Argh, you guys, full disclaimer … this wasn’t an easy post to write, even if the title “solo travel helped my anxiety” is a positive one. I value honesty on this blog, because I truly want to help others and cut through all the fluff. “Keeping it real” is a code of honor in New Jersey. Yet, at the same time, writing about your vulnerabilities is rough and requires a bit of soul-searching.
Luckily, I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel like a confident person again. This accomplishment was only achieved through a lot of hard work, failure, and hope my life would improve in the near future. My struggle with anxiety isn’t nearly as consuming as it was three years ago, thank god, but headaches still happen.
Like, oh, my most recent flight from Austin to Newark? Disaster. The landing was so rough that I nearly threw up. I’m glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have been able to show my face again in Newark Liberty, haha.
Even though most people would say I’m “oh so brave” for doing what scares me most, I’m own worst critic. I felt pretty disappointed in myself after the wheels hit the runway. It was a freakin’ 3 hour flight. 3 stupid hours.
So, after that hot mess, you would (reasonably) think I’d wait awhile before boarding a plane again. Nope. Scotland’s almost here. And … I want to see the world. I want to share beautiful experiences with people, people from all walks of life, all countries, and cultures. I want to climb mountains. I want to dive in the ocean. I want to sleep in temples. I want to walk the roads of history. I want to breathe every essence on this planet. But … I can’t do that if I don’t face my fears.
I don’t have a choice. Too bad, so sad.
And solo travel? Solo travel helped my anxiety even with the hiccups. It’s done more to heal my self-esteem than any medicine. I don’t give my inner strength enough credit. Let’s look at the reasons.
You are More than Capable
Like I said, I’m my own worst enemy. Not my family. Not my bosses. Not my friends. Not my ex-lovers. Me. My mind is brutal. You guys, you guys, I would smack someone who dared to talk to me to way I talk to myself. And I don’t think I’m alone here either.
Your mind has this sneaky ability to convince you that you can’t reach your dreams, because you’re not smart enough. Or hot enough. Or athletic enough. Or rich enough. Etc. Blah blah blah. And I’m sorry, but it’s bullshit.
Traveling alone shows you that you don’t need to rely 100% on others for inner strength. You can navigate unfamiliar streets, enjoy conversations with strangers, try new foods, and learn about yourself. You’re savvier than you know.
We’re More Alike than Different
I don’t know about you, but anxiety convinces you that the world is out to “get you.” The media (at least here in the USA) doesn’t help dispel this myth very much either. I seriously need to stop watching cable news because it’s gotten so bad. Yet again, solo travel exposes this lie, and teaches you that it’s okay, awesome even, to trust complete strangers.
I consider myself extremely lucky because I’ve met soooooo many amazing people. From Guatemala, Japan, Russia, Macedonia, Iran, Spain, China, Australia (of course), and so much more! I’m still in touch a lot of these people, too. We’ll sometimes chat about the day when we’ll meet again in some beautiful place, one looking over a green valley or crystal clear waters. Or maybe just at a trendy bar, haha.
Our deep friendships show me that most people want the same things out of life. We want love. We want acceptance.
Cherish the Simple Things
Okay, I love the United States (even if I express a lot of frustration on Twitter), but my culture emphasizes that money and social status are the essential paths guiding us to true happiness. But, ugh, come on. Chasing after “The American Dream” sucks. My fellow Americans, can we all agree that it sucks? You know it’s true. I can see you nodding through my computer.
What sucks even more is when you compare yourself to old classmates from high school and college, haha. Don’t do it.
When traveling solo, especially if you’re on a tighter budget, you’re forced to give up the silly materialism and fall into experiences instead. All of my most memorable travel moments have happened outside swanky boutiques. For example, I’ll never forget the peaceful barbecue I had on the Isles of Lewis and Harris. Or my life-changing night on Utklippan, a small Swedish island with no running water. Perfect.
Life a Year From Now
I’ve traveled solo for three years now. Which is super cool. However, fear sometimes returns into my routine. For example, I’ll wake up one morning, usually wayyy before the sun has risen, and feel knots in my throat and stomach. Why? No reason.
I don’t go down without a fight, though. Whenever I experience those dark moments, I always pause for a couple of minutes and remember what my life would have looked like if I had decided to acquiesce to my dark thoughts and stay safely in my room, without ever traveling on my own terms.
Guys. Don’t be scared of what might happen if you travel alone. Be scared of being in the same lonely place a year from now.
It is Never Too Late
Anxiety likes to tell me that it’s too late to start living.
I’m not someone who did a round the world trip after high school. My first trip overseas ever was to Bermuda. I was 21. I took my first solo trip, however, at 26. I didn’t begin my blog until I was 28 and already at major risk of losing everything since I’d just been laid off at work (at the worst possible time too…). My anxiety likes to lie all the time and say it’s too late to change myself, but my travel experiences prove otherwise.
And okay, 26 isn’t old. I get it. Story time.
My grandfather passed away two years ago. He played a huge role in my life, so to say it was devastating is an understatement. And, god, the funeral terrified me. A lot of my anxiety comes from a deep dark fear of dying and in a lot of ways, funerals frighten me more more than health issues or flying. I wanted to not feel any pain so I talked nonsense to all the guests to distract myself, and struck up a conversation with one of my dad’s old friends from high school, a person who didn’t have an easy life. I don’t feel comfortable writing his story here, but it was tragic.
I babbled about my travels for ten minutes or so, as a way to distract myself from the casket, and he listened to every single word.
Fast forward a few weeks. My dad met this friend for lunch and was told, “Your daughter is the coolest person I’ve ever met. My friend and I booked a trip to Italy. We’re going this summer.”
Keep in mind: my father’s friend is well into his 50s and the friend he took with him is in his 60s and facing a debilitating illness. Neither traveled extensively. But both went.
So, it’s never, ever, ever, ever too late. I promise you. From the bottom of my heart, it’s never too late. You want something, go get it. Our dreams need to be nurtured. Loved. But don’t keep them locked away.
And if you feel doubt, email me. I’ll give you a pep talk.
My Mental Health Goals
- Stop irrational thinking. These stupid “you’re not good enough for xy and z” thoughts need to go away forever. Not even kidding. Every single time I think I’m not good enough for something, I’m immediately gonna come up with a reason why I am more than good enough.
- Laugh at least once a day. I’ve been doing great with this one! I’m as mature as a 15 year old boy so I always laugh – even if it’s a stupid “yo mama” joke.
- Get over that damn flying fear, god. Yeah. I’m gonna keep flying to new places. I still need to go to New Zealand. My flight anxiety can bite me. Hell, I’ll kill it if I can.
- Find one thing I love about myself every day. And no, I can’t just gush about my beautiful face. Hahaha.
- Don’t be so harsh at set backs. Being my own worst enemy has got to stop. Now.
Solo travel helped my anxiety. How about you? How has solo travel helped you? Do you have any solo adventures planned? Share in the comments.