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Afraid of traveling alone? Embrace your fears and travel anyway

If you think we are all fearless badasses girls those who travel alone, you are completely wrong. We don’t travel alone because we are fearless, we do it in spite of our fears. In this post, I will tell you about how I started to travel alone and why, and how I overcame my fear of traveling (and all my other fears, I have so many) or just ignored it. If you want to set off for your first solo trip but fear is holding you back, read on. I hope this post will change your relationship with your fears and you will start planning your first solo travel adventure!


Usually, when we know that we are not alone in our misery we tend to feel less of a weirdo, more “normal”, and authorized to feel that way. That’s how human beings are wired. So there you go, if you are afraid of traveling alone, you are absolutely not alone. Ok, there are some rare cases of super badass Wonderwomen, but those are rare, and to be honest, sometimes fear is even healthy.

Fear is the way our subconscious is warning us about possible dangers and it can help us prevent an accident or an unpleasant situation. However, it can also be misleading when it’s triggered by prejudice, past experiences, or a strict education, for example, that make us see danger where there isn’t actually one.

This is why I believe we need to know ourselves and try to question our fears and understand if it’s a real danger or it’s something created by our mind.

For example, I am scared of heights, meaning that I get dizzy if I am by a cliff and I don’t have anything to hold on to. So mountain crests are a no-no for me although I love hiking very much. Why do I fear it? Because I am very clumsy and I stumble when I walk on a normal road, let alone on an uneven mountain path. I am just scared to lose balance and fall into the abyss. Not exactly my idea of hiking. So I avoid these kinds of situations.

On a different example, I am housesitting in a beautiful home in the middle of a wood and the first time I took the dogs for a walk, I missed the turn on a path I was told to go to. I kept walking instead on the same straight road in the woods. Once I realized I was not on the right path I started to freak out although I knew that I could just go back from the same path to where I started. So that was an unjustified fear that I needed to control.

I have put together a post of all the scary travel experiences stories that I can remember to keep you entertained.

I have been traveling for the past 30 years and most of the time alone, but never lonely. When I was younger I was probably more naive and after my first time in London as an Au Pair, alone, when I basically trained myself to be away from family and friends, I have been cherished traveling on my own even though I haven’t really practiced it until I left Italy for good, in my 30s. I have been traveling alone many times for work and for pleasure and despite all my fears I always chose to travel over giving up on what I love to do the most.

Always alone but never lonely!

cit.

However, I realized that lately, I have been experiencing more concerns and fears than before. It may be age, but since I left my job and started to travel indefinitely, I more easily find reasons to be worried about.

When I was traveling in Chachapoyas, Peru, I started to become more afraid of almost everything, but regardless I continued with my journey and I have even explored one amazing waterfall that was super secluded, on my own, trusting local people and myself.

I also believe that if you have the right positive attitude it’s less likely that bad things happen. The world is full of amazing people that are willing to help. Unfortunately the news only talk about the bad guys. And that’s one of the reason I stopped watching TV.

On my way from Chachapoyas to Cajamarca I was freaking out because I was on a night beat-up bus, on a steep, narrow, winding, and unpaved road in the mountains, it was raining and thundering. Obviously, I couldn’t sleep and I prayed for my life while convincing myself that the bus driver was used to these kinds of situations and would know how to drive in these poor conditions. That was a justified fear, though there was nothing I could do about it but now I am happy to have a story to tell.

Sometimes we just need to trust, but that’s the beauty of traveling.

I have more scary stories to share, but I will save them for another post.

When I think about it I believe that ultimately it’s the fear of dying while I am away from home and from my family, that manifests in many different forms and excuses.

But that doesn’t stop me from traveling because it’s the only possible way I can live. Or maybe not but it’s exactly how I want to live my life, on the road exploring countries and people. I want to know this world, I want to have stories to tell and be part of them. And I certainly won’t let fear get in the way of my dreams.

Also, I remind myself of the fact that everything bad that you think can happen when you travel, could also occur in your home town. This is one absolute truth that you must remind yourself of when you are doubting about traveling alone.

