Face Your Fears: How Solo Travel Helped My Anxiety

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It’s True. Solo Travel Helped My Anxiety.

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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.

solo travel helped my anxiety

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.

solo travel helped my anxiety

On one of my many international flights, haha. Yikes.

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.

solo travel helped my anxiety

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.

solo travel helped my anxiety

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.

solo travel helped my anxiety

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.

solo travel helped my anxiety

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.

solo travel helped my anxiety

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Find one thing I love about myself every day. And no, I can’t just gush about my beautiful face. Hahaha.
  5. Don’t be so harsh at set backs. Being my own worst enemy has got to stop. Now.
solo travel helped my anxiety

Be indestructible.

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. 

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31 Responses to Face Your Fears: How Solo Travel Helped My Anxiety

  1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie April 15, 2017 at 8:01 am #

    Great post and written in your voice with struggle, honesty, and fight. Love it! I’ve traveled solo, too and it is empowering. I love when you said don’t be afraid of what might happen, be afraid of being in the same lonely place a year from now. So true! And not just for solo travel, right? We all have to face our fears and grow as people. Allowing ourselves to “remain in one place” so to speak is the opposite of growth. Keep traveling and keep inspiring others with your determination to make your dreams a reality. 🙂

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 17, 2017 at 7:11 am #

      Jackie —

      Remaining in one place is definitely the opposite of growth! And what else is life for? Thanks so much for your kind comment.

  2. Chrysoula April 15, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    Well said. Although I don’t suffer from anxiety, I do sometimes have this irrational thinking of not being good enough or comparing myself to others. Then I try to see the things I have accomplished and take strength. Traveling has played a major role in this, it makes you stronger.

  3. Debra Schroeder April 15, 2017 at 9:44 am #

    So glad to hear that solo traveling has helped your anxiety. Rough landings can be hard on everyone. Sorry about your grandfather passing away but what a blessing you were to one of your dad’s friends. Here’s to lots more solo travel and less anxiety.

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 17, 2017 at 7:13 am #

      Debra —

      Thank you so much! Inspiring him to travel was at least a small bright spot in an otherwise horrible day.

  4. Kara April 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm #


    I always appreciate your honesty. We all face fears and fear shouldn’t stop us from doing what we love. So next year I’ve made the decision that I am going to do a working holiday in New Zealand. Yes I am going to give up my apartment, job and safe comfortable life for the unfamiliar and unknown. I am 31, I take meds for depression, don’t have a “proper” career but I am not going to let my limitations stop me. I have put off this dream of moving to another country for so long. It’s time! So dear girl, do what you love, face those fears and faith will win!!

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 17, 2017 at 7:14 am #

      Kara —

      OH MY GOD, I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU! I want to hear all about your working holiday and New Zealand!!

  5. Drew April 15, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    I don’t do a lot of solo travel, since I travel mostly with my wife, but I can certainly understand your struggle. Solo travel is never easy, but the rewards are worth the trials and tribulations. And I most say, I agree with not comparing yourself to friends from high school. That almost is never a good thing! Why is that it seems like everyone you know has become crazy successful!

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 17, 2017 at 7:15 am #

      Drew —

      I KNOW, RIGHT?! I can never tell if they’re really crazy successful or if that’s just the image on social media, haha.

  6. Melody Pittman April 16, 2017 at 7:27 am #

    Thank you for being so honest! I bet that this post encouraged a lot of people with anxiety realize that they, too, can travel solo. I really enjoyed reading your mental health goals, especially find one thing about yourself that you love every day. We should all adapt that 🙂

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 17, 2017 at 7:17 am #

      Melody —

      I agree!! It’s so easy for us to rip ourselves apart, so self-love is extra important.

  7. Trisha Velarmino April 16, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    Oh Rachel, yes, you are not alone. I am happy to know that traveling is helping you like it helped me and other people for sure. This is how I learned to trust my inner strength, too. And yes, most of the times, we are our own enemy yet, we are our own hero, too. Keep it up!

