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10 Tips to Conquer Your Fear of Solo Travel

Traveling alone is a life changing experience. Not only is it a way to enjoy a dream trip without relying on anyone else’s schedule, it’s also a unique opportunity to connect with and grow confidence in yourself. But like with any new endeavor, starting can be scary. Here are ten tips, tricks, and things to remember to become the fearless solo traveler you are. 

Practice At Home

My number one advice for overcoming solo travel anxiety: be a tourist in your own city. Go to that museum opening. Eat dinner alone at that trendy restaurant. If there’s an exciting event in your area and no one is free to come along, go it alone. Think of it like training wheels—a taste of solo travel where you can still head home at the end of the day. Getting comfortable navigating unfamiliar situations and making decisions on my own while close to home built up my confidence to explore new places.

Book With a Group Tour Company

Group tours take the pressure of planning food, lodging, and activities off your shoulders so you can focus on how it feels to travel solo. There’s still a chance for you to wander and test your mettle, but with built in opportunities to make new friends and a safety net when things get overwhelming. Book with a company that doesn’t charge a single supplement—a common fee for travelers looking to book a single room—or one that will pair you up with a fellow single traveler as a roommate. Check out our round-up of the top group tour companies to find the trip that’s right for you.

Join Group Activities At Your Destination

If you decide to forgo the group tour, there are still easy ways to fill up an otherwise dauntingly blank itinerary. Group activities, such as walking tours or organized day trips, help solo travelers sightsee with minimal stress. During a solo trip to Toronto, I booked a group day tour to Niagara Falls with GetYourGuide. It was cheaper than booking a round-trip bus ticket on my own and meant that I didn’t have to worry about missing the last bus back to the city—plus they threw in a stop at a winery with a free tasting along the way. I spent hours at the Falls, enjoyed the expertise of our guide, and played photographer for several thankful couples and families in my tour group, with no further planning on my part than showing up at the pick-up location.

Focus on Your Surroundings

When you step outside of your comfort zone it can feel like all eyes are on you, especially in a new place with unfamiliar rules and customs. However, the truth is that most people won’t notice or won’t care if you are traveling alone. The best way to ease the solo travel jitters is to focus on your surroundings. List off the sights you’re excited to see, take note of local restaurants you want to try, and be open to learning something new every moment of the trip. Occasionally you will look like a tourist, but that’s okay. Be respectful, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy the experience rather than worrying about what everyone else is thinking.

Put Down the Cell Phone

Scrolling social media or texting friends back home is an easy out to look busy and pass the time. As someone who used to struggle to stay present, this was my go-to way to avoid feeling awkward. However, I often ended up missing out on the moment. To break the habit, I keep my data turned off while traveling and reserve it for navigation and emergencies only.

Another way I avoid the temptation to scroll is to bring along a small digital camera—that way the phone can stay in my pocket even when I want to take a photo. I value the few photos I’ve taken this way over the thousands I’ve snapped on my phone. Other alternatives to pass the time include journaling about the trip, writing down plans for the next day, reading a book, or even doing a few mindfulness practices. 

Woman watching sunset in Thailand
Natalia | Adobe Stock

Learn the Art of the Sports Bar

For me, eating alone is a solo travel anxiety that I haven’t fully overcome (that one time that a waiter offered to sit and eat with me still has me cringing a year later). My favorite hack for mealtimes when I want to blend in with the crowd—learn a little bit about a global sports event and head to a sports bar. There are almost always a few other people enjoying the game solo, the communal atmosphere relieves some of the imagined pressure of eating alone, and the game gives you something to focus on without pulling out your phone.

Not a sports fan? Food halls, food courts, bar seating at cafes, and communal tables at restaurants all offer a similar vibe.

Sometimes You’ll Make Friends…and Sometimes You Won’t

If your Instagram feed is anything like mine, its full of content creators hanging out with their hostel roommates, meeting people on the street, and forging seemingly lifelong friendships with people they encounter on their travels. If you want to make friends, hang out in communal areas, ask locals for recommendations, and chat with your tour guides and coffee shop baristas. Be open to conversations, but don’t force interactions if you’re not comfortable.

However, it’s important to remember that social media is only a highlight reel of a larger experience. For every spontaneous road trip or incredible party posted online, there were probably days of quiet dinners and sightseeing alone—and that’s not a bad thing! Solo travel is a chance to get to know yourself; take advantage of the quiet times to learn your unique travel style and explore what’s important to you.

Bring a Piece of Home With You

If you’ve ever felt yourself moving through an airport terminal in a daze (read: everyone who’s ever been in an airport terminal), you know that travel can be a disorienting experience. Without a travel buddy to keep you grounded, the lack of familiarity may begin to weigh on you.

Bring a comforting item, preferably an activity, to help you decompress. Sinking into a well-worn novel or favorite movie gives your brain a reprieve and helps recenter you for tomorrow’s adventures. 

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

It’s difficult to untangle the messy roots of anxiety, especially in new surroundings. The most important question I’ve learned to ask myself when traveling solo is: Am I afraid that I will be unsafe? Or am I afraid that I will feel embarrassed?

If it’s the latter, I try to do it anyway. Most of the time it worked out. But many times I did feel embarrassed (see: the time I tried to order in French at a Parisian cafe only to find out it was a major international chain and not the hole-in-the-wall gem that I thought I had found). By testing the boundaries of my comfort zone, however, I was ultimately able to expand it.

That being said…

Take Safety Seriously

You want your solo trip to be unforgettable for the right reasons. Listen to your gut and take safety seriously. Some important things to keep in mind for solo travelers:

Be judicious with the amount of information you share with strangers—if someone is pressuring you for information about your travels that you don’t feel comfortable sharing, deflect, remove yourself from the conversation, or lie.

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