Solo Travel For The Socially Anxious
Have You Traveled Alone?
At some point we have all fantasized that we could pull an Eat, Pray, Love like Julia Roberts and go explore a new country on our own, while also finding ourselves (and maybe a Javier Bardem in the process.)
It can seem daunting to take those first steps or even know where to begin when wanting to travel alone—travel is stressful. There is no way around it. The research, planning, cost; it all plays a part. Through my travels I have found the confidence to venture into the unknown and embrace the unexpected, but it didn’t happen overnight.
Benefits of Solo Travel
Solo traveling when socially anxious can be kind of perfect. Not ~having~ to talk to anybody you don’t want to, or knowing that if you accidentally talk a stranger’s ear off about country music conspiracy theories, you (thankfully) never have to see them again. Solo travel is amazing: no waiting on others schedules, and no eating where you don’t want to. It’s a new kind of stress, solely relying on yourself, but one which will be greatly rewarded once you get into the swing of it.
Self care is, thankfully, at the forefront of many people’s minds now. And one of the ways to bring a new act of self care into your life, besides sheet masks, is through traveling. It’s like pressing a reset button, and helps refresh our mundane daily duties. It can be overwhelming to imagine solo traveling at first, but across the board everyone I have met who has gone on a solo trip has loved it.
Solo traveling gives you a sense of confidence I have yet to encounter in other experiences. It’s like you become CEO of yourself, totally in charge of your actions with nobody to tell you what to do, see, or eat. Feel like staring at a painting of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers all day? Go for it—nobody will be there to rush you. Interested in salsa dancing but always been too embarrassed to try it at home? The probability of you running into people you know in Spain is very small, so dance your heart out. You get to become the “you” that you have always wanted to be, if only for a little while, but those skills and discoveries will weave their way into your everyday life once you get back.
Dealing With The Unexpected
I have campaigned tirelessly to get everyone I know to travel. I truly believe exploring the world is one of the best things you can do for yourself. While being immersed in a new culture, you are forced to put aside your monkey mind and forced to focus on the present. Filling your brain with trying to read street signs or trying not to accidentally hand over the wrong bill because you aren’t used to the money colors yet takes you out of yourself.
It’s impossible to plan for every possible outcome (believe me I’ve tried), but don’t let that stop you. While every trip typically turns out amazing, just know that you may cry in an airport and get lost in a taxi but you’ll make it through—and be stronger for it.
Like with anything, there is a learning curve. It will take a couple days to adjust to moving through a new location by yourself. On my first day in Italy by myself I shattered my phone and spent the whole day under my blankets, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do there for three weeks. Plus, jet lag is not your friend, pulling you back into bed. If you’re not feeling 100%, start slowly by walking around the block. Even little things will force you to go farther and explore more—and the best part is you get to do whatever you want since you have nobody to report to!
How To Meet Other People
The struggle to meet people is a big one. There are plenty of options for people looking to have a more solitary trip, but if you are like me and want to be social, it can be intimidating to go up to a stranger and say hi. Signing up for day tours or staying at hostels is the way to do it—people in those locations are eager to make friends and oftentimes are fellow solo travelers. As long as you keep your wits about you, most people are also there just to have a great time.
Quick Tips For Your First Trip Alone
Bring some reading material, even if you plan on being super social, there will be downtime on planes, etc.
Use your home friends as a network, see if they have any friends where you are visiting to give you a day tour, or at least provide a sense of comfort to call in case of emergencies
If you are worried about safety, when anyone (like a taxi driver) asks if I am traveling by myself, I always say I am meeting a friend at whatever location I am going to
Know that there will be unexpected expenses and plan accordingly
Also know that the first day or two will be probably be rough and lonely, but stick it out! After that, it’s smooth sailing
Pack half as much as you think you’ll need, thank me later
Take a deep breath then go over and start a conversation with that hottie at the bar—you only live once after all
There is a whole world out there waiting for you, new tastes, new smells, just outside of your comfort zone. Travel is the antidote to many of life’s daily problems, igniting your inspiration and giving yourself more perspective. While whatever trip you take will sure to be filled with fun stories to reminisce about, you can also implement the skills you’ve learned from traveling alone into your everyday life. You will be surprised what you are actually capable of. As stressful as it may be to begin, the journey is so worth it.
Have you traveled alone? Share your favorite solo travel tips in the comments below!
Sarah Spoljaric is a California girl through and through. She has a BA in World History from one of the top 10 greenest campuses in the world; The University of California, Merced and is a Content Curator for the visual travel app Trepic. She has a background in museum curating, loves reading women’s travel journals and is in search of the perfect IPA. She’s passionate about exploring this beautiful world that ethically-produced goods help to protect. Say hi on Instagram!