KEEP CALM and TRAVEL SOLO: how to surpass pre-travel anxiety

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Even after years of extensive travel and visits to many mesmerizing places around the globe, before each trip, I first have to surpass some pre-travel anxiety.

Actually, being all excited because of not knowing what to expect is part of the fun – as if you’re waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney. Albeit, if this excitement becomes so strong that it makes you really uncomfortable or even scared, you might want to do something about it. Since by no means should anxiety hold you back from exploring the world.

But do not fear – here are some great strategies.

Travel is great. Even – or especially – travelling solo.
You are exploring new places and pushing boundaries. By splitting from your hometown you also leave your comfort zone behind. Nevertheless, it can also be very intimidating – even for an avid solo traveller like myself, by the way. Therefore, in this post, I’m approaching pre-travel doubts, insecurities, and fears. You’ll get tips on how to build a positive mindset and weave your personal safety net to make you more confident before and during your trip.

Excitement is Not Anxiety

Every year, I’m going on two to three longer trips. They are taking me from Europe to other continents. And every single time I’m nervous, excited. I’m getting second thoughts. What if something goes wrong? Shouldn’t I just stay at home and let the tickets go to waste? For God’s sake, what was I thinking?

Get real and don’t confuse excitement with anxiety!

Since the symptoms of restlessness and increased adrenaline mimic each other, it can easily be confusing. However, it’s what Germans call Vorfreude, the thrill of anticipation.

Make a Decision

So you finally want to do it? Exploring the world on your own? Getting to some unknown shores? Meeting fellow travellers and cool locals?

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Excellent choice!

It doesn’t actually matter why you’ve decided on going solo this time. Whether your travel buddy bailed on you or if you finally want to try out how it is. All that matters is that your decision is made.

Yes, even after decades of solo travel, I’m getting asked why I’m doing it. If I’m not afraid. Whether I’m not getting lonely. If I don’t feel the urge to share my experience with another person.

The answers are: No, I’m not afraid. There are rare moments that I feel a bit lonely; however, they are fewer than the moments others are annoyed by their travel buddies. And finally, yes, I feel the urge to share my travel stories. That’s why I’m writing a travel blog and post on Social Media.

Obviously, I could travel with another person. Or, God forbid, with a group. But then I had to plan my itinerary according to their calendar. I had to compromise on the route to travel and to adjust to their pace. I had to skip my or include their activities.

Freedom is Not Weird

Especially if you’re going on a trip by yourself for the first time, you’ll get all those irritated glances and worried questions. Why are you going by yourself? Don’t you have friends? What kind of weirdo are you?
Also, aren’t you afraid? Do you really think it’s a good idea?
Then, some people might come up with all kinds of horror stories that they heard happening to their third cousin’s neighbor’s friend.

Don’t let other people’s judgment get to you.

Travelling solo is not weird at all. It’s one way of exploring the world which is as good as any. And let’s face it, you are neither the first nor the last person travelling solo. Once you’re on the road, you’ll realize how not-original you are – wink wink.

Solo travel is not about being isolated let alone lonely.

Solo travel can be a very social experience – if you choose so. According to my experience, travelling solo often offers more opportunities to meet locals and fellow travellers. On each of my trips, I’ve met those interesting and inspiring people. Some only for a chat over a couple of drinks, others are my friends to this date.

It just grants you unlimited personal freedom. You can choose when to be with others and when to have the best company ever – yourself.

Get Organized

So now that I’ve made clear that travelling solo can be a great way of exploring the world as well as yourself, let’s get on. Let’s prepare for your grand solo trip.

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There are people – like myself – who have a pre-trip meltdown no matter how often they go abroad. Weeks before take-off, I’m buying toiletries and packing my bags. I make sure to arrive at the airport before the designated two to three hours before the flight – in case there are unexpected problems.

My friends’n’family are making fun of me for that. I don’t care. They don’t have to do it my way.

So if travelling – and solo travel in particular – makes you feel nervous, getting as organized as possible will help you. Yes, there are things that need to be done and organized before leaving. If you are getting all giddy from fear of forgetting something important it will probably happen.

Hence, assist yourself.

Make Check-Lists

When I started my solo travel in what feels now like the stone age, there were no cellphones and computers were something only big companies were equipped with. No P in PC back then.
So I was planning by using books and pens and paper. I made lists. I wrote down everything that had to be done.

Seeing all those chores that has to be done will lift the weight of your chest. Somehow, by writing them down, they feel like halfway done.

I’ve started a list for you to show what it could look like. Use it as a basis and add, alter, or erase to your liking. You don’t have to put it together in one go. Have it on you – on your phone or in a small cute notebook – and work on it every time something new comes to your mind.

