Are You Afraid of Traveling Alone?

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Why A Lot of Us Consider Solo Travel

A lack of similarly minded or available friends/travel partners

The first time I took an international vacation alone-I wasn’t exactly happy to be going solo. But, I’d held off for years-not going places I wanted to go because my friends couldn’t travel at the same time as I could (I was in a career where many months of the year were off limits for vacations)-or didn’t want to go the same places, or had completely different financial situations……

I’d booked trips with boyfriends too far in advance and ended up being broken up by the time the trip came around. I’d skipped vacations because I had just started a new job and didn’t feel it was the right time to leave.

It got to the point where I was an almost 30 year old woman who wanted to go so many places but just kept seeing the years pass by.

I dreamed of all of the places I’d go if I could. I researched and chatted on travel forums……I planned. And all the time in the back of my head I was saying to myself ‘you could just go!’ But at that point in my life I didn’t even like going and sitting at a cafe by myself-so I certainly couldn’t comprehend how traveling alone for an entire trip would be fun.

Does any of this sound familiar?

When it’s time to take a leap of faith-and get out of your comfort zone

What are your biggest fears of traveling alone? If you’re like most women- you have had at least one of these concerns:

  1. What if I get lost? Or lose my wallet? Or get robbed? These things would be horrible if I was alone….
  2. I don’t really like spending a lot of time alone-so why would I take a trip alone?
  3. I’ll seem like a huge loser or weirdo if I tell my friends I’m taking a trip by myself and all of those people wherever I go will look at me eating alone at my table or taking a tour alone and I’ll feel really stupid and lame

If you’ve ever thought any of these things-you’re not alone! These are very common concerns (particularly for women-I won’t get it to the roots of this here).

But-these aren’t good enough reasons to avoid every traveling alone. Most of them really have to do with larger issues which, once overcome, will make your life so much easier, so much more fun and with a lot less fear (of everything).

Fear of spending time alone

Think about it-if your fear is of spending so much time alone-why is that? It’s time to discover how amazing you are and figure out the things you are interested in and that are incredibly rewarding and that you can only do when you have time to yourself.

If it is instead about feeling awkward dining out alone, visiting sites alone and so on… why is it that sitting alone somewhere or being alone seems so strange or uncomfortable? A lot of women feel like this-and I was one of them but again… why?

I used to balk at the idea of sitting and eating lunch alone until I got a job in sales management that required me to eat out a lot while I was on the road. It felt really strange at first-and I put a lot of time into figuring out how to feel the least awkward but eventually I ended up really enjoying the experience of having a nice meal at the bar of a nice restaurant with a glass of wine or a book. Now (10 years later) I don’t even need the book!

Traveling alone-forces you to do these things all at once-and it shines a spotlight on our weaknesses (such as not knowing ourselves our what we want well enough to be comfortable spending a lot of time alone)

traveling alone Angloville Poland
Me on top of a castle in the Polish countryside-while volunteering as a Business English partner for Polish professionals

Fear of not being able to do what you need to do or stay safe without a travel partner

Let’s take the concern of not being able to travel safely or manage to get where you need to get without ending up in scary situations. Why would you not be able to handle these situations just as well as anyone else you’d travel with? I’ve got news for you (and it comes from extensive personal experience!): all of the stuff you think you aren’t good at (getting where you need to get without GPS, using a map, talking to strangers etc) or that would be easier with someone else along for the ride.. are things you need to learn to do yourself and be comfortable with.

And guess what? Once you go through these experiences-you will realize you are capable of anything!

Example:

Before I started taking solo trips-I was a disaster with directions and maps (hated them and thought I ‘couldn’t understand them’). Even before GPS (which I literally never left my house without for so many years) I was traveling around with printed Mapquest directions for not only where I was going-but for any other stops I might possibly make.

Fast forward to today after a lot of solo travel under my belt  (including some stressful situations I had to navigate my way through but which became less and less scary as I gained experience) and I no longer freak out if I can’t use GPS somewhere. I book Airbnbs and get specific instructions from my host, pick up a map, and ask locals along the way.

If I get lost-I just give my host (or my destination) a call. Picking up a SIM card in any city in Europe is extremely easy these days (why not grab one at the airport or train station as soon as you arrive?) and phones are no longer locked as often as they were in the old days so you can typically just pop a new SIM in your phone and start using it to make local calls at super duper cheap local non long distance rates.

It didn’t used to be this easy…..! Why wait any longer?