Why I travel alone

It took me forever to write this article because there are so many things I want to say about traveling alone that I didn’t even know where to start. Today, I just sit down and tried to put my thoughts together and I think I should start by sharing with you the reasons why I travel alone, since everything you do should start with why.

I don’t really recall my first solo trip per se’. When I was 16 I went on a study abroad experience on my own, I didn’t know anybody but we were traveling in a group, so it was not a real solo trip technically. But I remember crying on the bus to the airport. I didn’t know anybody and I was very shy and felt lonely until I met my travel companions and all my fears disappeared.

The following year I was working as an au pair near London and I was completely alone in this family that wasn’t even nice to me. But every weekend I used to go to London and enjoy the city on my own until I met a friend. But I felt a real badass, at 17, going around London as if I owned the city. I really loved the fact that I could communicate in a different language and I could find my way around so naturally. I really felt at home as I have never felt before. I believe I got my travel bug right there.

However, my real first solo travel experience started when I was in my 30s when I used to go to the mountains by myself to snowboard. My friends didn’t share the same passion, and I didn’t want to miss it for the world just because I didn’t have anybody to share my interests with. It felt awkward sometimes, but I decided that I didn’t want to miss out on things I enjoyed just because no one else could or wanted to come with me

Fast forward 20 years I have a lot of solo trips on my shoulders, including the past three years when I have been traveling no-stop, alone (with a few exceptions). Now I enjoy traveling on my own more than traveling with a friend or family members for the following reasons (sorry friends!):

  • I love to be able to decide what to do on the spur of the moment and change plans without having a meeting to decide left or right, tour or museum when, and where to eat? etc… So tiring! I just do things according to my own schedule, needs, and desires and it feels so freaking good.
  • Also, when I travel with other people I always worry about their wellbeing so I end up do the things that they want to do, putting my priorities aside. So I basically act like a travel guide more than a traveler. It’s probably my heritage from when I was working as a tour rep. Sometimes I still travel with friends, but I know I am not completely myself, as I change hat!
  • I get bored with other people much faster than I do with my own company! I actually love my company and enjoy being on my own, so much, it’s kind of scary sometimes especially when I talk to myself.
  • Failures are mine only and so successes. If I decide to go and visit a place or on a tour that turns out to be worthless I don’t care if I have wasted my time and I take the blame with no regrets or worry, and at the same time, I am super excited when I get things right. But if there were somebody traveling with me I would worry and feel responsible for their time too. That makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • I love to change plans and decide if I want to extend my stay in a place because I loved so much or just move on to the next one. Also, I work online and I want to be free to decide whether one day I want to just stay at home (I usually love to stay in Airbnb) and work instead of going out exploring. I couldn’t do it if I was traveling with somebody else unless we have the same working situation and we decide not to be tight to each-other schedules. (It never happened)

I am sure I have more reasons than I can think of, but they are all basically related to these ones mentioned above.

What are the reasons why you love to travel alone? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂

The most common fears when solo female travelers face and how to get over them

As I mentioned before, when it comes to fear we need to understand if it’s “real” and there is something we can actually do to address it and to reduce the risk that what we fear can actually happen.

For example if you are afraid to be assaulted, couldn’t it happen in your own town? How do you prevent it? of course in a foreign country where you don’t know the language you feel more vulnerable and that’s completely normal but there are ways to deal with it and that’s what we will discuss about in this section.

Let’s see what our common fears are as solo female travelers and how not to be scared or become more confident.

Fear of flying

Sometimes I get nervous on airplanes, I am not sure why, because I used to love flying and I even wanted to become a hostess, like my aunt. During my 7 years of living and working in Cancun, I used to fly more than 10 times per year and only in the last few years I started to be concerned. Actually I have got really scared.

