. Looking back at that trip, I realize how much it made me grow as a person. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I actually did it! When I get down on myself or have a moment when my confidence slips, I remind myself of what I accomplished – planning an entire trip that spanned 3 different countries on my own and having to rely entirely on myself. Now if that’s not enough to shake off self-doubt, then I don’t know what is!
“I will be too lonely”
In truth, you will most likely feel some form of loneliness at some points. I did, but not as much as I anticipated. In fact, it felt very liberating and empowering to be on my own. Following my own schedule, making my own decisions without influence, and giving myself an opportunity to be me and follow my own desires. Some may call it selfish (which I don’t believe to be true), but for me, it was a refreshing and much needed reprieve.
The beauty of solo travel is that you have the freedom to choose to spend time in your own company or being open to meeting other travelers. There are a lot of solo female travellers out there and a great network of women in the #WeGoSolo community. There is always an opportunity to make friends and meet other travellers whether it be someone who’s staying in the same hotel as you, at a local hangout for travelers or while on a tour or excursion.
“Will I be safe?”
Naturally safety is a consideration while travelling. Fortunately, I have never felt genuinely unsafe during my travels. There is always a risk and no guarantee you will be free from negative experiences (whether in a foreign place or a familiar big city closer to home). However, you can take some steps and precautions to prepare yourself as best you can. Do as much research about a destination as possible, read about other solo travellers’ experiences online to get as good a picture as you can. In the end, go with whatever you are most comfortable with and follow some common sense principles.
For instance, I made a rule to always arrive at a new place in the daylight and to have a transportation plan on how to get from point A to B. I chose not to walk in remote areas on my own after dark, and always carried a small headlamp and safety whistle with me wherever I went. Befriend hotel employees and other travelers; use their local knowledge to make judgements. And when in doubt always go with your gut! If something feels off – listen.
Originally published in Eat Drink Travel Magazine, September 17, 2013.