Chores

  • Ask a friend to gather your mail.
  • Clean out and unplug your refrigerator – and possibly freezer, too.
  • Unplug as many electrical appliances as possible.
  • Turn the water
  • Check windows and doors.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Clean your house – this might also calm your nerves, by the way.
  • ………………………………………
  • ………………………………………
  • ………………………………………

Luggage

The second file you might want to put together is a comprehensive packing list.

Especially if you haven’t travelled that much before or if you’re going to a region you haven’t visited yet, you might be uncertain and indecisive about what to take with you.

Well, since I don’t know you – and I have no clue for how long you’ll be gone – I cannot prepare that for you, obviously. Nevertheless, I’ve written some posts on packing luggage before so they might help. Also, there is a post on some tools and gadgets that I’ve found to be indispensable for my trips.

Keep It Light

My general and most important advice is to keep it simple and light. No matter what, it makes staying in control while moving around easier if you don’t have too much load. Also, it helps you to stay self-reliant if you can take care of all your stuff without depending on the kindness of strangers.

Keep your luggage light, organized, and overseeable. Here is a post on how to pack light yet travel in style.

Last but not least, you’ll feel much more secure and safer the more information you gather about the country or region you’re about to visit. Some data such as info on visa and vaccines might even be indispensable while others will help you to feel more confident. I’ve put them all together in my World’s Most Complete Travel Information, basically, every traveller’s one-stop source of all things travel-related.

These are just three lists that spontaneously came to mind. If you feel the need to put in writing other aspects – go for it. Writing down will help you to get organized. Also, visualizing everything in a structured way will make things overseeable and you’ll feel that you’re in control.

Plan and Book Ahead

What will expect me in this foreign land far away from home?
Well, you cannot know. Mind you, you’re going there to find out, after all!

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I know this is much easier said than done. To avoid that excitement turns into fear or even panic, there’s nothing wrong with preparing for a soft landing. Literally.

I presume that you won’t buy your tickets an hour before take-off, but well ahead. But don’t forget that you can make reservation for many other service in advance, too.

Pick Up, Shuttle, Airport Bus

Especially if you land after dark it’s reassuring and comforting when someone is holding up a sign with your name on it. You can book a pick-up at basically every destination. Often, your accommodation will be happy to arrange it for you. What makes them so happy is the overpriced fare. Nevertheless, I often bit the bullet and never regretted this small investment in my personal peace of mind.
Look at it this way: You’ve paid so much for your ticket. Isn’t it worth it to invest a far smaller amount in your safety?

Some airports have taxi services where you pay a fixed fare at a booth, get a voucher that you hand your driver – and off you go. This is definitely a valid alternative to your personal pick-up. Unfortunately, not every airport offers this service.

If there is a reliable airport bus or train at your final destination, you can save a lot of money. Nevertheless, I would only recommend it if the final stop is in a reputable neighborhood from where you can easily continue to your accommodation. Also, it depends on the hour of your arrival and – most importantly – on how confident you are feeling.

I cannot stress this enough:

If your safety, your well-being, and peace of mind are at stake, it shouldn’t matter that your mean of transportation comes with a price tag!

Accommodation

To tell your driver where to go, you have to have an address, obviously. But that’s not the only reason. Immigrations at many airports worldwide will ask for an address for at least the first night.

If it’s your first trip by yourself or if you are a nervous character, you might want to book ahead further nights or even for the entire trip.

Make Yourself At Home

For years, I was booking basically accommodation for my entire trip. People who claim that this way you are less flexible when it comes to your itinerary are absolutely right. But since I usually stay for three to four weeks and have a plan on where I want to go and what I want to see, there isn’t much scope, anyway. If during those three weeks I want to see seven places, I clearly have an average of three days per destination. With a little adjustment here and there, the route, as well as the length of the individual stops, are pretty clear. Hence, there is no reason not to book ahead, saving not only money. Since at each destination, I already have a place to go, I also save a lot of time.

For an inexperienced, a bit nervous traveller, already having a reservation everywhere you go can be very relaxing and reassuring.

However, I must mention that in certain regions like for instance in many Asian countries, you might pay less if you just walk in and negotiate a good price on the spot. But here, too, you have to weigh a possible saving against the comfort and security of a guaranteed reservation.

Be My Guest

No matter what certain platforms claim, there is no one-stop-shop with all the best prices to go to. Even if a platform compares various portals, there is always the possibility that you find a better deal on one they do not scan. Because frankly, no platform does really scan all of them.

A good source for hotel deals is booking.com*. Here, you can choose according to different criteria – also on a map which I particularly like. This way, you’ll get a realistic idea of how far from the attractions you actually are. Also, I like that they have a really great choice.

Booking.com

If you want to, you can even book day trips and excursions online, if that makes you feel better. However, in this case, you can be sure that you’ll pay more than negotiating and booking on the spot. In this case, your secured booking comes with a big, fat price tag, according to my experience.