But I fly anyway and I pray that it won’t be my last one. 🙂 I don’t take any medicines to relax or sleep. I just focus on the fact that planes are made to fly and that statistics say that there are more car accidents than plane crashes. Also, I am a little claustrophobic I don’t really enjoy being in a cubicle for too long but again, I focus on my ultimate goal which is getting to the destination.

Things you can do to overcome your fear of flying

  • Ask yourself what triggers your fear and try to distract from that
  • Read about how planes work
  • Take your headphone and watch a movie if you can’t sleep. Download a few movies or your favorite music into your iPad/phone/computer so that you make sure you will cover the entire flight time and you will be entertained all the way through.
  • Bring a book on a topic that you are sure will get you so focused that will distract you from any other thoughts.
  • get wasted (JUST KIDDING!!)

LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Neale Donald Walsch

Fear of getting assaulted

Are you afraid of getting assaulted or bothered while you walk around a city or in a park? Who hasn’t?

However, besides the fact that this is one of the things that can absolutely happen in any city of the world, even your own country, there are ways to lower the risks of getting robbed, assaulted, or getting into any unpleasant situation with bad encounters. Here below a few ideas.

Things you can do to prevent bad encounters

  • Never walk alone on any road or especially in an alley or a large park, even less at night.
  • Don’t be too distracted on your phone or your notebook and be alert on what’s going on around you.
  • Look around and get the feeling of the place. If you don’t feel comfortable and it looks dodgy, be more careful and do not pull out your professional camera or any valuables. I remember I was walking in Quito historical center and for some reason, I felt totally uncomfortable about taking out my big flashy camera, regretfully, because I really wanted to take good pictures, but my safety came first of course. In fact, a few days later talking to locals I was warned to be careful because right there robbery and petty crime were very common. (Trust your gut, always!)
  • Show confidence. Try not to look like a tourist and preferably study the map beforehand so that you know where you are going already and it’s easier to blend in with the locals. It’s a bit hard to believe, but confidence is some kind of energy that shows somehow and a strong confident woman’s look is definitely discouraging for criminals to take action.
  • Be cautious but not fearful. It’s very important to understand the concept of energy and mindset. The energy we transmit co-creates our reality and the energy of fear and worry are very negative ones and attract negative events. You need to understand your own instinct and trust it, show confidence, use common sense, take necessary precautions, and have faith, keep a positive mindset, without being naive, though.
  • Lay low. Do not flash out your belonging, including laptops and any fancy devices especially if they are of a good brand, don’t overdress.
  • You could also use an anti-theft purse (like this one) or a money belt (like this one), with the locks secured to protect your belongings.
  • Smile and be friendly but don’t be naive. I realized traveling off the beaten path in Mexico or Ecuador or Peru, locals love to chat with foreigners both because are curious to learn about other cultures and because they love to practice their English. I love that cultural exchange and I always tend to chat away, however, I try to stay focused and careful and not to be naive and make sure I set the boundaries. If you see that the other person is getting “too friendly” or too invasive do not be afraid to walk away, if you don’t feel safe.
  • Go with the flow, relax, and trust.

You can read more about travel safety in this guide about safety in Mexico.

Fear of getting sick when you are away from home alone

Oh! This is one of my most dreadful fears, honestly. What if something happens to me, an accident, a disease, a stomach bug and I have to stay in the hospital without anyone helping me?

Oh well! Certainly I don’t let this kind fear get in my way, but it is a concern.

So what to do to prevent getting sick or what to do if you do get sick?

  • First of all, I don’t plan to get sick. I try to eat well and avoid street food if I don’t feel safe. For example, I avoid raw veggies if I am not sure they have been washed properly. In Mexico, it is very common to find fruit cups sold on the street, but I always ask that they cut the fruit in front of me to make sure it’s not touched.
  • I wash my hands as much as possible (even before the COVID madness)
  • I try to do exercise and eat healthy when possible
  • I don’t get drunk.
  • If I go hiking I go with a guide and I keep my pace without rushing if I can’t walk fast.
  • But most of all, I always get travel insurance, because it gives me peace of mind that if I get sick I can get well treated in the best hospital. And that helps me be relaxed about any unfortunate event, because I know I will be well taken care of. I used World Nomads in the past and when I got sick in Peru I got refunded in a timely manner. However, next time I will try SafetyWings, since it’s cheaper and they will cover covid as well. Not that I intend to catch it but you never know. Things happen. You can read my post on the reasons why you need travel insurance if you have any doubts. And also my post on how to choose the best travel insurance for your needs.

