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how to get over your fears of solo travel

How To Get Over Your Fears of Solo Travel

If you’ve arrived at this blog post, you’ve already reached quite a brave milestone of planning your first solo trip. You’ve decided to quiet the bullsh*t voices that are telling you that solo travel is scary or not for you or whatever the excuses are and go for it anyway. That is amazing!! If you haven’t heard it yet I want to be the first one to congratulate you for being so brave! And say that I am so beyond proud of you!! You CAN do it! And you absolutely should!

If you know me now you wouldn’t believe it, but I used to be a massive introvert. I thought that since I was raised in Missouri, USA I was supposed to stay in the midwest my whole life, get a 9-5 job just to take a weekend trip here and there and struggle to pay my bills for the rest of my life. I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to leave the country. And I certainly didn’t think I’d ever have the guts to do it alone. 

My Story

I named my dog after the city of Chicago when I was 19 years old because I thought my wildest dream would be for her to live in Chicago one day. 

Five years later we have been there, done that, moved to Chicago, got over Chicago, bought a one way ticket across the world every time I got bored and lived in my Jeep Wrangler while traveling the entirety of North America all by myself. 

Trust me, if I went back and told quiet little 16 year old Megan all the places she’d travel to by herself one day, she’d run and say “Nooooo way that is NOT me! I have absolutely no doubt that you have got the wrong girl.” But she did it! And with just a little bit of planning and courage, you can too!

By the end of this blog post I guarantee you will have the knowledge you need to embark on your first solo trip. Below are step by step instructions on how to get over whatever worries and fears may be in your head (the fears my Instagram followers said were in their heads when I asked them last week), and just go for it!!

If you’ve already been on a solo trip, look at you go! Keep reading anyway to learn some helpful tips you may not have known from your favorite solo travel pro: moi.

In This Blog Post You Will Find:

  • My easy 3 step process for erasing your fears and taking a solo trip!
  • Step One: Identify your fears from the list below
  • Two: Learn how to prevent these fears with my step by step guide
  • Step Three: Learn how to shift your mindset and finally go on your solo adventure!

how to get over your fears of solo travel

If this is your first solo trip and you don’t even know what you’re actually scared of because you’re scared of everything:

I will be making a separate post on how to plan your first solo trip shortly. However for now, here are my top three tips:

Start small. 

Your first solo trip is not going to be some wild multi-country tour in a foreign land. You will get there! But first, get in your car for a weekend getaway close to home in an area that is familiar to you. Once you feel comfortable with that, fly somewhere by yourself that is again, familiar. And once you get comfortable with that, drive somewhere unfamiliar. Then fly somewhere unfamiliar. And eventually before you know it you will also be a solo travel pro flying all over the world on a random Tuesday because you got off work early.

Realize that you are never actually alone.

This one is huge, and it really helps you erase a lot of your fears. When you’re traveling in cities there are likely at least a hundred people around you. I can promise you that at least one will be kind enough to help if you get lost. If not, you likely have a handy dandy little device in your hand that allows you to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Most importantly, it has google and the rest of the world wide web. Use it!

Don’t freak out! 

To be a successful solo traveler, you will need to learn how to be a problem solver on your own. To do this, you need to learn how to stay calm in situations that could easily cause panic and chaos. 

For example, let’s pretend you got lost. Instead of freaking out and thinking you are going to be stuck in a foreign country forever, think rationally. Do I have my maps saved? Yes? Great! No? Retrace your steps. It’s that easy 99.9% of the time. 

Forgot to get a train ticket and the controller came by so now you have to pay a fine? That sucks, but it’s really not the end of the world. Don’t let it ruin the rest of your day, or trip. Budget a little extra for things that may come up during your trip next time. Pay the fine, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

Step One: Identify Your Fears

If you have pinpointed your solo travel fears, but they’re holding you back:

This is great! Realizing what your solo travel fears are is the first step in getting over them. When you think about taking a solo trip, what do the voices in your head (or other people) say to you? Write that down, and find them below. If you can’t find your fears here, google it or shoot me a DM or email!

Most common fears:

What if I get lost and can’t get help?

What if my car breaks down?

How do I deal with strangers? Can I tell if I can trust them?

How do I stay safe?

I’m an introvert. How do I make friends?

What if my solo trip doesn’t live up to my expectations? 

Step Two: Prevent Your Fears

Make a plan, and have a backup plan. Always. 

