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I blame the media. I blame society. I blame our country.
Collectively, they’ve succeeded at making the world out to be this terrifying space of rapists, assaulters, and creeps. And I’m not just talking about Donald Trump’s residence.
But outside of that and our country, the idea that the world is something to be terrified of, especially if you venture alone is something I want to try to help debunk, because the reality is the fears we have only exists inside our heads.
Fears are a weird concept, because we let the possibility or potential of danger haunt us, before anything ever happens. Fear is a state of mind, not a physical or tangible thing.
But let’s face it — venturing into the unknown can be scary. So we replace what we don’t know, with fear and dangerous thoughts of isolation, because it’s convenient for our brains. But after over 3 years of on and off solo travel, I’ve had so many experiences that have either debunked or reaffirmed how I think of the world, and I hope what I share helps you guys too.
It’s clear that there’s a common theme of solo travel being this lonely, scary, and dark path of uncertainty, but I’m here to dispel those myths and more.
So alas, here were your fears and here are my rebuttals…
1. A fear of getting really sick/injured, arrested, or kidnapped. -Barbara E.
While there’s nothing worse than getting sick abroad (at least twice a year, I come down with a nasty flu), understand that most countries, even developing ones, work just as good as things where you’re from.
There will be a pharmacy every five minutes in urban cities for over-the-counter medications, and hospitals are just a phone call away. Shout out to Carlo at Matador Network, who compiled a list of emergency numbers around the world that you can bookmark for later reference here.
One thing I would definitely recommend is having a local contact in every country you visit before you arrive. One of the largest travel groups on Facebook is called Girls Love Travel (over 110,000 women around the globe who love to travel). It grows by the hundreds daily!
Sorry, fellas, but this is a community of ladies only who are passionate about seeing the world and connecting with each other in the process. Once you request to join and get approved, do a quick search of the city in the top right corner of where you’re wanting to visit, and see how many results are yielded (LOTS).
The best part of that group is how often I see, “I’m from here, message me if you have any questions!” or even, “I live in this city, and if you need a local guide, I can show you around!”
So many selfless and amazing ladies that we can connect to in an instance! I’ve been able to meet up with dozens of these women in real life from the group, and it’s been a blast! Not to mention the feed is regularly flooded with drool-worthy photos that will have you adding to your bucket list by the minute.
There’s also sites like Meetup.com and Couchsurfing.com that serve as another way to make contacts. In Meetup, just type in the city you’re arriving to and see what events are going on there the dates you arrive. Private message a couple people who will be at those events and ask them any questions you may have to calm your anxiety. Or even see about meeting up before the event and then arriving together.
Same with Couchsurfing. While most people know it as an accommodation site, there’s also an events tab and a hangouts tab where you can schedule to connect with locals or fellow solo travelers. It’s like Tinder, only not as repulsive *slash* everything wrong with the dating culture of today.
In terms of getting kidnapped, as long as you stay in public and crowded areas, you will be completely fine. To be honest, kidnapping is only an issue I’ve seen prevalent in the US and as much as we like to think we are precious little snowflakes, locals don’t care about us enough to try and take us. They want our money, not our bodies, lol.
Those fictional movies for entertainment are exactly that — entertainment.
Understand that these movie plots are made to play on your fears and sensationalize reality to build suspense.
The only times I feel the need to exercise caution is at night if I’m walking down a street alone and I feel/hear someone walking a few steps behind me. I’ll stop to pretend to take a phone call — and be extremely loud and let my fake friend know that I’m just a few feet away from their house. In the case the person behind me had ill intentions, they know I’m a few feet away from a friend, and it might be just enough to take the target off my back.
Again, the target is an imaginary one we make up. People are friendly — 99% of the time.
I’ve also stopped and pretended to take a photo — actually I do take the photo, but that allows the person to walk ahead of me, and I feel much more comfortable that way.
2. A fear of being outed and experiencing “corrective rape” in an anti LGBT country. -Meg C.
This is the unfortunate reality of the world and one that I can’t speak from firsthand, but I’ve definitely been to places where locals have expressed that the culture is very anti-LGBT.
While I’m not going to try to equate it to some of the maltreatment I’ve had as an African-American in predominately white countries, I stress again the importance of making a local contact beforehand.
There are so many cities around the world that have gay districts or gay-friendly neighborhoods and bars that are a google search away.
