Solo Travel
Comments 43

How I Conquer My Solo Travel Fears.

Here’s a confession: Even though I’ve been solo tripping for years, sometimes the idea of being somewhere remote by myself, without a known face or language, can send a shiver down my spine. My mind inexplicably conjures up worst case scenarios and I withdraw into my little shell of what the hell am I doing. The freedom, thrill and self-confidence of solo traveling is often interspersed with moments of anxiety, nervousness and fear. This is how I conquer them:

Dreaming about the romance of solo travel.

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Even better than my romantic notions – solo in Guatemala.

Our emotions tend to be a reflection of the thoughts in our mind. So to psyche myself when I’m off on a solo adventure, I focus on the romance of solitude; I imagine myself blissfully gazing at the snowcapped mountain peaks without a care in the world, or swapping life stories with a stranger who’s life maybe very different from mine but our souls sing the same tune. Indeed, before I left for Guatemala, my first tryst with Central America, I calmed my nerves by imagining chatting in flawless Spanish with a Mayan woman and becoming lifelong friends! (My trip was close enough to my imagination). Firing up your imagination might sound like a petty thing to do, but I’ve found it can change the way you approach solo travel.

Read: How Guatemala Pushed Me Out of My Comfort Zone

Surrounding myself with inspiring people – even if virtually.

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Hiking inspiration in the Himalayas!

There is only so much I can control about the wanderings of my mind. The people I interact with, the movies I watch, the music I listen to and the books I read dictate the rest of my outlook. Since I socialize more online than offline, I closely follow the journeys of fellow solo trippers on Twitter and Facebook, drawing inspiration from their adventures. On my most recent trip in Kumaon, where I was to hike alone – with a local guide and no connectivity – through remote villages for three days, I drew conviction from Sorrel Wilby’s book, Journey Across Tibet, documenting her solo trek across the roof of the world! It’s hard not to get influenced by the company you keep – virtually or otherwise – so pick wisely.

Read: 6 Alternatives to Traveling Alone

Blocking out the negativity. 

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Supping in the ‘most violent place on earth’ – Honduras. Labels be damned.

Obvious as it may seem, hearing fearful stories of far away places can make anyone reconsider traveling solo. Even after all these years of traveling by myself, listening to my mother’s endless apprehensions can dampen my spirit. As an adult, I believe in taking precautions for my own safety and don’t need someone worrying about me back home. I also choose not to read media reports propagating fear about traveling in countries labeled unsafe; instead, I try to seek out past travellers to get a fair assessment of a place. Truth is, news reports about India (or say, Honduras) and my own travel experiences in the country differ so vastly, that the former don’t influence me any more.

Read: Dealing with Travel-Wary Parents

Being prepared for the worst.

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Safety first, adventures follow.

Before you label me as a reckless traveller, know that I take every precaution to make sure I’m safe. If not my parents, I always have a trusted friend in the know about my plans and whereabouts. If not the news, I thoroughly research my destinations through blogs and travel forums. And yes, to be prepared for the worst, I carry an electric taser gun and pepper spray with me wherever I go, keep local police numbers at hand, trust my gut, and try to stay far away from sticky situations.

Read: Practical Ways I’ve Learnt to Stay Safe While Travelling Alone

Having a well-researched plan. 

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Researching a destination well can change the way you experience it.

To me, this is one of the most important aspects of shaping my solo adventures. I pour in days of research into deciding where to travel and where to stay. I like to interact with locals and get insights on their way of life, and it’s always comforting to have someone look out for me in an unknown place – so I choose accommodations where I’m personally hosted by someone, typically an Airbnb or a homestay, and rely heavily on reviews of past travellers. There will always be unpredictable adventures, but having a fair idea of what I’m getting myself into quells much of the solo travel anxiety.

Read: Practical Tips to Plan Your First Solo Trip

Giving myself a pep talk.

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Pep talk, an inspiring book and a beer – works wonders!

For me, the first step out of the door is not the hardest. It is usually the first night, or the second day, after I haven’t been by myself for a while, when the bed, the room, the walls, the darkness, everything feels lonely. That’s when I remind myself of the romantic images I had conjured up, inspire myself to put my introverted self out there and make new friends. After the mugging incident in Costa Rica a few months back, I felt devastated and so far away from everyone I knew. I had to rely upon myself to cheer me up and find the inner strength to continue on, and sitting on the beach, drinking beer, hanging out with myself worked wonders!

