How to overcome the fear of solo travel
Hello & welcome!
I want to discuss a topic that I see a lot in the different Facebook groups I’m in and that is, how to overcome the fear of solo travel.
This is a subject I’ve never talked a whole lot about and I often tend to give the advice of “just do it,” or “you won’t regret it.” But, I’ve never talked about the realities behind the fear of travel, especially solo travel, and how to get past them.
Traveling solo is easier said than done, I’ll tell you that. It’s 100% a mindset shift and just plowing through to conquer those fears.
I’ll tell you a story, before I give you some tips on how to get over the fear of travel, if that’s okay with you?
Up until 5 years ago, I had never traveled anywhere by myself. Ever. I had a boyfriend, so I always went places with him or my family. I never took that leap to go on some sort of solo expedition, even though deep down I always wanted to.
It wasn’t until Fall Semester of my Senior year in college that I had a revelation. My boyfriend and I decided to break up and I completely fell apart.
For so long, I had found my identity in him. Honestly, it wasn’t healthy. I remember spending days in bed, missing several classes, and I just couldn’t cope.
So I decided to go to church. I hadn’t been in a while and every time I took him, he fell asleep (smh). As I began to go back and get more involved, I felt the strong urge to go on a mission trip with them. The group was headed to the Dominican Republic and I just knew I had to overcome my own fear of solo travel and go.
My first trip
It’s been a while, so the details are fuzzy, but I remember applying for my first passport and raising money so I could go on this trip.
It’s not like it was going to cost an arm and a leg, but I was a college kid which means I had $0 to my name. I remember feeling so strongly about this trip though, so I was going to make it happen.
I don’t know what got into me, but here I was going on this trip solo with a group of 12+ strangers. They ended up becoming like family over the 9 days we were in the DR, but I took a major leap of faith going with them.
I had never been on a plane by myself or what to expect going to this country. I was absolutely terrified. But, once I committed to going, I knew there was no turning back. So I had to muster up the courage and just get through it.
My turning point
When I came home from that trip, I knew I had changed entirely. I was no longer a person who feared individualism or traveling alone. I didn’t want to let anything hold me back from doing what made me happy. So, I started to look at graduate schools – in London.
London had always been a dream of mine. It was one city I was always obsessed with and I just knew that if I ever went, I’d never want to leave. So, I found a way to make it happen.
What people don’t know, is:
- I maxed out my credit card paying for the visa
- Barely had ANY money when I arrived in the country (and I mean little to none)
- Only knew ONE person and it was through a chat system via the school
- Cried for 45 minutes in the airport after going through security because I actually didn’t want to leave my boyfriend (back on again) and family
- Threw up 5 times on the plane ride to London and I couldn’t hold anything down. I wasn’t able to watch a movie or anything. I was miserable and contemplating all of my decisions up until that point
- Slept maybe an hour on the plane (8 hour flight) and the rest was spent crying
Seriously, I was distraught. I was terrified. I kept telling myself I was an idiot and asking “what have I gotten myself into.”
It wasn’t fun, until it was…
Until my life was changed forever, for the better. So now that you know a bit about where I started when it comes to traveling – let me share with you how you can overcome the fear of solo travel.
Book a trip
I know you’re reading this thinking, “alright, I’m out,” but hear me out!
Do it. Go ahead and book your trip! Just pull the trigger on some place you’ve always wanted to go, whether solo or with a friend, and make it happen.
I do, however, recommend going on at least one solo trip in your lifetime. It will change your life, I swear.
But, what happens when you book your trip is you’re locked in. Unless you decide to just not go, have insurance, and cancel – then you’re in it! It’s happening.
The best way to get over the fear of something (depending on what it is) is to just DO IT. There are way more things to get through, but the first thing you can do is to go ahead and book it.
Draft an itinerary
Notice I say the word “draft,” because I don’t want you to stick to an itinerary entirely. I want you to explore wherever you are at and get lost. That’s the best way to see the places you are visiting.
So, once you’ve booked your trip – draft an itinerary.
- Get lost in Pinterest planning or Instagram photos.