Once we’re on it: I’ve put together the PROs and CONs of booking ahead versus walking in in a former post. You might wanna check it out before weighing your options.

From Jitterbug to Jitterbug:

I know from personal experience that slightly nervous people – or total basket cases – love to check and re-check all their documents and reservations and vouchers time and again.
To make things easier, have them – also – printed. Because once you need them, you can be sure that you won’t find the right file or your phone dies for no reason or….hey, just have them printed.

Choose Strategically

One of the glories of travelling solo is the opportunity to meet new people.
But how?
Well, if you’re halfway open-minded and have at least a few communication and social skills, you’ll probably run into chatty fellow-travellers everywhere. On public buses, at landmarks, and at accommodations. According to my experience, the simpler the lodging, the more communicative the patrons are. Consequently, you’ll get rather involved at a hostel than at a five-star hotel.

Since the cheap hotel prices in some countries allow to stay at a luxurious place without breaking the bank, I like to balance it out. In some places, I enjoy the comfort of a deluxe hotel. At my next stop, I’m opting for a privately run B&B where I can socialize with the owners and other travellers from around the world.

This being said, I never search for company or fling myself at people. If small talk leads to an evening out or a mutual activity, great. But I’ve chosen to travel solo so I cannot expect from people to adopt me like a stray puppy.

It doesn’t happen often, but I did take trips where I actually stayed by myself the whole time. For instance, if you’re going to Japan solo, you’ll most likely spend most of the time…solo. It’s not exactly backpackers’ paradise and local people are rather reserved.

Solo travel means travelling by yourself and should not be about meeting people in the first place. You should be aware of this to avoid disappointment.

Get Insurance

The more you brace yourself for mishaps the more arguments you’ll find to calm yourself down.

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But getting at least travel insurance does not only calm your nerves, it can be literally vital.

You don’t have to break both legs and walk around with a ventilator for a travel health insurance to pay off. Fortunately, I never got seriously ill on a trip and still, I got my money’s worth out of my travel health insurance. A simple flu, that you can easily catch already on the plane, a migraine from too much sun, or food poisoning from some yummy street food. All this is not a big deal and still, you should see a doctor who will probably prescribe some drugs.

I cannot stress this enough:

Money should never be a reason not to see a doctor!

If you don’t feel well, you should see a doctor and not have to think twice. Hence, by having health insurance, you don’t have to worry about the financial aspect of a visit to the doctor at all.

If there is one insurance you should always have when travelling, it’s definitely health insurance.

Because even if you are a fearless trooper, you shouldn’t be a mindless one. Read in this post how fast travel health insurance can pay off.

Weave a Safety Net

I assume by now, you’ve understood: It’s all in your head. So you actually might not even need a safety net.

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However, the tighter your safety net is woven, the more you will relax and be confident and stay strong.

Your family and friends back home will certainly be more than happy being your rock. Not only mentally by staying in touch via Email and on Social Media. But also very practically by keeping your keys, gathering your mail, watering your favorite ficus benjamin, and storing copies of your documents.

A trustworthy friend should not only know your – however rough – itinerary. This person should also have copies of your tickets and reservations. Don’t forget to leave a copy of your passport and – very important – vaccination record. You might also want to leave your credit card numbers behind in case your cards get stolen and need to be blocked at your local bank. In the case of an emergency, this can be much easier for your friend back home than for you calling from some faraway jungle.

All those documents should also be virtually stored in a cloud, obviously. However, imagine yourself in a situation where you need those data and you cannot get online.

Money Money Money

Do you see where I’m going with all these tips? Towards a state of independence, confidence, and self-sufficiency. Being confident will not only make you feel strong. It will also chase the bad guys away and make you less prone to become a victim.

One of your strongest shields is a reasonable budget.

As I urge you to travel with an adequate budget, it’s not because I want you to splurge. I want you to be always able to take a cab if you don’t want to walk down that dark alley. You should be in a position where you can buy a ticket at any time, no matter if you feel like leaving a place – or even going back home. I want you to sleep in clean places and eat decent food. Promise me to see a doctor as soon as something feels wrong. For these things, money should never be an issue. Also, you should always be willing to spend this money if actually necessary!

I cannot stress this enough:

I never want you to risk your well-being, your health, or even your life because of a tight budget!

Get Ready

As important as taking good care of yourself during your trip, is preparing your body and mind before you go. Because feeling comfortable and confident will make you much less vulnerable – physically as well as mentally.

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Everything is Different

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t assume that you are going to climb the Kilimanjaro or cross the Arctic on a sleigh so that you’d need thorough preparation. However, even if you are just going to a different continent with extreme weather conditions for a couple of weeks, getting your body in shape cannot hurt. Already a long-haul flight can be an attack on your immune system. I cannot even count how often I got a cold a couple of days after the flight which was clearly the consequence of the air conditions on board, swirling germs around.