Read: 5 Reasons Why Traveling Solo in India is Not So Scary

Opening up to the kindness of locals.

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New friends in Bahrain.

On my first solo trip ever, to the high and remote mountains of Spiti, I was so busy fighting battles at home that when I finally set out, I was ecstatic. But my energy crashed when I started to dwell over the long month that lay before me; was I really up for the challenge? I quickly realized that a simple smile was enough to break the ice with the mountain people, everyone had a story to share, and I would hardly ever be alone. And so it has been in the rest of the world – from Bahrain to Romania; even an introvert like me has been able to crawl out of her shell and witness the kindness of strangers.

Read: How to Deal With Loneliness When You Travel Alone

Staying connected.

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Staying connected even in remote Ladakh.

I’m not one of those people who switch off from social media when they travel. In fact, I draw much of my conviction from my followers and readers, for a simple ‘like’, ‘retweet’ or word of encouragement can change my state of mind from why the hell do I do this to what an adventure my life is. When the going gets tough, I only need to get online and browse through my timelines to find motivation in the adventures of fellow travellers, or even in a beautiful picture of someplace remote. And on my part, I hope that my adventures will inspire someone else to step out of their comfort zone too.

Read: Traveling Alone in India: Am I Crazy?

What are your solo travel fears and how do you conquer them?

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43 Comments

  1. anand says

    Today the weather is absolutely wonderful in Delhi. There is no way I want to sit in an office. Your post comes at just the right time… yet again. I appreciate you sharing the feelings, observations and insights. It does clear the path ahead to travelling like you do. I feel little more at ease with my daughter’s plans to travel.

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  2. I love your honesty.

    How you keep your spirits up when it gets tough at home and away is refreshing. It’s no wonder you can make friends and connections wherever you go – your door is open to the world.

    Keep going Shivya, we’re all behind you!

    Like

  3. Nothing works better than giving yourself that much required pep talk and finding people (online or offline) to run your thoughts by.

    I keep my external hard-disk with movies – either funny or inspirational – handy with me 🙂

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  4. bassiswati says

    Hugs to you Shivya.
    You are one such brave girl. You are indeed an inspiration.
    Lots of best wishes to you.

    Like

  5. Sam says

    Hello! Im embarking on my first solo trip soon and personal safety is on my mind. You’ve mentioned carrying a taser and pepper spray, is there a brand you recommend; easily available in India? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ninagrandiose says

    I’ve been traveling the world solo for many decades and it never occurred to me to bring a tazer or pepper spray, I wonder if the laws of attraction apply here. If you carry that, you will need it. I have never, ever been close to needing it.

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  7. This is such a great post. I think many people would assume that a seasoned solo traveler has put the fears and doubts behind them. That isn’t necessarily the case, they just don’t allow it to stop them and they plan for it. I have only travelled solo a handful of times but each time I feel nervous and then once I get there I get settled in and wonder why I was worrying in the first place.

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  8. This is one of those beautiful and honest posts that im gonna keep saved in my collection for future references. I just started a travel blog. And this post is something that i will be looking forward to always.
    Great job! Keep travelling, Safely and happily.

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  9. Govindan says

    Great to hear of your journeys.. had been to ladakh last year myself.. was awesome, and being alone was perhaps the nicest thing.. and like you have said, the locals are ever so helpful..

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  10. Thank you for sharing your feelings as a solo traveler. I totally understand your point. I have been travelling numeral times on my own, even camping or sleeping in my Toyota bus. I never let the fear of being single allow mind to give it room. That was the safest way for me to do my travelling. But yet as a woman we are just in a different place in that way, and I think that is totally okay. It is a place of absolute solitude. I am planning on a trip to India next year, my dream since ever. If you have any great suggestions, no tourist place I would love to hear from you.
    Happy travelling to you.