Most common fears about solo travel can be avoided with some simple planning ahead of time. Make your plan, and then make a plan for if that plan goes wrong. And even then things may not go according to plan. Do not be emotionally attached to your plan! (Sorry for so many uses of the word plan. I am not turning this in to an English teacher so just keep reading.)

Bonus tip: If you’re planning a backpacking trip or something dependent on weather, make sure your tickets and accommodations are refundable. Also make sure that everything you book as a backup is refundable too.

One time I took a wrong bus and ended up on the south side of Italy when I was supposed to be in the north. I had tons of fun and got to explore a region I wouldn’t have otherwise gone to!

One time my phone died when I was in Monaco so I had no navigation. I just paid attention to the landmarks/streets around me and retraced my steps when I had to get back to the train station.

When I was in Rome I dropped my phone in the Trevi Fountain. I had to solo travel around Italy without a phone for a week until I got back home to fix it. But this is how I got so good at learning how to get around without navigation and figure out which strangers would be best to ask for help!

One time I was supposed to go backpacking in the Swiss alps for a week. But I had to rearrange my trip due to thunderstorms. I ended up in the South of France for a few days when I was literally not supposed to be anywhere near France at all. And it ended up being one of my favorite places on the planet! And I still got to take a day trip to the alps.

See? Not every part of solo travel will always go according to plan, but that doesn’t mean chaos will ensue! These are the times you learn, have fun, and grow the most. So just roll with it.

What if I get lost and can’t get help?

The way to avoid getting lost is having navigation, and back up navigation. When you’re traveling to a city, always download an offline map of the area on Google maps. You’ll also be able to find most larger cities on CityMapper. This is an app that can navigate cities when you’re offline via maps and transit information. 

When I’m out in the wilderness and don’t have service, I make sure I have a good ole map and compass on me, download a map of the area on AllTrails, and have my satellite phone on me. 

If you’re in a city, realize that you are seriously never alone. Never be afraid to ask for help!

I usually pop into a coffee shop or something and ask the worker for directions (and buy something small). Parents with kids and local guides are also great people to turn to if you have any questions.

Bonus tip: Workers have the best local recommendations! Ask them for places to eat or hiking trails or anything else you want to experience like a local!

If you really can’t find anyone to help or if you’re on a solo backpacking trip where there really is likely no one for miles, retrace your steps back to where you came from. Chances are when you realize that you are lost you’ll know where you made the wrong turn. Now you know which way you were supposed to go instead. 

Always be sure to keep an eye out for landmarks that you may recognize later. Pay attention to street signs and buildings when you’re in a city. When you’re in the wilderness, pay attention to which way the mountains are facing if applicable. Nine times out of ten this is all you need, but also pay attention to any trees, rocks, or other landscape that stands out as well. 

But also, get lost once and you’ll never fear getting lost again! You will find your way, I promise. Live in the moment, and have fun wherever you are!

What if my car breaks down?

Mechanical failure is a tough one, because you never know what can go wrong with your car on a road trip. I got into a car accident and then my engine completely failed on a solo roadtrip once, and it was not a fun time. However I do have a checklist I go through and a list of supplies I always go through before I take off, which I will be sharing in its entirety in next week’s post! For now here are my top tips: 

If you’re driving a rental car: 

Be sure to let the owner know what your plans are so they can give you any specific recommendations if necessary. Also be sure to ask who to call in case of emergency, and write down any numbers or information you may need.

If you’re driving your own car: 

I am no mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but after roadtripping almost 30,000 miles both on the highway and off-road in a notoriously unreliable car in one summer (love Jeeps but hate them at the same time) I have learned a basic thing or two. 

Before you go, check:

  • Under the hood to make sure nothing is out of place. I usually find a wire out of place or some things that need to be tightened in my Jeep, but if you don’t drive an off-roading vehicle you most likely should not have any problems here.
  • Your tire pressure. If you don’t know what your tire pressure should be at, it’ll tell you on the sticker inside the driver’s side door, but for most common sedans it’ll be roughly 28-34 pounds.
  • Your oil, wiper fluid, coolant, and if you have 4WD: differential fluid. I usually just get an oil change before I leave for a road trip because they check all of these things and I have them top anything off if necessary.

Bonus tip: Tire pressure fluctuates based off of temperature and altitude, so if you’re driving in the winter or from an area of high elevation to low elevation you will likely need to fill up your tires at some point. So don’t panic!