 

Taking the Plunge and Just Effing Doing It

I decided my 30th birthday was the perfect time to do something momentous. To take a trip, alone, to another continent. If I was going to travel alone-it wasn’t just going to be Hawaii or Europe it was going to be Australia! It didn’t hurt that I was working with an Australian winery at the time so I knew I’d have the added excuse of ‘exploring the terroir’ where our vineyards were grown. I’ve always liked legitimizing what may seem to be insane spontaneity or questionable decisions with a list of reasons why what I’m doing makes perfect sense… can anyone relate? 🙂

I booked modest hotels (no hostels I was too posh for that by the time I took this trip damn it being older and used to comforts really has it’s drawbacks) but left some openings so I could figure things out once in the country.

I sorted out a trip to the winery I worked for (from Sydney) which actually turned into an opportunity to spend a few days with journalists who would also be traveling through the area writing about the growing region. Knowing I’d have at least a few days filled in the company of other people made me feel quite pleased with myself and much less nervous.

traveling alone Mudgee New South Wales Australia
The journalist wine tour transportation in Mudgee (New South Wales)
traveling alone Australia wine industry
Dinner with group of international wine industry folks & journalists 2010 (Australia)-had an awful camera back then!

I was also connected, upon request, with a few friends of friends (I had quite a circle of Australian friends in San Francisco at this time) in Melbourne who I made plans to meet up with for drinks, dinners or Aussie rule football matches.

Looking at my calendar before I left and seeing only about 9 of the 17 days were days where I didn’t have anyone to meet up with, I felt much less worried about ending up depressed and alone with bottles of wine in my hotel room (yeah the visions definitely popped into my head a few times-and it was not pretty!). I figured I’d easily fill up those 9 days walking around Melbourne and Sydney and finding a day tour to visit the Great Ocean Road and so on.

Great Ocean Road Australia
The start of The Great Ocean Road (Australia)
Traveling alone on Great Ocean Road in Australia
Me-on a Great Ocean Road day tour (photo with guide) in 2010 on my first solo trip (horrible photo again-sorry!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was back before everyone was using sites like Meetup or other social sites to connect with fellow travelers (though some really savvy folks were ahead of the curve-and sites like couchsurfing did exist but no Airbnb).

Looking back now-I wish I’d known then what I know now. I could have avoided some awkwardly boring and lonely days and nights as well as saved a lot of cash. But I did enjoy most of my trip immensely and I ended up meeting lots of new people (which by the way doesn’t happen as much when you are traveling with a friend/partner) and seeing so much beauty. It wasn’t perfect-but it got me started on the road to satisfying solo travel and getting to see more of the world.

Considering taking a trip alone? What’s holding you back?

Try some of these blog posts for resources that will make your solo travel experience so much easier and more fun than my first experience was (even though mine was still pretty cool-the resources now are sooooooo much better!)

Guaranteed Ways to Meet People While Traveling Solo

Finding Great (and Unique) Accommodation

Connecting With Locals & Other Travelers

 

 

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25 Comments

  • Great post my friend. Almost everyone I know who has traveled along has largely benefitted from the experience. Doing that odd bit of research to see what activities you can join in (like Vizeat where you can book dinners at people’s private homes) or just see what restaurants cater to also solo diners (a lot in Italy, surprisingly). I travel quite a bit for work without Nico and honestly, even being married, I like the experience of exploring a city alone, having a long lunch and catching up on writing. It can be cathartic and using social media to connect with locals (i.e.: Facebook or Instagram) means you could possibly grab a coffee with a future lifelong friend :).

    • Georgette,

      Exactly! 🙂 Even if we have great partners and friends we can do things with-traveling alone absolutely puts us in a different head-space. Often it really is cathartic… some time where you reconnect with yourself and your own thoughts. I also have the best ideas for writing and projects during these times. And our partners probably enjoy some solo time while we are away as well-to do their own projects or things! 😉

      We are so lucky to live in a time that has made it so much more easy to connect with locals as well (I too have tried Vizeat, Withlocals, etc-so fun!).

  • I started traveling alone im my 40s and now I almost prefer it. I love to roam on my own pace deciding as I go what to do next when to eat etc. ITS so simple. Ive been pickpocketed etc and asked for help to solve my issues. I stay in at night in certain countries. But I am almost 60 now.
    Happy traveling. VALERIE

    • Isn’t amazing how quickly we go from being like ‘oh my god I couldn’t do that!’ to ‘oh my god I love this and never want to stop?’ Imagine if we’d never taken the leap! I’m so happy you (and I!) did

  • Great post! Perhaps it’s maturity, but I never gave it a second thought, the fact that I was traveling alone overseas for the first time when I did so through Europe in 2013 for three months. Perhaps today’s technology made for the ease of travel planning and staying in touch with friends/family (esp. my mother, who worried – a lot!). Certainly the planning would have been more difficult and rather daunting without the Internet and online resources we have today.