- Get excited thinking about the places you are going to see – that you’ve probably only dreamed about
- Create a food list of places you want to eat at while you are there
- Plan your outfits – it’s so much fun to think about what you’ll wear while there if you’re into taking photos, etc.
- Book a fun activity – if that’s something you’re interested in
- Find the museums you can visit or main attractions (if you’ve never been there before)
Start finding things that get you EXCITED. I’m convinced that once the dopamine kicks in from the high of planning your trip – you’re going to be READY to go on this trip. Even more so, you’ll be pumped and you’ll notice fear has taken a back seat!
Build your support system
If being alone causes you anxiety or you often dream up “worst case scenarios,” then the best thing you can do is build a support system.
Are you close with your family? Do you have siblings? Do you have a best friend that you call for everything? What about a distant relative or significant other?
Let me people know that you’re taking this trip and that you’re wanting to face your fears. Tell them that you are nervous, afraid, and can’t stop thinking about what could happen.
Why am I telling you to be so honest with them? Because, it will only help you work through your feelings AND it will help them support you better.
What we don’t want is for people to just say, “oh get over it, you’ll be fine.” That’s not helpful.
Figure out who can be your emergency contact if you find yourself in a bad situation OR if you just need someone to talk to while you’re traveling.
Ensure that they are building you up with positivity and excitement leading up to your trip.
Build that support system and if it helps, figure out a communication schedule.
Since I was moving to London, I had to do just that. Date nights on Fridays. Family calls on Sunday. etc. Whatever works or my schedule / theirs would allow.
Even if you’re only going to be gone for 2-3 days, if it would make you feel better to have a nightly rehash with someone, recounting all that you did that day, then do it. Who cares.
It’s about YOU feeling comfortable on this trip. That’s all that matters.
Bring what makes you comfortable / happy
One thing I always do on trips is bring something that reminds me of home, family, friends, etc. I also bring things that I know will make me happy such as my hat, my bible, wireless headphones, a solid playlist, a good book to read, etc.
I always have photos with me, so if I need to I can look at them / feel closer to home.
It’s all about doing whatever makes you happy and feel comfortable.
If you’ve carried a blanket since you were a child and that’s the ONLY thing you can sleep with – then you better bring it with you on this trip. Why would you not? Who cares, bring it.
If you do tend to get anxious a bit, this is the stuff that matters. Things that will ground you a bit / make you feel much more at ease. It’s all about making this trip the BEST that it can possibly be for YOU. So whatever you need to do that, do so.
I’m going to stop there, because I think this has gotten a little long (due to my story) and I don’t want to bore you guys.
I really wanted to write about this, though, as I feel that I have conversations all the time with people who have fear solo travel.
It blows my mind but only because I’ve done it and it was amazing. However, I then have to remind myself that I, too, was once that scared person who threw up during an entire plane ride moving across the country.
Face those fears
Want to know a sure fire way to overcoming your fear of solo travel, just face your fears! Let me tell you – once you face them and you get out there and see this amazing world, you will not regret it. At least, that is my hope for you.
My hope is that if you’re afraid of traveling alone and you’re reading this, that you feel inspired and ready to conquer that fear. Let me tell you something else – it’s worth it. It’s worth EVERY minute of pushing through that fear.
You know why?
- I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower and I completely forgot about the absolute CRAP day we had leading up to that moment (travel wise / air traffic strikes / etc.)
- I’ll never, ever forget the moment I laid eyes on Big Ben the first time – pretty sure I teared up and had a pinch me moment
- I will forever treasure those weird, late night hostel life conversations and meeting random strangers along the way
- I’ll forever remember the kindness of strangers, everywhere I went when I needed directions or help
There is good and beauty in the world, so if your dream is to travel and see it – don’t let fear hold you back.
That’s all I’m saying.
I hope that after reading through my story and what I’ve experienced traveling solo, you feel ready to venture out on your own.
It’s scary / daunting / overwhelming and so many more adjectives, but it’s also amazing / fulfilling / beautiful and much more!
I can’t recommend travel enough. It will teach you so much more than a classroom ever will – so if you get the chance, go for it! Just do it. I believe in you and you’ve got this.
Do you have any other tips to get over the fear of solo travel? Share them below, so others can benefit from your wisdom & knowledge!
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