What if I feel lonely while traveling solo

Ok, so this is one situation that rarely happens to me. I am a real introvert and I love to be on my own. I avoid hostels like the plague, and I am far from being a backpacker, not a fan of parties either. I love a tranquil way of traveling and enjoy more waking up early in the morning and hit the road.

However, sometimes I also love to meet and share thoughts and have some travel chat with like-minded people.

And, to be honest, I noticed that it is much easier to make friends when you travel on your own than when you are with somebody else. Probably because you are naturally more open to socializing and that’s something that people feel it. It’s the law of attraction coming into play.

When I left my job and started my solo trip around South America (which I never finished by the way, but I will) I wanted to travel by car around the Yucatan Peninsula before selling it. I had no fear at the time because everything was so familiar and I speak Spanish. Also, Yucatan is a very safe place to travel. But I had one concern, I never managed to be alone at the beginning because I kept meeting people to hang out with, even if I wasn’t looking for it. I enjoyed their company and with some of them, we are still in touch. But I still wanted my loneliness desperately. 🙂 So no worries about getting lonely because you won’t. However here are some tips to avoid loneliness when traveling solo.

How to fight loneliness while you are traveling solo

  • Hang out in hostels – not my favorite one, but it’s a way to meet people- and not all the hostels are for party animals- I met amazing like-minded friends in hostels when I used to stay there. Now I have a more upscale way of traveling and I always use an Airbnb or hotel.
  • Check Facebook groups that are related to the destinations- if you digit Expats in (name of the city)…. on Facebook you will certainly find a group. You can scroll through the discussion and see if they organize any meetups or you can start a conversation asking if there are any travelers or locals who want to hang out or do a tour.
  • Join local tours – this is my favorite one. When I was in Chachapoyas Peru, for example, I joined a couple of tours and I met a lovely Italian girl with whom we went out for one dinner and chat away. We are still in touch.
  • Chat with family and friends – in these situations, technology is our ally. Sometimes, after 2 years on the road, I was missing a good chat with my lifetime friends and we arranged a video call. So easy. And you don’t have to feel embarrassed to admit that you miss them, despite wanting to travel alone. It’s absolutely normal. Besides, it’s nice to share your stories with somebody close to you.
  • Did I miss anything? comment below! Happy to read your thoughts!

There is a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. “Alone” means you are comfortable under your skin, but you want to be by yourself by choice, “lonely” it’s a negative state of mind and it means you are not comfortable being on your own.

Isabella

What if I am embarrassed to eat alone?

I remember one time I was in Turks and Caicos for work and I was invited to the most high-end hotel on the island for dinner. I thought it was a hosted dinner. Instead, I found myself alone at a very nicely set table in a romantic atmosphere. Around me, there were couples having a romantic dinner and families having a loud reunion. I was there completely alone and embarrassed, I felt the odd one out, the poor ugly girl with no company, and when the waitress showed me more attention and kindness I thought they were only pitying me.

I remember I wasn’t vegan at the time. At the waiter’s suggestion, I ordered myself a steak and a glass of red wine. I decided that I wasn’t going to ruin that world-class free dinner just because I was alone.

I also didn’t want to staring at people even though I enjoyed observing and imaging who they were to afford such a luxurious place. So I started to mind my own business and yes, I also used my phone to browse through social media while waiting for my meal. Once it arrived I just enjoyed every bite of it. And I continued to enjoyed the random conversation with the waiter every now and then.

That was one random episode. In general when I travel I don’t go to fancy restaurants, but mostly eat in bars and cafe’ or vegan restaurants which are usually laid back. You can see many people eating alone so I have never felt the odd one out.

