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It’s Normal to Feel Anxiety Traveling Alone.
Let me repeat that: 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.
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.
1. Don’t Feel Guilty About Your Travel Anxiety.
It’s easy to feel bad about your uneasiness when going on trips alone. 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.
“Maybe I’m not cut out for solo travel, after all,” you might think inside your hostel dorm room, shaking your head. “Maybe exploring the world isn’t for me. I should just go home.”
Stop beating yourself up over your travel anxiety symptoms. They are not your fault. Besides, your reactions are valid and understandable and normal. And, besides, if we all had perfect control over our emotions, I wouldn’t have to write this post at all.
Heck, if we had full control over our emotions, the world as we know it would be a very different place than it is today.
Let’s face it. When you have anxiety, it’s easy to berate yourself until your mind can’t take anymore pressure. Then you are trapped in a cycle of self-loathing.
Sometimes you may have physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, and sore joints. No need to make these reactions even 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.
2. Got Travel Anxiety? Call Home.
Anxiety about traveling alone strikes at any moment even when you’re already on the road. So what should you do if you’re in a hostel in a foreign country and feel the nervous weight settle on your shoulders like a dumbbell at the gym?
Reach out for help. Don’t be ashamed of it.
Think about it. 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. So, if you’re nervous to travel alone, remember that home is a simple button away.
3. 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 physically. Crowds not only exacerbate my travel anxiety symptoms, but wall-to-wall people make me angry too. Hey, it’s a New Jersey thing.
So what should you do? Go somewhere quiet even if it’s back to your accommodation. Trust me on this. 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 and cause those pesky travel anxiety symptoms to start again. 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!
4. Enjoy “the Familiar” to Stop Feeling Nervous About Traveling Alone.
Have something familiar to keep in your accommodation at all times. I don’t care if it’s dorky. Bring “home” with you in the form of a small trinket or favorite song or snack.
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, at the same time, 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. Arrested Development or The Office will even stop my turbulence anxiety for a moment or two. And believe me, it’s time well spent. Having that “piece of home” encourages me to see and do more the next day, making me a more “effective” traveler.
This tip extends to food, too. If you’re homesick and craving your favorite meal, then go for it! You can always eat more “locally authentic 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. Do what you need to do to feel better again.
5. Crush Travel Anxiety and Remember the Excitement
Book a small tour, tickets, or something else to excite you. You even have permission to ignore the your travel budget.
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.
Going on trips alone is a personal adventure. Furthermore, 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.
Resources: Further Reading on Anxiety Traveling Alone
I hope my travel anxiety tips helped you feel better about 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 even more specific travel anxiety tips. I will continue to update this post as I write more material to help you through your travel anxiety and accomplish your dreams and goals.
And, of course, you’re always welcome to email me with any questions or concerns. I’m here for you 100% of the way.
- Face Your Fears: How Solo Travel Helped My Anxiety
- Anxious People Can Travel Too (And Here’s How!)
- Nervous Girl’s Guide to Meeting People While Traveling
- Scared to Travel? Book a Tour!
- 7 Tips for Anxious Solo Travelers
- Great First Time Destinations for Anxious Travelers
- Afraid to Travel Alone? 8 Tips to Destroy Your Fears
- Confession: I Have a Fear of Eating Alone in Public
- Why I Blog About Travel and Mental Health
- It’s Okay To Feel Anxiety Before Travel (And How to Cope)
- Anxiety and Terrorism: Why You Can’t Let Fear Win
- 4 Epic Times I’ve Faced My Fears Abroad (And Won)
- My Greatest Travel Fear
- What Everyone Ought to Know About Hypochondria and Travel
As I’ve said, travel anxiety is totally normal, even if it is a struggle. You’re never alone. We exist. Remember you’re an incredibly brave person for traveling in the first place. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but breaking out of your comfort zone and pursuing your dreams in spite of fear.
Go make your dreams come true now!
How do you handle anxiety traveling alone? Do you have any personal stories? Elaborate in the comments.
25 thoughts on “What Should I Do if I Feel Anxiety Traveling Alone?”
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!
Awwwww, I’m so glad I could help! I hope you enjoyed your McDonalds!
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:)
Calling home is wonderful.
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 ?
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.
Looking for friends at the hostel is always a great idea!
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.
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. 🙂
Tours can be a lot of fun!
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!
Good luck on your solo trip if you decide to go for it! It’s an empowering experience.
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!
You can do it!!
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.
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”
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.
I will be 72 by the time I take my sol trip to Croatia May 2019
The main thing I am anxious about is my safety when I get there.
I know I’m not stupid but am so anxious.
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 🙂
HI! I’m Maria and i’m going to travel solo for the first time… i’m 21 and i always suffered from anxiety and physical problems linked with it…
This year i decided to go to London alone, not because no one wanted to come but because i chose it. I want to get out of my confort zone to prove myself i’m able to do it.
I’m worried about flying without my sister holding my hand and i’m afraid to feel physical problems while there… At the same time i’m so excited to have such an experience…
How can i just relax and enjoy my time?
Stay in touch with your sister via phone and Skype. Make sure your family knows where you’re staying in case you need them. For flying, perhaps let the flight attendants know ahead of time that you’re nervous. They’re trained to help anxious flyers. You will be fine! 🙂
You are such an inspiration! Good for you for just doing it. I am in my 30s and single and am contemplating doing a trip to Europe on my own but every time I start planning it an almost-panic attack sets in. You have given me hope that it can be done! I’ve been reading up quite a lot on anxiety. I like the notion of de-activating my anxiety system. Now to just put that into action!
Awesome Blog! I would love to appreciate you for sharing this blog because it is an inspiration for me. Now, I am definitely going to plan a alone trip. We all should have this quality because it will helps us to raise mentally skills.
I’m in Italy and it’s my first day and I ended up crying. I just read this blog and it gives me hope. Thanks so much you’re a blessing.
I love your post and I think it’s a really important topic to be talking about. I actually had a weirdly similar experience in Vancouver. It was my first time traveling alone to a big city and I started to get overwhelmed by everything so I went and hung out a Stanley park and it toatally calmed me down! After that I would just make my way to a beach every few hours to get rid of that city claustrophobia. Great tip, I can confirm that it works : )