10 Ways to Overcome Your Anxiety about Traveling Solo
You’ve always wanted to go to Paris or Vietnam or Peru. However, your friends or family members don’t want to go, so you’ve decided to go for it and venture out on your own. Alone. You’ve read blogs about how other women have traveled solo, so you think you can too. You book your ticket, reserve some hotels or hostels, plan out your route, get the latest backpack, etc.
However, as you’re getting closer to your departure date, instead of getting more excited like normal people would, you’re getting more anxious and worried. You’re imagining all the things that could go wrong: getting sick, robbed, scammed, assaulted, etc. Perhaps, your family and friends are like mine and tell you that you’re nuts for traveling alone to a foreign place. You then then start to believe them and wonder yourself whether this solo trip is a mistake. If you could get a refund on that airline ticket, you’d cancel everything and stay home binge watching the latest season of the Crown on Netflix. That would be the easy way out, wouldn’t it?
Unfortunately, airlines don’t give refunds. So you’re stuck. How do you get your anxiety under control and your excitement back? How do you stop those panic attacks? How do you turn yourself back into that brave female warrior? Those are the questions that I also ask myself before every trip. I’m a natural worrier and after years of spending my nose in a book and watching countless TV shows and movies, I’ve come up with all the things that could go wrong. Over my past few trips, I’ve decided to conquer my anxiety and I tried several techniques to overcome these fears and anxieties. Now before every trip when I find myself getting anxious or losing my excitement, I try these 10 techniques.
1. Make a list of your solo travel fears
The first thing to do when you find yourself feeling anxious about an upcoming solo trip is to make a list of the things that you’re worried about.
My list usually includes missing my flight, losing my luggage, getting sick, getting robbed, and getting from the airport to my first night’s accommodation. I have a vivid imagination of all the things that could go wrong just getting from the airport to my hotel. I know many of these worries are far fetched, but they still have caused me anxiety.
Don’t leave anything off your list.
Sometimes writing things down can decrease anxiety. But that’s not the only reason to write them down and that brings us to tip #2.
2. Prevent your solo travel fears from becoming reality
Now tackle each of those worries. There are two parts to tackling your worries.
First, come up with a plan or strategy to prevent them from happening. Write the plans down and every time you’ve taken care of one, cross it off your list. I’ll tell you about the 2nd part in tip #3.
If you’re worried about the airlines messing up your flight because they have the wrong information or your ticket was canceled and you didn’t know about it until you got to the airport, go to the airline’s website to confirm that your information is indeed in their system.
If getting robbed really worries you, buy a Pacsafe or theft-resistant backpack or purse. I once bought underwear with a little pocket in them to keep credit cards and money. They’re relatively comfortable, but a pain in the butt to get off quickly. Once you’ve found a way to prevent something from happening, check it off your list.
3. Make contingency plans
The second way to tackle your list of worries is to come up with contingency plans in case they do happen. There’s no way to sugar coat this for you. Things will go wrong. Maybe not on this trip, but on the next trip or the one after that, you will experience illness or lost luggage or something. Hopefully, it won’t be serious.
I’ve had the airline lose my backpack. I broke my toe in Myanmar. I ended up going to the hospital in Japan because of an infected blister.
After the worries that you listed in tip #1 and the strategies for preventing things from going wrong, come up with contingency plans on what to do when they do happen. Once you have a plan down, cross it off your list.
For example, if you’re worried about losing your passport, scan the information page of your passport and email it to yourself. Find out where the closest embassy is and note that down.
If you’re worried about getting your credit card and debit card stolen, have backups and email your credit card numbers to yourself. Ideally, have two debit cards. It’s really hard to get a bank debit card sent to you. If you have a backup that you put in a separate place from your usual card, you’re not out of luck if one gets stolen. Another thing that worries people is getting sick.
Before I left for Myanmar, I went to a travel doctor. She gave me some antibiotics that worked for that country. While in Myanmar, I indeed got really sick. Took the medicine and got better quickly. Now the next time I travel to a country with less than stellar hygiene, I’m going to get some antibiotics to bring with me.
Finally, I’m blind without my glasses, so I always bring an extra pair and contacts in case my usual ones break.