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 19, 2017 at 3:55 am #

      Trisha —

      We are DEFINITELY our own heroes, too! Very true. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Siddhartha Joshi April 17, 2017 at 8:06 am #

    Such an inspiring post Rachel…and it’s pretty amazing how you can write so succulently about your own fears and about overcoming them. All the best for everything and wishing you a great time in Scotland 🙂

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 19, 2017 at 3:56 am #

      Siddhartha —

      Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to Scotland A LOT!

  9. Nisha April 17, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    Believe it or not. It is quite brave of to write an undisguised account of your anxiety and also how you conquered it. This is one o the great posts I have read in a long time. Kudos to you.

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 19, 2017 at 3:56 am #

      Nisha —

      Awwww, thank you so so so much! Glad you liked it!

  10. Carrie April 18, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    This was a great read! Recently out of a relationship that was supposed to be “forever” and going through many changes at work, I don’t have a thought as to where I want to go or what to do with my life. I took a trip to Europe last summer with my now ex and I remember how happy it made me. I have anxiety as well and want to begin traveling solo whether a day trip or getting on my first flight alone. Working on finding the courage to travel for myself! Enjoyed this post!

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 19, 2017 at 3:57 am #

      Carrie —

      Oh man. That’s rough. I wish you all the best! If you ever do go somewhere solo, let me know!!

  11. Vicky and Buddy April 18, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    We really are our worst critics, and it doesn’t make sense why!! If my best friend were talking bad about herself, I would grab her by the shoulders and shake her. But then I go and say bad things to myself. It’s frustrating, but I think the first step is realizing we do these things so that we can go on and make an effort to stop. I like that you’ve made goals for yourself; you’ve inspired me to set goals for myself now too!

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 19, 2017 at 4:00 am #

      Vicky and Buddy —

      I KNOW. If my best friend talked to herself the way I do … there would be some serious hell to pay! It’s not cool! Good luck with your goals!

  12. Liz | poulet s’il vous plaît April 19, 2017 at 3:18 am #

    Love the caption on your last photo “be indestructible” – that really resonates with me!!

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 19, 2017 at 4:00 am #

      Liz —

      Awwww, good! Now go out and do it! 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  13. Alex April 19, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

    I have anxiety (and really bad flight anxiety) and identify SO much with this post. I have 4 days off work for the 4th of July and am considering taking my first solo overnight trip (I’ve taken solo day trips but haven’t gotten up the courage for an overnight one) but it’s hard to not let all the “what if” thoughts spiral me out of control! I’m still on the fence about booking…my rational self knows it will probably be amazing and freeing and wonderful but my anxious self is worried I will crumble the moment I step on the plane. Hoping to get the courage because I haven’t travelled in so long and I really want to!

    • Rachel Elizabeth April 22, 2017 at 8:23 pm #

      Alex —

      Solo travel is the most freeing experience in the world. I understand the urge to cancel. I almost canceled many trips and I’m so glad I didn’t. I wish you the best of luck in your journey and believe in you.

  14. Amy April 21, 2017 at 6:54 am #

    I am so grateful that you wrote about this. I have recently started traveling again and this blog really hit home! Thank you for the inspiration!

  15. Good post! It is NEVER too late! I am well into my 30’s and began traveling extensively just a few years ago. Despite struggling with anxiety and depression. The story of your inspiring your father’s friend to travel is touching. Good luck with your mental health goals!

  16. Michelle B. May 22, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    Such a wonderful post! I suffer from anxiety as well and am taking my first solo trip to Italy. Italy has been a lifelong dream of mine and I’m 42! So it’s never too late! Hehe

    Although I’ve traveled alone it’s usually to visit family and friends. But this is the first time I’ll be on my own for a week then meeting up with family. I’m excited and your post gives me inspiration! I have a feeling this trip will empower me to take more international solo trips in the future! Thanks so much!!

  17. Kat May 22, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    I relate to everything you’ve said. Solo travel has done more for my anxiety than ground techniques and medication ever did. I’m so happy others are finding growth through solo travel like this.

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