What Should I Do if I Feel Anxiety Traveling Alone?

anxiety traveling alone | travel tips | solo female travel | mental health awareness | wanderlust | travel guide

anxiety traveling alone | solo travel | wanderlust | travel inspiration | solo female travel | travel tips | mental health

anxious about travel alone | mental health | solo travel | solo female travel | vacation | wanderlust | travel tips | inspirational
solo female travel | anxiety | mental health awareness | travel tips | traveling alone | anxious | wanderlust | inspirational

It’s normal to feel anxiety traveling alone.

Totally normal. After all, 18% of the population in the United States suffers from some sort of anxiety. It makes sense travelers, including solo ones, also fall into that percentage. Now it might be hard to believe when the internet’s filled to the brim with blog posts proclaiming how solo travel is “so cool” and the “best thing you will ever do.” I’m guilty of saying those things too, because … well, they’re true.

Nonetheless, all the positivity can make nervous travelers feel isolated. You may think your emotions are wrong, because everyone else promises “you’ll have such fun,” yet here you are, palms sweating and mind racing. You wonder why you feel anxiety traveling alone, which may lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. Not in the slightest.

anxiety traveling alone

As for myself, I’ve gone on several solo trips, both international and domestic, but I still experience small knots in my stomach whenever I embark to a new place without companions by my side. Sure, solo travel promises lots of excitement. New people, new food, new sites, new memories. Doesn’t make it any less scary, though.

Let’s say you’ve moved beyond the planning stage and now you’re in the middle of your solo trip. While (for me) “anticipatory anxiety” is way worse than the event itself, it’s still normal to feel nervous when you’re in the midst of your travel dreams.

Here are my suggestions to combat anxiety traveling alone. As always, feel free to add yours in the comments.

anxiety traveling alone

Don’t feel guilty.

It’s easy to feel bad about your uneasiness. After all, you’ve spent so much money reaching a new place and now are living the dream that your friends or family would die for. Guilt settles in.

Stop. Your reactions are valid. And, besides, if we all had perfect control over our emotions, I wouldn’t have to write this post at all.

When you have anxiety, it’s easy to berate yourself until your mind can’t take it anymore. You are trapped in a cycle of self-loathing. Sometimes you may have physical symptoms. No need to make it worse by adding guilt on top of the “crap pile.” So, instead of cursing at yourself for “being stupid,” accept that your feelings are valid and then take the proper steps to address them.

anxiety traveling alone

Call home.

It’s very easy to reach your loved ones for free or very little cost. Purchase an international phone plan prior to departure so you can call friends and family whenever you want. The only things standing between you and family are timezones. If an international coverage plan is still too expensive, then download Skype to your device and use the wifi at your accommodation to have video chats for free. Seeing the person’s face is even better!

Speaking to loved ones works wonders. Sometimes all you need to feel better is a familiar voice to tell you “everything will be okay.” Personally, I still think a gentle world from a loved one is the best medicine you can find.

anxiety traveling alone

Find a quiet place to collect your thoughts.

If you’re feeling anxious, a busy marketplace or mall isn’t the best place to compose yourself. For me, excessive sensory details overwhelm me and make me feel even worse. There’s nothing wrong spending an hour or two in your hotel or hostel to compose yourself.

Now let’s say you feel guilty about sitting in your accommodation. No worries! Find a quiet cafe, a relaxing public park, a secluded beach, anyplace that makes you calm. For example, on a solo trip to Canada, I started having compulsive thoughts about my career (or lack thereof). It was so bad that I almost threw up my coffee at Tim Horton’s. Seriously, I stumbled outside to a nearby trashcan and everything. So I eventually ventured to Stanley Park and lounged under a few trees for two hours. It was perfect!

And who knows, you may discover a new favorite spot. I think fondly of Stanley Park because the atmosphere there helped me so much!

anxiety traveling alone

Bring “the familiar” to your accommodation.

Okay, I know an important part of travel requires busting through your comfort zone. And yes, I think it’s necessary to face your fears when you’re traveling. But there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to something familiar if you need it.

For instance, when I feel overwhelmed, I’ll spend the night at my accommodation streaming a favorite show on Netflix. And believe me, it’s time well spent. Having that “piece of home” encourages me to see and do more the next day.

This tip extends to food, too. If you’re homesick and craving your favorite meal, then go for it! You can always eat more “local meals” later in your trip.

And remember what I said about not feeling guilty? Don’t feel guilty about watching The Office or eating McDonalds either.

anxiety traveling alone

Book a small tour, tickets, or something else to excite you.

Think about why you decided to travel solo in the first place. We all have our reasons. What are yours?

Maybe you adore museums, but your friends hate them. Book tickets to the Louvre, MoMA, or Uffizi Gallery for when you’re feeling better. Did you want to travel to meet people? Reserve a spot on a small walking tour or food tour, and strike up conversations with other tourists. Are you a sports fan? Book a ticket to an upcoming hockey or soccer game.