What to do when eating alone

  • work – I usually take my computer with me and work while waiting for the meal and sometimes even while I am eating.
  • read – sometimes I take my kindle or a book and read
  • browse on social media – since I am trying to reduce my time on social media, while I am eating is usually when I allow myself to indulge in it
  • practice some mindfulness – just do nothing and enjoy my meal bite by bite. It’s quite interesting.

I absolutely love eating by myself even when I am home. And especially I totally prefer being alone than having small talks with somebody with whom I have nothing to talk about. THAT would be really embarrassing.

Some people suggest you should start going out alone in your home town, go to movies, go to a restaurant, and bars, in order to get used to it, but the way I am wired I would be more uncomfortable to be alone among people that I might happen to know than do it in a foreign country where I don’t know anybody. So these tips don’t work for me but they might for you.

I am afraid of being judged by my family and friends

Ok, this is my soft spot. I have always been afraid of being judged because I have always been judged in my teen years. So, although I have grown out of it, I believe there is still a part of me that is a little concerned about what others think.

And people will judge, it’s in our nature, and most of all many of us feel entitled to give out unsolicited advice on how to live our lives, I am not sure where they got the authority from. When you decide to set off for an adventure on your own, you will here phrases such as:

  • Aren’t you afraid?
  • Won’t you feel lonely?
  • Are you crazy?
  • Why would you do that?

Besides the fact that you will feel that people pity you because, supposedly, nobody wants to come with you and that’s why you are going alone. That’s actually my case, and my fear of judgment.

What to do when you feel people are judging you?

  • Do not let those questions trigger any sort of fear in you. They are just projecting their own fear onto you, and it’s simply their own views of life, and their own mindset, not yours. So just ignore them.
  • It’s your decision, your choice, your life. Do not let anybody interfere with your own decisions
  • Remember that it is about you, not about them.
  • Find your pals! There are so many solo female travelers Facebook groups where you can post your fears and concerns and you will find so much empathy and understanding from like-minded girls of any age, country, and believes, all united by the passion for traveling. You will certainly find support and understanding, and the courage to carry on with your own unique path. Some groups:

How do I take pictures of myself?

Ok! this is not one of my concerns because I rarely like to be in the pictures unless it’s strictly necessary or I am particularly inspired. However, I know that many of us girls love to be in their pics, so here is how you can take pictures of yourself while traveling alone.

  • Ask random people if they can take a picture of you, make sure you choose wisely, maybe couples or other tourists, better. And offer to take a picture of them in return. It’s very common. I am being asked a lot, especially when they see me with my big camera, which makes me look like a professional (I am not).
  • Get a selfie -stick for your phone. (like this one)
  • If you want more professional photos and you have a DSLR camera get a tripod that fits with it. I have the Vanguard Alta Pro263AB 100 Aluminium and I love it.

What if you just don’t want to travel solo

Suppose you really don’t want to travel solo, either because you are really really scared to be alone and you don’t care about overcoming your fear or you simply don’t like it, but none of your friends is available or interested in coming with you. What to do then? 

Worry not! You might don’t know, but there are hundreds of travel companies that organized trips for solo travelers who want to meet others. 

Some of them are exclusive for solo female travelers other for mixed group. 

There you can find groups of people of your age or with the same interests, cultural tours, adventurous and many more. There are so many choices that you will certainly find the perfect fit for you.

Book a tour with G-ADVENTURES

G Adventures is a worldwide well-known travel company mainly popular for travel groups for young age, but they have hundreds of trips for any kind of travels, and of any age, from active tours, family tours, National geography tours, wellness and many more to choose from. They normally pair solo travelers in the same room, but you can decide on a single room all for yourself, and most of the time they have great discounts. Like now they have something like a 21% off your Own Room for travels until March 2022, if you book before January 31, 2021. Do not miss out.