Bring with you:

  • your car’s user manual 
  • jumper cables
  • tire pressure gauge
  • some gas, oil, or any additional fluids you may need along the way
  • extra water, snacks, and blankets just in case 
  • Satellite phone (if you get stuck in an area where you do not have service, you can use this to call for help or a tow truck)

Some extra tips: 

  • Download your navigation offline on Google maps in case you lose service at any point
  • Brush up on how to change a tire or any other mechanical problems you’re worried about running into. I usually just search for these things on YouTube. Most common issues are an easy fix!
  • Be sure to check the weather along the route to your destination before you leave to be aware of any inclement weather and plan accordingly. Only checking the weather in your town and your destination is not enough. Nobody wants to get stuck in an unnecessary storm if they can avoid it, and nobody wants to be unprepared for it.

How do I deal with strangers? Can I tell if I can trust them?

This is the question I get asked most frequently! We’re taught as kids not to talk to strangers, and it’s certainly for good reason. However when they teach you these things they don’t expect you to solo travel, and there are exceptions to every rule.

When in doubt, I always ask a stranger who looks friendly and kind for help. Like I mentioned above, parents with their kids, a local guide, or shop workers have always been knowledgeable and trustworthy people to turn to in my experience. 

If someone tries to talk to you and it makes you uncomfortable, politely tell them you’d rather be left alone. If they’re persistent, I’ve walked up to a group of girls before to say “hey this guy won’t leave me alone, do you mind if I join you?” and they’re still my friends today.

How do I stay safe?

Research the area you’ll be traveling to ahead of time, ask a friend who’s been there before or even better, ask a local if there are any safety tips they’d recommend, such as areas to avoid. If you don’t know a local, I have messaged random people on Instagram that live in a destination before to ask for tips and they’ve always been responsive and friendly. Some have even offered to meet up when I arrive!

Bonus tip: If you do get in contact with a local, I also like to ask what mode of transportation they recommend getting out of the airport. Usually they’ll tell you about a really cheap bus or train that gets you to the city center, or sometimes they’ll even tell you a cab or uber won’t be too expensive. But this question alone can save you sooo much money.

Overall, the same rules that apply at home apply when you’re traveling. Especially when you’re solo traveling.

Don’t walk alone at night.

Stay on busy well-lit streets.

Don’t carry expensive or important items on you if you can avoid it, and always have two layers of protection if you do need those items. For example keep your passport in an inside pocket of an anti-theft backpack, or keep your wallet locked inside a bag in your locker back at the hostel. 

Don’t carry anything on you when you’re going out that you likely won’t need, because that only increases the chance of it getting lost or stolen.

Don’t talk to strangers if they seem unfriendly.

Never tell anyone that you’re traveling alone!

If someone makes you uncomfortable, tell them to go away and then pop into a public place for a bit until you see them go away. 

Be cautious and proactive, but don’t be too afraid to get out there and explore!

I’m an introvert. How do I make friends?

Ahhh my favorite question! Like I said in my intro, this used to be me. I know where you’re coming from, I had the same fears you do, and I can teach you how to overcome them the same way I did.

At the end of the day you just need to put yourself out there! Fake it til you make it baby. 

What are you so afraid of, that this person will laugh in your face and say no? Nobody is going to do that! They’re not going to judge you. They’re going to admire you for having the guts to solo travel, get out there, and meet new people. And if they do judge you who cares? You’ll never see them again. Move on to the next person. 

Some of my dearest friends to this day are people I met when I was traveling, and I’d hate to see you pass up the opportunity to meet some amazing people too all because you were too afraid to say hello. 

I can even tell you the exact moment that I broke out of my shy, introverted shell. 

I was at an airport in Germany during a layover, waiting at the gate for my flight to Zurich. The flight was supposed to board in 10 minutes, but there was no attendant at the gate. I really needed this information, so I turned to the guy next to me and asked if he was supposed to be on the same flight and whether he knew if the gate had changed or the flight was delayed or something. He said he wasn’t really supposed to be on any flight in particular, but he would gladly check the departure board. 

When he came back he let me know that the flight had in fact changed gates. He was also unbelievably hot, and I already knew he didn’t have any plans set in stone. So somehow the next thing that came out of my mouth was, “Well why don’t you come to Switzerland with me and buy me a drink? ;)” He said yes, and we had the best weekend!

But if he would’ve said no, then I’d never see or hear from him again anyway so why would it matter? 

