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.