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  11. Great article and amazing photos. I think that simply looking at photos like those published in this article could be a strong enough reason to conquer your solo travel fears 🙂

    I started traveling after I got married so I never really got to experience solo traveling and I must admit that every now and then I feel the need to just go out there alone and explore the world. You will always fear one thing or another, no matter if you travel alone or with friends/family – but it’s the travel itself that’s the cure for everything 🙂

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  12. christinaisis says

    Thanks for the inspiration…as I venture off north, from Mumbai to do the 2nd half of my solo sojourn. I find so much energy is consumed in the planning. I use airbnb, trip adviser and hostel websites, but sometimes I just wing it. It’s more expensive being solo…thank Goddess for a good friend in Mumbai to give me a hOMe-base. Off to Udaipur, then Jaipur or perhaps something in between.

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  13. MarianaLuisa33 says

    Hey Shivya, love this!

    I’m getting itchy feet again but have a feeling this next adventure will be another solo one. Like you said that can be the most exciting yet scary part at times. Love the idea of romanticizing things, I’ve heard a lot of times that’s something we shouldn’t do as to not cause ‘false expectations (which I suppose could be true at times) but it’s something I like to do often as well. As long as you’re realistic with yourself it kind of gives you that extra push to go and make your fantasy happen.

    Looking forward to reading more. Cheers 🙂

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  14. Meeting different facets of nature and different people every day can teach us a lot and let us know the world beyond a small town or city. Our whole perspective of life changes with each travel we undertake.

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  15. I guess having a positive outlook is the center of motivation on traveling alone. And yes, a well-researched plan is a big factor to avoid hassles. I have women friends that needs encouragement to travel alone and discover something good in themselves. Thanks for sharing your wonderful tips!

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  16. blueberryjane says

    Thank you for the article! I’m thinking of travelling alone these days but it scares me ..
    I always travel with friends so it often feels like it prevents me from trying to know local people and try to talk with other people at hostels. I think i’ll try but for a one week trip maybe? Just to get a taste of it!

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    • Sounds like a great way to start. Take it slow, maybe go to a place you’re already a little familiar with, see if solo travel is for you! All the best 🙂

      Like

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  18. Gayathri says

    I on the other hand never research the place, I travel to nor find out where I am going to stay. Most of the times I don’t even pre-book the tickets, I just decide to travel within minutes and hop on a bus or a train and travel just like that! I am not up for research since that creates lots of unnecessary anticipation and expectations from the place and people. I just deal with everything that comes my way once I actually get there and 9 out of 10 times, the goodness of the people comes through. And 5 out of 10 times, there is a always a de-tour which makes it even more wild and interesting and gives that adrenaline rush. The only tool I carry is my gut instinct. Been travelling solo for over 15 yrs now and seen a lot of shit, especially in organized travels, never in the nature’s embrace though. And each and every time there has been violent physical abuse its been in known familiar public transport or involving public servant assholes. No amount of planning is going to change the mindsets of these sick bastards.

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  20. Thank you for these tips! I embark on my first solo travel adventure in October & I’m beyond nervous but also ecstatic about the possibilities of my adventure! I’m definitely bookmarking this one for those days where I’m feeling homesick or unsure of why I’m doing what I’m doing. My biggest fear is not having anyone to turn to in the event of an emergency like being mugged or getting scammed. I’ve been reading up on tips on avoiding these situations but it can happen to anyone at any time. Thanks again for the inspiration!

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  22. Carina says

    Just go go go girl. The world is open for you! You remind me of when I was 20 and travelled around the world in the eighties. Digged for opals in Australia. Got my diving licence at the Great Barrier Rief. Stayed in a camp with Aboriginies and travelled around in a very closed China! Met an american journalist on Tonga who had a spy from Fidji following him everywhere! Well you really get so much adventure ahead of you the difference is modern technology. .. when I went travelling I had to go hours and days just to be able to post a card…. 🙂
    Love your stories.
    Carina

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  24. Inspring …. What else I can say … But to be ture I prefer travlling with at least a companion. But salute to your spirit and undersating of solo travel.

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  25. Your motivation is more important to everybody.who get life positively and answer for why we born and what is humanity. keep it up and best wishes from thousand of heart…

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  26. We all live in some kind of fear. Few of us conquer it (like you) and most of us keep living with it. It’s all in mind. We are so in comfort with our present and on-going life that we just afraid to experiment with anything new. Very few have the guts to cross that boundary. You are one of those very few. Keep doing great with your life. People like me get to see the beauty of world from your eyes and your blog. You never travel alone, we have always been there with you in every travel of yours through this blog and will continue to do that.

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