Once you’re landed, your body might have to adapt to the climate at your final destination. I often go on a trip to the tropics during European wintertime. This can easily lead to a temperature difference of 30 to 35 degrees. In addition, there is the jet lag – you won’t be sleeping soundly the first couple of nights since for you, bedtime will be somewhen in the afternoon or only in the wee hours.

All this takes a toll on your body. Also, just walking around let alone hiking might be much more exhausting in hot’n’humid weather you’re not used to. Obviously, you need to drink far more…water; and far less…alcohol.

Get Fit

If you are planning on some physical activities like hiking, you should work out – a bit more than usual – already before your trip. Practicing some cardio exercise and strengthening your muscles will make you ready for some longer tours even in the heat or mountainous heights.

Also, you might want to strengthen your immune system by taking some vitamin capsules. Usually, I’m not a fan of taking pills. Nevertheless, since I’m taking additional vitamins about a week before and during my trip, I’m safe from colds that I used to get from long-haul flights.

Same goes for Melatonin: Not crazy about popping pills, but not a fan of insomnia, either. Not only does Melatonin help me sleeping like a baby on long-haul flights. I’m also taking it during the first two to three days to fall asleep and not waking up at some ungodly hours.

Communication

Especially if you are a frequent traveller, you won’t learn the native language of every country you’re visiting. However, knowing a couple of keywords and phrases might help and get you further even if you’re far from fluent.

This basic vocabulary will give you the advantage of making local people happy. I’m always amazed when locals beam at me only because I’m able to say Hello or Thank You in their language. It’s such a small gesture and so easy to achieve, yet the reaction is just so warm and appreciative.

The other reason why it’s good to know a couple of words is a less friendly one. With a basic vocabulary you have the chance to pretend being familiar with the local culture and knowing your drill. Further below, I’m giving you the advice to just lie your way through each and every situation necessary. As I claimed being an ex-pat in Cape Verde, speaking some rudimentary Portuguese helped to make it seem more probable.

I’ve actually practiced three languages on the online platform babbel.com – Indonesian, Turkish, and Portuguese. Although you cannot actually learn a language with this software – and I’d assert with no software out there – for practicing some basic vocabulary like pleasantries and polite remarks it’s just perfect.

For a deeper insight on how to learn and practice some helpful words with babbel, go to my post Learning Languages for Travel.

Imagine the Worst

“Imagine the worst?! Are you friggin kidding me?! I’m already nervous enough!” Nope, by no means am I kidding. Actually, this is a tactic I’m using constantly, not only on my travels. When I have to face an unsettling or even scary situation, I ask myself what could go wrong – and how I could handle that mishap.

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Fine Examples of Mishaps

What is the Worst Case Scenario?

You could miss your flight. What would be your next step? If you still want to go, you might have to buy a new ticket. That’s bad and maybe expensive, but not the end of the world. If you don’t want to do it, you just don’t go. That’s sad, but not the end of the world. And probably neither scenario will happen.

You might miss a pre-booked bus or train. Then what? If there’s enough time, you take the next one. In case of a tight schedule, you’ll have to bite the bullet and charter a private ride respectively a taxi. You’ll pay far more money, but it’s not the end….you know.

You might get sick. Hence, you have to see a doctor. That’s really annoying, but fortunately, you’ve listened to my above-mentioned tip so that at least you don’t have to worry about the costs.

Enough is Enough

You’ve had it with this stupid trip. You got sick. This trip is exhausting. You feel lonely. Okay, I totally get it. In this case, go and buy a ticket for the next flight back home. Obviously, you’ve followed my recommendation and your budget allows you to buy a ticket homeward bound at any time.

So go ahead and think about what might go wrong as much as you like. And at the same time imagine what your response will be. As I trace above, you don’t have to fight dragons. Your plan can be to simply go home. That’s not glorious, but realistic. And not scary at all, is it?

Let Your Fears Flow

Imagine how likely a negative outcome is and how terrible it could actually become. Imagine every, obviously non-catastrophic, situation and figure out how you’ll cope with it.

You Don’t Have to Do It

If the Imagine the Worst-strategy fails, there is another really simple cure: You can stay at home.

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Do you think I’m kidding? No way! Just think of it: Do you have to take this trip? Is someone forcing you to go? Did you lose a bet so that now you have to travel to a beautiful place? Is someone pointing a gun to your head, pushing you to the check-in counter?

I guess not.

You planned and prepared this trip because for one reason or the other, you thought it was a good idea. So if you actually changed your mind, don’t go.

You don’t have to leave.

This might sound totally crazy, but that’s exactly how I calmed my nerves dozens of times before a trip. As I was shaking, I told myself I didn’t have to go. I could just lock myself in and re-appear after three weeks and no one would know that I never left. It was totally my decision. Would I lose the money for the ticket? Probably. But as you might know by now, I’m very generous when it comes to my peace of mind.