And if I never would’ve asked, then I never would’ve broken out of my shell or gained a ton of confidence. And I would’ve spent that rainy weekend in Zurich alone. How boring!

Here are some other ways I’ve made friends while Solo traveling:

Stay in a hostel.

This is the easiest way to meet other travelers, especially solo travelers! Get over the need for a private bath in an airbnb for just a night or two, stay in a hostel, and hang out in the common areas. Everyone there is a like-minded traveler looking to meet new people and a good majority of them are also solo travelers. 

Even if you don’t stay friends with these people in the long run, you get to spend one night in a room full of people from all over the world, playing drinking games, and learning all about new countries and cultures. Idk about you but that sounds like an incredible Friday night to me!

Join a walking tour

Walking tours have sooo many benefits. Not only do you get an overview of the place you’re visiting, but you also get to hang out with a group of other travelers looking to explore. If the tour guide mentions a museum or somewhere else to visit that you find interesting and it seems to pique someone else’s interest too, ask if they want to go with you! 

Sign up for a class or experience

I do crossfit and love dropping in for a class at a new gym whenever I’m traveling, but if you’re a painter or a climber or something find somewhere to take a class for that. It’s an easy way to meet people with similar interests and a fun way to experience your hobby in a different culture.

I’ve also met some really fun people through group tours I’ve done via airbnb experiences. It’s a great way to join a group if you maybe want to go for a day hike or something but aren’t comfortable going alone and it’s another great way to meet travelers with similar interests! 

What if solo travel doesn’t live up to my expectations? 

Not everywhere is going to live up to your expectations and that’s okay! You can still cross that place off your bucket list and now you know that you don’t want to go similar places in the future. For example I really didn’t care for both Paris and Amsterdam. But I wouldn’t have known that by staying home! And even though I didn’t really care for those places in general, I did have some really great moments in both places and now I know that I’d prefer to visit somewhere else in the future.

I also want to mention that whenever you have a bad experience or two in a city, don’t write off the place as a whole. And definitely don’t write off solo travel as a whole if you have a bad experience when traveling by yourself.

I went to Amsterdam for a weekend. 

Friday night I got followed by an annoying stranger from bar to bar. 

Saturday it was rainy and cold and not fun. Saturday night I stayed in and facetimed my friends back home because I was sooo over Amsterdam at that point. 

But Sunday was a beautiful day so I got to go to the park and go sightseeing! Sunday night was my last night in Europe for that trip so I was guaranteed to make it a great night. I spent it in the hostel common room, hanging out with random people from all over the world and laughing until the sun came up. I didn’t keep in contact with most of those people, but it was a much more fun way to spend my last night in Europe than laying in bed would’ve been!

At the end of the day, you’re not going to love everywhere you go, but you are going to learn something from it. You will never regret getting out of your comfort zone and going somewhere new. But you WILL regret the chances you do not take. Which leads me into our final step…

Step Three: Face Your Fears

At the end of the day you can have all the information that you need about solo travel and still come up with excuses not to go.

Shift your mindset. 

Quit thinking about what will happen if you go, and start thinking about what will happen if you don’t. If you don’t go on this trip, you’re going to be stuck exactly where you’re at now. And if you’re considering making a change, I’m willing to bet that you’re not happy with where you are. The longer you wait to take this leap, the more precious time you are wasting away in your office cubicle that you could be spending drinking pina coladas on the beach in Bali instead. 

Realize that the world is not inherently a bad or scary place. 

You just have to trust your intuition. Be aware of what’s going on around you, but don’t be paranoid. The world has more to offer you than it has to hurt you. People who tell you the world is a scary place do not solo travel. You however, are a badass who chases your dreams. So do not live in fear! 

Just go anyway.

You’re still going to be a little scared and anxious. That’s the wonderful feeling of venturing out of your comfort zone. So go! Because the saying that nothing ever grows there is so true. Opportunities, adventures, and happiness are not going to just fall in your lap. You have to take the leap to make them happen. I promise you that the anxiety will turn into butterflies of giddy excitement over time. But in order to get there, you have to just take the first step.

I hope you found this guide to be helpful! You can click here to be directed to more posts about solo travel or click here for travel tips and travel guides to specific cities. You can follow us on Instagram to be a part of our incredible community of badass travelers, and subscribe to my newsletter to be the first to know when a new blog post goes up, get exclusive tips and content by email, and learn about new products and promotions.

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