    I think it should be nearly a requirement that people (esp. women) travel solo at least one big trip in their lives – it can be life-changing. It certainly was for me! I was 50 when I took that first trip, and I took another, two-month-long trip to Italy in 2015. Trip number three is coming up this Fall, and I can’t wait! There’s something to be said for the freedom of traveling solo and being beholden to no one but yourself for what you do, where you stay, and how late you choose to sleep in.

    Embrace it ladies – JUST GO!!

    • Wynne-

      Yes today’s technology certainly makes things WAY easier. But far more than that-it’s the constant visible examples of tons and tons of women doing the same thing that we can all see now. We didn’t used to see them as easily because… we weren’t all on Social media seeings millions of images and articles about it, etc. Back before FB and everyone and their mother writing or reading blogs it was very easy just not to see or hear of these situations enough to make them seem completely normal. It is usually only once you’ve seen an example enough times that it starts to seem normal and not ‘different’ and ‘scary’-

      You are a lucky gal to get to travel through Europe solo! 🙂 I did that myself for over a year (and now I’m still there but I’m not solo most of the time)-with my life savings and had a very rewarding experience.

  • I LOVE traveling alone! For all the reasons you mention. But, I don’t travel “By myself” I travel “WITH MYSELF” I don’t feel alone, or scared. I go with the mind-set that “nothing will happen”. No fear, no worries. What a great way to travel. I enjoy the locations, all the experiences, (good and not so good) and if anything happens, it’s not the end of the world. I can wire more money, I can buy new clothes.

    • great way to say it! ‘with yourself’ not by yourself. 🙂 I couldn’t agree more. Normally when bad things happen-there are helpful people around, that is what I have found. Sometimes not-but I choose to forget those instances as the good ones far outweigh the bad 🙂

  • It’s so nice to read how women are able to travel solo. Kudos to you for trying and enjoying it!The only solo travel I’ve ever did was for work and I did not get a chance to explore places on my own (because of the limited time and fully-packed schedule). Despite that, I did enjoy the time alone on my own and if given the chance, I’d love to try it someday too!

    • do it! that’s my advice 🙂 For the first time though it’s always nice to set up something where you will be with a group part of the time so it’s not too much at once 🙂

  • I’ve always wondered what is missing in a person’s upbringing that makes them so timid and afraid to travel? I bet if people are raised by their parents to be more fearless in childhood there wouldn’t be a need for articles like this.

    • It’s actually a completely natural instinct and feeling for many people (most particularly women), Henry. But you are not a woman (this is not a dig-it’s just a fact) so it’s not a surprise this doesn’t make sense to you.

      But, just like someone from a completely different culture values wise-religion wise-tradition wise can’t understand the reasons why people from that other culture have the inherent fears and worries that they have that seem to make no sense to us-coming from completely different backgrounds and having had completely different experiences… you can’t understand the experience of the many women or people who feel this way.

      Though again-this post is really for women- I do know plenty of men from cultures and upbringings that do not see traveling the world alone as a valid or ok option. I also know some men who don’t feel comfortable eating out alone or going to a movie alone or really spending time alone at all. It’s just nowhere near as common as I have found it to be for women around the world.

      Things these days for 20 somethings and younger are totally different as we all have tons of visible examples of people becoming travel bloggers or digital nomads or going around the world in the millions of images we see on social media. But it hasn’t been that way for long-and many women still feel differently in general (not just when traveling) about doing things alone. In addition-those of us who become travel bloggers or writers or move abroad (which it seems you are one of these groups) are not a representative of how everyone else in our country or culture is. The majority of people who don’t get raised in huge international cities or with parents who travel a lot around the world-or in cultures where being super independent and doing things alone is normal understandably have more inhibitions surrounding doing certain things.

      I know women from countries (even in Europe) where it is not at all normal culturally for people to go out and just have lunch alone or go take a trip alone (I live in Spain and no one Spanish does this-including men. It’s a social family-based society where people do things with friends or family-or not at all!).

      Then there are countries like Australia where taking a ‘gap year’ backpacking trip around the world before college is totally culturally endorsed. Tons more examples of cultures that don’t see this phenomenon as normal or do and endorse it but hopefully you get the gist.

      This post is about the way I used to feel and the way many many many women & people I know around the world used to feel or still feel.

      It is a post, admittedly that is not directed towards men at all so perhaps I should change the title/meta description 🙂

  • It is so nice that you travel alone and shared the fears one face. I think real traveling is when you do it alone but guess what I read this book called as Alone and it says Alone is not loneliness but its being together with the self 🙂

    • absolutely agree alone is not at all loneliness unless you don’t like your own company or you have been alone way too long! 🙂 We all need to love ourselves and enjoy our own company-there is so much about ourselves we discover when we have that time to discover it 🙂

  • I was lucky enough I met my husband pretty early and we both love travelling so I never had to travel solo. I am not saying it’s a bad thing tho I have full respect for all those girl who decide take that trip on their own! You guys are very brave, strong and I independed! You should be proud of yourself! Like I said I’ve never done it before but I am sure it’s still amazing! And as you mention there’s so many groups and apps this day it’s really pretty easy to find a buddy if u feeling lonely. Great post!