The liberty of just letting go of my plans has always reassured me. Immediately, I felt in control again. It was totally my decision.

I guess it’s needless to say that I never actually refrained from taking off.

Survival Tactics

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Connect

My first solo trips took place before the invention of smartphones. Actually, there wasn’t even the internet for regular people. Consequently, no chats, no shares on Social Media. By myself meant on my own.

While I still enjoy some real detachment from home, I appreciate the facility to connect when I feel the need. There are stories that want to be shared right away. For instance, when I dropped the air conditioner from the third floor. The next morning, with my heart beating like a sledgehammer, I texted my friend back home what happened. And already while texting the first line – Dear Julia, yesterday, something really bad happened – I cracked up laughing. So while I believe that hanging on the phone with your friends back home 24/7 will deprive you of immersing in this whole solo thing, I acknowledge that the opportunity for a quick Wassup? is a wonderful improvement.

Nevertheless, your trip is taking place away from home, and that’s what you should focus on. You wanted a solo trip, so take that solo trip.
To immerse, you have to detach.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t be a hero, but take advantage of the easy and quick connection with your loved ones back home. A quick call or chat in a week moment or an awkward situation might encourage you to do the right thing.

Distract

As pointed out in my post on pros and cons on solo travel, one of the downsides of solo travel is eating by yourself.

If you despise entering a restaurant by yourself and being asked for how many, I totally get it. In the beginning, I used to hate that, too. Over the years, I got used to it and don’t care anymore. Still, I totally understand.

You have various options. For once, you can get take-out and eat it in your room in front of the TV. Which is fine, I often do it just for the joy and freedom of it. Or you get over your discomfort, barge into that joint, and proudly demand the best table. Obviously, you can also just enter, be seated at a table for one, don’t take people’s glances personally, and have a nice meal.

Carpe Diem

Actually, I find the most awkward part the wait. While others chat over a glass of wine, all you can do is drinking it. To fill this moment, I’m taking a book with me. Obviously, you can also read, play, or post on your phone until your food arrives. But please, do not talk on the phone at an eatery! Ever! If you bring some small brochures, you can already plan the next day’s itinerary. That’s even not just a makeshift solution but actually a productive activity.
This is how I spend the time during breakfast, by the way: Organizing my day.

After last February, I’ll never feel awkward at an eatery again: I was sitting all by myself at a table in a middle priced seafood restaurant. I ordered, took out my phone, checked facebook, googled a bit. As I looked up, there were four couples sitting cozily at small tables. None of them talking. Neither exchanging romantic glances. Nor clinking merrily glasses.
There was either one of them or even both staring at their phone.
Let’s face it, you certainly do not need a companion while gawking at your phone.

Obviously, one doesn’t have to be the loneliest number.

Lying

Liar, liar, pants on fire! Well, travelling as a woman by yourself, your trousers should be your least concern. Lie as much as you have to to be safe or feel comfortable.

If a guy is hitting on you or invading your personal space, invent a strong navy seal husband if it makes you feel better and him going away. If you can’t stand that people look at you funny for travelling solo, invent a well-earning husband who is staying at home with your three kids while you are exploring the world.

Invent fellow-travellers waiting for you at your accommodation and dates joining you in just a couple of minutes.

Pinocchio Puppets in Italy
Pinocchio is a fine example of a designated liar. Don’t be afraid, your nose won’t give you away.

While travelling Cape Verde, I even claimed to be an ex-pat living at the capital Praia on the main island Santiago. This way, people took me for some kind of local and didn’t give me a hard time. So yes, even pretending to be a local is possible – whereby speaking the national language at least a bit and being halfway informed on current politics will make you more credible.

Mysterious Girl

Obviously, you can also tell the truth if you don’t feel the need to lie. All I’m saying is that lying and inventing is totally fine if it keeps you safe and makes you more confident.

This might sound evident, but I’ve heard so many crazy-stupid stories that I don’t want to leave it out: Clearly, you don’t tell either complete strangers – and these are all people you haven’t known before your trip – or even fellow travellers you’ve just met a couple of weeks ago about your documents and your finances. They also don’t need your home address.
Trust me with this, I’ve seen the most incredible things happening.
Mind you, some of these colorful characters you meet on your trip are this colorful for a reason.

All this doesn’t mean that you cannot hang out with quirky folks. Just don’t give them your creditcard number.
I’m serious!

I cannot stress this enough:

Always telling the truth is not a valid virtue when travelling solo. All that matters is that you feel in control!

Stay In Control

As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t only feel in control, you should actually be in control all the time. Foremostly in control of yourself.

I know that this is easy to say for a culture vulture of fifty plus. Obviously, I’m travelling to see art, landmarks, and sceneries. Not to party. Therefore, it’s really easy for me to stay safe after dark. The venues I’m frequenting are closing around 6 p. m. After an early dinner, I go to my room since I’m exhausted from the day.