It’s always important to eventually “break out” of a negative thinking cycle and focus on why you chose to travel in the first place. Re-embrace it.

anxiety traveling alone

Further Reading on Anxiety Traveling Alone

If you’ve been a reader for any length of time, then you know I discuss “anxiety and travel” a whole lot. Check out some of my other posts if you feel you could use more guidance. And, of course, you’re always welcome to email me with any questions or concerns.

How do you handle anxiety traveling alone? Do you have any personal stories? Elaborate in the comments. 

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18 Responses to What Should I Do if I Feel Anxiety Traveling Alone?

  1. Elizabeth July 13, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    I just set off this morning on my own and it’s been so long since I’ve traveled alone that I was having some anxiety and then this post popped up first on my Bloglovin’ feed! Just when I needed it! I’ve totally been thinking about getting McDonalds for my first dinner in England… no sense in stressing about eating alone right when I arrive!
    I’ve found that calling home can sometimes make me more homesick and be counter productive… but at the same time, knowing they’re a text away is comforting!

    • Rachel Elizabeth July 17, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

      Elizabeth —

      Awwwww, I’m so glad I could help! I hope you enjoyed your McDonalds!

  2. Divyakshi July 15, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    What a wonderfully penned article! 🙂 so true. We do feel uneasy and anxious in solo trips and it’s so normal to even miss home at times. Calling home always works for me. It’s therapeutic:)

    • Rachel Elizabeth July 17, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

      Divyakshi —

      Calling home is wonderful.

    • Meryl September 7, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

      Reading your blog is inspiring me to travel alone to Canada. I am a good deal older, 65 yrs, still fit and eager to take on the challenge of new experiences. So keep inspiring me ! Many thanks Rachel.
      I intend travelling the west of Canada, Rockies through to Calgary. Any stand out experiences you had ?

  3. Karla July 16, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    I like your advise on breaking the cycle and sometimes booking tours and making new friends just eases out anxiety. If I’m scared to go to a place alone—I usually look for people in the hostel to join me.

    • Rachel Elizabeth July 17, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

      Karla —

      Looking for friends at the hostel is always a great idea!

  4. Claire Summers July 16, 2017 at 10:03 am #

    Some great tips here. I’m also a solo female traveler who has anxiety. most of the time it’s fine but sometimes it’s too much to deal with. I normally do Yoga and Meditate which helps a lot. I also do the Netflix thing. I find just being calm and watching something to take my mind of everything and that is familiar is so helpful.

  5. Katherine July 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    It’s been a while since I traveled on my own and you’ve provided some great tips. I love mixing up a holiday with tours and places alone. It does take the edge off anxiety and adds a layer of comfort. 🙂

  6. Dawn July 16, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    Excellent tips! I have always traveled with my husband or with our kids but I really want to do a solo trip. Hopefully next year:) I think solo travelers are incredibly brave!

    • Rachel Elizabeth July 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

      Dawn —

      Good luck on your solo trip if you decide to go for it! It’s an empowering experience.

  7. Rocio July 16, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    Never had a solo trip and I don’t know if i would like to have it. But your post gave me more confidence to jump in this adventure. Thanks for your sharing!

  8. Paige W July 17, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

    These are phenomenal tips. Everyone gets that anxiety from time to time. I think bringing the familiar can really help! I always bring a little luxury that reminds me of home.

  9. Cai Dominguez July 18, 2017 at 12:20 am #

    This is so true and really helpful. I remember my first solo travel out of the country. There are lots of things running in my mind. I really overthink which I think is just normal. And I’m glad that I made it. this statement is so true. Regardless, how many times we do solo travelling “I still experience small knots in my stomach whenever I embark to a new place without companions by my side”

  10. Sandy N Vyjay July 18, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

    This is a candid exploration of the mind of a solo traveler. Yes beneath all the hype and gloss, solo traveler too many a times do get that familiar feeling of knotting in the stomach, signs of anxiety. I think that is perfectly normal and that feeling goes away soon. I do think that it is some kind of a basic instinct, when you leave what you know as your home into unknown territory, this only gets heightened when you are on your own.

  11. Megan Jerrard July 19, 2017 at 12:20 am #

    This is a really great list of ways to cope overseas when you’re on your own – I agree, I think it’s easy to get caught up in everyone telling you that you’re going to have such a great time, and in the notion that you’re fortunate and lucky to be overseas, that we try and surpress anxiety because of the guilt of feeling it. But it’s so normal, and if more people spoke out about getting homesickness abroad I think it would put a lot of other travelrs at ease. Even the most well travelled people get homesick from time to time, and it’s nice nowadays at least that we have technology to fall back on as a resource for helping this – Facetime, Skype, Facebook, it’s so easy to stay in touch with our loved ones now and talk to someone if you need to, no matter which timezone you’re in or where you are in the world. Technology really bridges the gap in feeling isolated overseas 🙂

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