    • Hi Ada- I’ve been in a live-in serious relationship for two years and have still taken a ton of trips solo and nowadays I don’t do it all because I ‘have to’ I do it because I love it! It’s a way to connect with yourself, enjoy your own company, get some creative things done that might be tough to do wtih someone else there wanting to do stuff together, etc (art, writing, etc). Even if my partner is awesome and we take a bunch of great trips together- I will still need my solo trips. They are completely different experiences. Can’t recommend it highly enough regardless whether you are coupled up or not 🙂

  • This is a fantastic post Brooke! I planned to do a lot of solo travel not long before meeting my partner, and although we travel together, I still have a yearning for a solo trip one day! I think part of it is just getting out there and doing it, figuring it out along the way. And not being scared of being scared, if that makes sense! Just embracing that uncertainty, trusting in yourself that you’ll be okay, and then just enjoying the ride. There are so many benefits to solo travel that you don’t get when you go with someone else, it must be feel like such a privilege sometimes.

    • Chesca-that totally makes sense! 🙂 Being afraid of being scared is a big thing- Once you get out there and push through the fear though you realize that being scared (or uncomfortable)is actually a good thing it usually gives us on a sign we are on the right track. After all no one can make big changes or do totally huge new things without a bit of fear-or nerves. And, I also totally understand about getting a partner just as you have a bunch of plans to travel. I met my fiancee two years ago- at the end of a solo year abroad and I did not at all feel ready to settle down and pay rent somewhere I didn’t really want to be (Madrid) so far away from all the places I wanted to travel. But I have managed to still figure out how to take some good solo trips (housesitting really helps, plus setting up exchanges for my professional services, etc).

      What is one place you’ve really wanted to go solo? Do you think you’ll get there in 2018?!

  • The closest I’ve come to solo traveling is taking day trips alone. I do enjoy my “me-time” and that seems to have reduced in the past few years. Your post is a reminder that 5 years into marriage, there should be dedicated “me journeys” for both of us even though we travel *very well* together 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

    Supriya

    • Supriya-
      I couldn’t agree more! Even when we are in happy fulfilling relationships we all (men and women.. well human being really) need some alone time for just being with ourselves and maybe just making whatever decision we feel like making without considering anyone else in that moment. I’ve been in a relationships for two years now (living together-engaged, etc) and I realized after about six months of not taking any solo trips that I needed to get back to this-so I started taking a couple few day trips here and there (I have a much more flexible schedule than my partner) just to have those experiences of waking up-going walking for however long I feel like. Taking a super long shower.. writing in my journal. And all without feeling like I need to hurry or consider anyone else’s needs or preferences. I always come back refreshed and rejuvenated 🙂

  • I absolutely love this because it’s 100% me! I’m that person that gets lost even WITH a GPS. I suppose I’m afraid to travel solo because I know my weaknesses and purely don’t want to deal with them at all. Definitely saving this article to re-read, because even just a small solo trip somewhere is on my list!

    • Miranda-I totally understand! Believe me-as a person who NEVER thought I could start being direction-savvy that if you take enough trips where you have to take some of the initiative you will become so much more savvy about everything. I can’t recommend this highly enough-get out there! Start with a one day road trip somewhere maybe.. Look up which directions and cities you should be heading towards to get to your destination and then get on the road and follow all signs that point to those directions instead of trying to listen for each GPS command. There are places where GPS stops working and these skills really come in handy-PLUS you realize that just asking people for directions (like the old days) really does work as well! Let me know where you end up going-and of course if you are in Spain hit me up 🙂

  • I have never done a solo travel, except for visiting places of interests when I had extra time during business trip. And it was long time ago, when cell phone was for talking or text messages only, and it didn’t work outside your country of origin. I remember it was good sometimes just to be by yourself. As of now, I prefer to go with my husband and son. I went once only by myself, and I didn’t like it at all. Kudos to women who do that and with no fear at all.

  • Glad you wrote this post. Even today a lot of women do have hiccups on traveling solo and I have similar advice for them. Safety is a prime concern but hey, it is the same as going to any place in your own town. In this case, all they have to do is keep people informed, stay informed and avoid unnecessary risks. Well captured in your post

    • thank you Ami! I agree that-it is all about preparing yourself for whatever situation you are in-and realizing that nothing in life will ever go 100% as planned-no matter where you are 🙂

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