Nevertheless, I’ve had my share of parties and know how it goes. Therefore, I can only urge you to watch yourself and watch your stuff when going out. A party-situation where you’ve had a couple of drinks is not the moment to get all sentimental and feeling kind of lonely. As soon as you feel like needing a shoulder to lean on, you are prone to do stupid things. Telling strangers that you are alone and feeling lonely. Spilling your life. Getting volnurable.

Bad, bad timing!

Sentimental Fool

As soon as you start getting a bit sentimental and melancholic, call it a night and go straight back to your accommodation. No, you don’t need a ride with some friendly man. You can take a cab or an Uber.

Don’t underestimate the beguiling effect of tropical vides, the moonlight, and the soft spokenness of strangers. Sure, it’s flattering and it feels good. Enjoy it. But don’t let it befool you.
Yes, it’s a narrow path.
But you got this. You’re a big girl.

While the nighttime is for obvious reasons the most dangerous hour for getting into unpleasant or even dangerous situations, you also shouldn’t do mindless things during daytime.

You might wanna refrain from getting into a stranger’s car – just because he’s going your way, anyway, and is so friendly. You paid a lot of money for an airplane ticket, hence, you can easily afford to pay for a cab.

Also, think at least twice before willingly entering a stranger’s room – whether in the morning or in the afternoon, or at night. If you want to hang out, hang out. But do it in – a cozy corner of – a public place.

Listen to Your Gut

It’s dark, you had to walk for about one mile – and the guy that offers to give you a ride is really friendly. Yet still you have a funny feeling.

Listen to that voice!

Turn on the flash light on your phone and get ready for a 20 minutes walk.

You might have this funny feeling for no reason and he can be a totally cool guy. Or you might be right. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is how you feel. About him. About the situation. And, most importantly, about yourself. How you feel and how you are perceiving a situation is psychologically the most valid factor.

It’s important that you are mentally strong.

Sadly, your gut will not always tell you what’s right or wrong, safe or dangerous, good or evil a pain in the butt.
But when it does, listen.

Epilog

In this post, I’m obviously not addressing serious issues such as Hodophobia which is a pathological fear of travel. Nor aviophobia, a medical fear of flying disorder. Those are serious anxieties only professionals can mend and cure.

I’m clearly not an expert on phobias. I’m an avid and experienced solo traveller who has gone through different stages of pre-travel anxiety and developed different strategies on how to cope with this sometimes stressful excitement. That’s what I’m sharing here with you.

I would be honestly very happy if you’d let me know what you’re thinking. Of course, I’m even more curious if you have tried out some of my tactics and how they worked out for you. Or do you have more tips on how to keep calm and….please, share it with me and my readers in the comment section below.

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81 Replies to “KEEP CALM and TRAVEL SOLO: how to surpass pre-travel anxiety”

  1. I can definitely relate to having anxiety about some of my travel experiences, but these are really good tips to help alleviate it!

  2. This is all such good advice. I actually took my first solo trip because a friend bailed. It was my first ever trip abroad and I loved it – I traveled with a friend or two a few times after that and honestly hated it lol
    I recently got married and I’m excited to travel with my husband…but also plan to work in the occasional solo trip😬

    1. I used to travel with my daughter for many years – and still enjoy it from time to time. Obviously, you can have it both ways 🙂

  3. I love love love LOVE that you included “imagine the worst” because that really is a great way to combat the anxiety. If you’ve already imagined the worst and come up with a plan around those, then you’ll feel better about traveling. It seems counterproductive, but it’s not! Great tips!!

    1. Exactly! I actually use this quite often: What’s the worst that might happen and what will I do then? It’s never ever as bad as you imagine it – and you’re prepared for it to happen, anyway 😀

  4. Travelling solo surely did send jitters to me the first time, and in many travels later that. I have travelled solo quite a few times, but I still get anxious the night before I leave and my brain never sleeps that night with so many things running in my mind! Like you said, it is really important to calm oneself, take a deep breathe and try to relax as much possible!

    1. I’m always nervous the day before leaving – sometimes I even think if I just locked myself in for a couple of weeks, nobody would know that I never left 😀 Never actually did it 😀 😀

  5. I think I’m more anxious when I’m not travelling thinking I’m not doing what I love so heading off on a new adventure is good for me and totally happy to go solo. Some awesome tips!

  6. I always admire people who do solo travel. I have done a short solo trip once, and it was the most amazing experience ever, once I conquered the anxiety part.

  7. We LOVE this blog post! While we nearly always travel as a couple, there are still some of the same anxieties. And, the travel and language apps, packing light, and checklists are super helpful. FYI – as a gay male couple, we’ve had some of our best adventures with women solo travelers who got tired of the comments, and looks and hung with us!