Once I have a plan, I cross it off my list and I don’t think about it again.
4. Rekindle Your Excitement
Another very important step in dealing with travel anxiety is replacing it with travel excitement.
Have you ever been told to stop looking at the pink elephant? The more someone tells you to not look at the pink elephant, the more you do. Instead, replace the pink elephant with something else like a purple bunny. Then and only then will you stop thinking about the pink elephant. So when you find yourself worrying and getting anxious, change your focus to what originally excited you about your trip. Make a list of things you’re excited about and look at it every time you’re feeling anxious.
Look at photos to re-inspire you.
Read blogs or travel guides to get your passion back.
Read a book about the country.
Watch a movie about the place like Under the Tuscan Sun if you’re going to Italy.
If you’re really into food, then research restaurants in that country.
Put a map up of the country your going to on your wall.
Part of this is just refocusing your mind on something more positive so that you’re not dwelling on the negative.
5. Change Your Mindset
Change your mind set about certain things that you’re worried about.
One common worry is getting cheated. I used to worry a lot about this, but I stopped after someone pointed out that getting cheated is unavoidable when you travel. Don’t fret about getting cheated when it comes to small amounts of money like when a taxi driver goes in a roundabout way to get you somewhere to make a few more bucks out of you or a shop charges you more than the local price. These are small amounts that you’ve got to let go of. It happens.
I think of it this way: if someone cheats me, someday that person is going to get cheated, and so on. If they’re not cheated someday, they’re always going to worry about being cheated, so they’ll live a life filled with paranoia.
What comes around, goes around. Karma can be your friend.
Big amounts are things to worry about, but small amounts are an unavoidable costs of travel. Stop thinking that everyone is going to rip you off.
6. Don’t procrastinate
Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare and especially don’t wait until you’re on the plane to prepare. Start early so that you’re not running around in the last few days still wondering how you’re going to get to your hotel from the airport.
I sometimes make the mistake of doing last minute prep on the plane, and this procrastination gets me nowhere because I’m too uncomfortable on the plane to focus. As a result, I get even more anxious.
7. Don’t be a perfectionist
Sometimes we’re anxious because we want to have the perfect trip. It’s easy to do given that for many of us, these trips are a huge chunk of our paycheck.
However, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to stay in a perfect place or to choose the perfect Halong Bay cruise.
I sometimes worry a lot about finding the perfect hotel. I find myself booking two hotels for one location and then waiting until the last possible moment to cancel one. Why do I put such added pressure on myself to find the perfect hotel or hostel? There are so many other more important things to think about.
Tell yourself that you’re going to have the best trip within your budget or time frame. If it’s not, you just might have more interesting stories to tell people.
Whenever I get anxious or something is bothering me, meditation often calms me down. It brings me clarity and perspective. I somehow gain new insights into what is worrying me.
It also helps stop my monkey brain from ruminating too much. It’s this monkey brain that ALWAYS gets me in trouble. It’s why I wake up so early in the mornings filled with anxiety about my life. If I can stop ruminating and instead being in the present, my anxiety and fears are mitigated.
There are lots of free resources on the internet teaching you how to practice mindfulness meditation. I’m a big fan of UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. They have excellent classes and free podcasts.
9. Get to the airport early
Get to the airport earlier than you normally would. Now you’ve eliminated one worry, which is missing your flight. Check-in early so that you know there’s no mistake on your ticket. Get through security, find your gate, sit down, and relax. You’ve succeeded in getting through one of the biggest anxiety hurdles of travel. You’re almost there. Once you get to your destination, your anxiety will drop further.
10. Book your hotel/hostel/Airbnb
Even if you’re not someone who likes to book their hotels/hostels ahead of time, do it at least for the first night in a new country. At least you have that night under your control. Email your hotel to find out the best way to get from the airport to your hotel. Ask them how much a taxi would cost.
PIN IT FOR LATER
Do you get anxious before a solo trip? What are you most worried about? What have you done to overcome your fears and anxieties? I would love to know what you do or whether you’ve tried any of these techniques? Please leave a comment or a question below. I’d be happy to hear from you. If you find this article useful, please share on social media! Thank you!