Travel companies for solo female groups

Here a list of travel companies that I don’t personally know but I have just discovered and they organize amazing high-end tours for all ages and style for [email protected] only (I do not have any personal commercial relationship with the below travel sites and I haven’t experienced any of their tours).

Shefari – Upscale travel itineraries for small groups of women “We envisioned impactful trips that could inspire, heal, transform, energize, teach, and unite – packed with everything we loved about group trips, minus everything we didn’t. So we created SheFari, the first of its kind curated collection of journeys for and by women.”

Sight and Soul Travels “Sights and Soul Travels’ exclusive, small group, women-only tours blend top destinations with exciting outdoor adventures and luxury retreats. The locations, activities, and hotels are carefully selected to inspire you with their history, natural beauty, and uniqueness, so your travel experience can be exciting, rewarding, and fun.”

Explorerchick – Travels for very adventurous women- hiking backpacking and all sorts of outdoor activities.

Adventure women “AdventureWomen® has been a pioneer, custom-designing and leading some of the most unique adventure travel tours for active women for over 35 years. We are more than a travel company. AdventureWomen is a relationship company, empowering women to build new connections with other women and discover more about themselves through travel. Our carefully crafted journeys are active explorations full of discoveries, cultural insights, and fun which build friendships, confidence, and camaraderie among adventurous women, worldwide.

Adventures in Good Company – “Oursmall group departures encourage women of all ages to (re)connect with their adventurous selves, physical abilities, other women, different cultures, and the natural world. From hiking to sea kayaking, backpacking to multisport activities, signature slackpacking to horseback riding, our vacations are for women who love being active, regardless of whether you’re a first-time traveler or a lifelong outdoorswoman. 

Wandertours – off the beaten path, cultural and adventurous tours for women of all ages.

Purposeful Nomads – traveling with a purpose, empowering local travel guides and promote sustainable practices “discover unusual destinations and find ways to create meaningful exchanges with authentic local communities. We craft and deliver responsible, rewarding, safe, sustainable, and ethical travel for women, by women.”

Wild terrains – “We specialize in small group tours for women of all ages and all life stages. If you’re inspired and energized by the company of other women and by making meaningful connections that cross generations and borders, Wild Terrains is for you“.

When fear takes over

I believe that the same fear that prevents us from traveling solo has the same roots as the fear that prevents us from doing the things we love the most in our everyday life. Maybe we don’t even realize that.

For example when we find a silly excuse for not accepting a job offer, maybe it’s because of our fear of failure, or when we refuse to get into a serious relationship maybe it’s because we are afraid of losing the person or that we are not good enough. It requires a lot of courage to understand what’s hiding behind our fears. I am still discovering myself and writing this post I was actually inspired to read more about fear and what lays behind it.

Final thoughts

  • Obviously, the more positive experiences you have the more confident you became but also make sure that you never let your guard down, and at the same time if something negative happens, don’t let it discourage you. It’s an isolated episode of an amazing adventure that you are experiencing. Just deal with it and move on with a positive attitude. I do believe that attitude determines the outcome of things both when you travel and in your life in general.
  • Every trip is an adventure into the unknown and so is life, you cannot control everything and sometimes you just need to loosen up a bit and just go with the flow like on a roller coaster ride! Just feel the wind and your heartbeat increasing and live the excitement to the fullest.
  • Keep a positive mindset. If you think it’s going to be a horrible lonely time, it will be. If you think it’s going to be an amazing and incredible adventure that you will cherish forever, it will be. It’s really all up to you. You attract who you are and what you feel! Isn’t it amazing?!
  • Remind yourself that most people are good and willing to help. You will encounter amazing people and wonderful teachers and some of them become lifetime friends.
  • Do not allow fear get in the way of living an amazing adventure

I believe it’s both our duty and right to be happy, and traveling ALONE is what makes me happy, and I won’t let fear get in the way.

What is that make YOU happy? are you pursuing it? or are you scared?

Some spiritual guides say that the opposite of fear is not courage, it’s love. What are your thoughts about it? Well, I will leave you with it and with some book suggestions.


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