    1. I wrote in another post that it finally is only in year head that travelling for instance as a couple rather than by yourself is safer. Mostly, the other person is as lost as you are – so instead of being one fool, it’s two of them 😉

  8. As a married woman I have actually never traveled solo unless you can count going to Disney World by myself (we live 1.5 hrs away from Disney). It was actually fantastic! Also, when I was in college I went to Paris for 3 weeks all by myself. It was lonely, but I also felt a lot of freedom because I could go here & there whenever I pleased. You have great info here!

  9. Solo travel is the best! I actually like eating alone – in non-covid times I like to pick out a seat at the local watering hole and chat with the people nearby. I have learned tons of local tips this way! Thanks for the fun post!

  10. Sometimes, I feel the anxiety when I travel solo and I don’t know why. Maybe because I’m used to travel always with family. Yet, these tips are amazing indeed.
    Almost end of 2020 and would like to personally thank you, all the gratitude to you with all that you share in your blog where we learn a lot of good stuff 🙂 Prosperous 2021 to you!

    1. Aaaah, that’s so sweet – thank you! I wish you and your family all the best for 2021 – and many happy travels together! 🙂

  11. I’m not sure if I could ever travel solo. I’m such a scaredy cat! Lol. My anxiety is bad when traveling with others. I can’t even imagine how it would be if I was alone. Thank you for the tips though! If I ever do travel solo, I’ll keep this in mind.

    1. As long as this is not a problem for you, why should it be a problem at all?! The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and have a good time 😀

  12. I agree, turning off the main water into the house is very important. We had friends that came home to a flooded house because the water supply line to their fridge leaked and eventually flooded the house.
    One thing I would add to your list is to have some lights in the house hooked up to a timer so that people think you are at home. The timer should be set so that it does not always go on and off at exactly the same time.
    Here in the US, you can ask the post office to hold your mail and deliver it when you come back.
    Another thing that is important for at least folks in the US: You many need to inform your credit card company that you are traveling as many credit cards block transactions that come from places that are far away from where you live. It happened to me once after we arrived in Ecuador and tried to rent a car. Luckily I had a global phone plan and could call my credit card company to unblock the card. That was a not so fun way of starting an otherwise glorious vacation.

  13. I guess I have been quite lucky in that I have never had pre-travel anxiety at all. But I will say that my mother, then girlfriend now wife, and some friends have had it for me when I was leaving on a solo travel trip. I always thought that was weird but I guess they always thought that solo travel WAS about being isolated or could lead to being lonely.
    I never had that issue cause I would talk to a rock and was never really afraid. But with all that said, I do love all your tips to help those who may be afraid at first. I always tell people to follow the boy scout motto of Be Prepared! With solo travel as in anything in life things happen, but you can mitigate some issues with a little prep, good insurance, and a bit of confidence.

    1. I totally agree – with everything you say. And yes, the motto be prepared also applies to being alone when travelling solo. Yes, most of the time you have the opportunity to meet people and make friends. But don’t be disappointed if you actually end up by yourself – because that’s the deal in the first place.

  14. Whether you have pre-travel anxiety (or not), I think weaving a safety net is always a good idea when traveling solo. I insist my kids do that, and I set the same example when I travel solo myself. Great advice!

    1. The great thing is that you probably won’t need it, however, knowing you have one will make you more confident and less vulnerable.

  15. I’ve never traveled alone, but I can imagine that you would really get to know yourself better. Thanks for this great perspective

  16. I feel the same things even if my husband and I always travel as a couple. But I guess if you are traveling solo, it is worse than worst. Imagining the worst is the hardest…in my excitement, I always imagine the best!

  17. I have only done a couple of small trips solo, but I did enjoy myself on them. I love your tips, especially the one about listening to your gut. This is so important when traveling alone!

  18. Such a great post!! Traveling solo is definitely not weird and that stigma about it needs to end!! When I travel solo and am approached by anyone I always tell them I’m waiting for my husband to meet me. I don’t even have a boyfriend so it’s a lie but hey I’d rather be safe!

  19. Well, you sure gave some real perspective by mentioning how travel wasn’t always so easy! I do sometimes wonder how people got on without the internet and google maps back in the day. It just goes to show travel is possible for anyone if you make it a priority. Anxiety or not, anyone can solo travel if they want to !

    1. On the one hand, it used to be more difficult – and….surprising. On the other hand, it was also even a bit more fun since it was so….surprising – albeit, not always in a good way. This being said, I cannot agree more with your conclusion! Right on, (travelling) sister! 😀

  20. This is so useful, I love travelling and I’m a bit of an over planner because I get anxiety and having the fundamentals sorted and mentally preparing for a few things not to work out helps me a lot. Also that bit bout lying made me giggle the amount of times I’ve just had to say I’m meeting a boyfriend or go over to other women and ask them to pretend that I’m out with them. Gotta do what a woman’s got to do.

    1. Yes, we female solo travellers are certainly lucky that our nose isn’t growing and our pants aren’t catching fire 😀 😀 Happy travels!!

  21. I so much agree with you. I feel way much better-doing solo travels, it’s way more relaxed and you get to do so many things by yourself and to reflect on stuff.

    1. Yes, you can be so focused – especially if you want to see certain landmarks or exhibitions, you just….go! 🙂 Happy travels, Florin!

  22. It is natural that the unknown and the unexpected generates some amounts of anxiety. But you have rightly analyzed that when it comes to travel it is usually excitement that may be mistaken for anxiety. You have covered all the points for ensuring that the anxiety levels are kept under control. I have found that the more things that you have planned out, the lesser the anxiety.

  23. I LOVE traveling solo. To me, it’s the ultimate freedom to be able to do so. What keeps me focused and excited (and keeps the anxiety away) is to find all the pretty places I want to visit when I get there. I usually save things on Instagram and look through the posts when I feel anxious.

  24. Its truly sort of courage to travel solo. I travel solo for business ones, and initially I used to be anxious and tensed. Now I have managed to overcome it. You have shared good suggestions and tips, will definitely ensure in my next travels.

  25. These are great tips for suppressing anxiety before traveling. I like to travel alone mainly because you schedule your own time and adapt only to yourself. Well, and external factors of course.
    I wish you all the best
    Nina

  26. This is such a relatable and accurate post. I usually travel by myself but no matter how many places I have gone to, I still feel a little anxious before trips. Really going through and making sure I do everything on my to-do list really helps. Thanks for sharing these, there are some new ones in here that I hope to incorporate on my next solo trip too.

  27. Your post hit me especially in the money part as I always kept a tight budget when I travel 😅 but now I see that’s it’s better to be prepared with a big budget than to risk your health and safety. I’m just thankful that in those travels nothing bad happened but it’s difficult because every day I’m calculating will I have enough budget for the next day. I love how you stressed the importance of preparation and being knowledgeable of where you’re going, and booking early if you can.

    1. Actually, I’m not spending that much while travelling. Always looking for bargains by buying day passes, taking public transportation, looking for good deals for accommodation etc. But when I arrive after a long haul flight in a foreign country, I sure as hell take a pre-ordered cab to my pre-booked hotel room. The next morning, I happily hop on a local public bus 😉

  28. I think that some pre-travel anxiety is almost the same as ani other kind of anxiety even the professional one. SO, everyone knows this…

    1. I would disagree – since there is a very blurred line between pre-travel anxiety and excitement. And even if “everyone knows this”, I hope my tips might be helpful to some people – since I needed to develop a strategy for myself, too.

  29. These are such great tips Renata ! Everything gives me anxiety, especially traveling. But being organized, prepared, and knowing all the possibilities are such great tips

  30. I like traveling solo even though I do prefer my partner to be with me because it’s more fun. When I travel alone it’s the whole different experience but I would really enjoy a moment to be share with your loved ones

    1. I’m not so keen on travelling, never mind solo, but I still enjoyed this post. One can tell that you’re a veteran traveller.

    2. Yes, I totally get that you want to share the moment – actually, all kinds of travel have their advantages and disadvantages 🙂

  31. I’m so glad you wrote and shared about this topic because the first time I traveled alone, I was so worried. I was anxious and nervous and kept thinking the worst would happen. I even stayed up all night scared because I couldn’t sleep the night before my trip. I was a mess! All of these tips are SO TRUE and very helpful. Listening to your guy is so important. (I made it through my trip, and it turned out even better than expected.)

    1. I always have a terrible night since I’m often taking very early flights so that I’m panicking to miss my flight 😀 Actually, I didn’t write down a tip for this….since I don’t have one 😀

  32. I used to travel by myself to different countries. It’s a bit scary at the beginning but gets better as you do it more often. Pre-travel anxiety is no fun but educating oneself about what to expect with the place you’re about to travel would be a big help!

    1. Totally agreed – I always do research and even print out maps of the neighborhood from google…actually, I enjoy doing a lot of research beforehand – it’s also time-saving once you’re there and you feel more secure. Happy travels 🙂

    1. Yes, I believe anxiety might actually keep you from travelling whereas excitement just drives you nuts the day before you take off 😉

  33. The travel industry suffered a lot due to this current health situation. How we all wish that things will go back to normal soon and we can get to explore the world again.

  34. You’ve got a lot of fantastic tips here! I definitely get a little worked up before travelling, but I don’t think it’s anxiety since I love to travel, more being excited and wanting to see everything as soon as possible. I love that you mentioned lying about having someone waiting for you in order to get out of an awkward situation – such a good idea!

    1. I think that often you cannot draw the line between anxiety, excitement – and maybe even fear – before travelling. In any case – you should relax 🙂

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