While you can’t control the hatred others spew your way, do not allow someone else’s homophobia to be the reason your experience is tainted.
Members of the LGBT community exist in every corner of the world, and while some countries are more accepting than others, you’re there to enjoy yourself, not to please them.
3. A fear of not finding “whatever” it is that I’m secretly searching for by traveling. Whatever fulfillment or enlightenment I’m hoping to find. -Gabby B.
This is SO important. I can’t stress enough that travel will not solve your problems. In fact, it’ll do worse — it’ll expose them.
Travel changes your scenery — not your circumstances.
If you have depression, anger issues, or debt, being in Paris won’t change that. I think we tend to glamorize all aspects of travel and we also feel like if we don’t come out as better people, then we’ll have wasted our money and time.
Travel is an organic journey. Don’t force the growth. It’ll happen as a byproduct of your experiences, which come from you taking risks.
As long as you jump, you’ll find your wings, and you’ll learn how to fly on the way down. While we can never see a lesson in the moment, hindsight’s vision is 20/20.
4. A fear of being in a country that I don’t know the language and getting lost. Like getting in a taxi or whatever from the airport and ending up who knows where and owing way too much money because the jerk driver just wanted to take advantage of a foreigner. -Michelle R.
This is a valid fear, and I can’t stress this enough, that before you leave the house or get in any taxi car, use your GPS to map out the route ahead of time, while you have wifi. And even when you leave wifi, the map and satellite will still trace your movements and the route will save offline.
You’ll know approximately how fast you should get there and if he starts making any random turns outside of what your GPS shows you (which is the fastest route) CALL HIM OUT RIGHT THEN AND THERE!
I’ve taken hundreds of taxis around the world and I can count on one hand the few times where I had to shove my phone in his face and say, “NO!” or some variation of “THIS IS THE ROUTE, WHY ARE WE SO FAR AWAY FROM THE BLUE LINE!” Lol, Google Maps for the win.
When traveling solo in less developed countries that don’t have meters in their taxi cars, you NEED to state your price first. If you have no idea what to pay, ask what they charge, and then offer 50% lower than that, and usually you guys will settle somewhere in between.
Yes, taxi drivers are some of the most manipulative people around the world, preying on tourists and tripling their prices for them because, quite frankly, they can.
But be savvy. And don’t be afraid to ask a couple taxis their prices before you decide on one.
After landing in Serbia last month, I took a bus into central and then needed a taxi to get to my AirBnb. And once I stepped off that bus, I was bum-rushed from all angles. I didn’t know ahead of time what a 10-minute taxi would cost, so I let a couple shout their prices, and when I offered half of what they asked, they scoffed at me. So I walked away without hesitation and not five seconds later, one short man emerges from the crowd and says he can do it for the price I stated.
That, my friends, is how you do it.
Understand that in the world of barter, there will always be someone who will accept your price. And you keep it moving until you find that person.
5. My biggest anxiety when solo traveling last year was actually from tech issues keeping me from contacting my family while on the move. I knew I was ok, but knowing my parents didn’t know was a major source of stress. -Amber B.
I praise apps like WhatsApp daily, because it’s a global platform that people around the world use to text and call each other free over wifi.
Every night and flight, I drop a message in my Family Chat Whatsapp group to let my family know where I am (because this always changes), or that I’ve arrived safely in a new location. Instant connectivity.
I also have a T-mobile phone plan which has been a life-saver because I have 6GB of data every month (which I never use all of and rolls over into my data stash — currently at 40GB), and it’s worked in 99% of the countries I’ve been to.
As soon as I land and switch off flight mode, I get a text from T-mobile welcoming me to the new country, informing me of the data speeds, and the rate for calls per minute.
And calls over wifi are free with T-mobile, as well as unlimited texting. But the global data is what saves me. It allows me to always have access to my GPS and let’s face it, also the Internet, when I need to look things up. I have the Simple Plan if you’re curious, and it’s only $65/month!
6. I have a certain “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) about travel. I don’t want to find out on the plane home that I missed the best cafe or hidden gem or a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I try and do research beforehand and have places/events earmarked during my adventure, and usually that works out just fine, but it’s a weird anxiety. -Sam M.
Another great point! The beauty about this world and how we travel, is that there’s no right or wrong way to see the world. Don’t let travel elitists try and shame you by saying you “haven’t really seen Paris if you don’t do x, y, and z” because that’s bullsh*t. What if you don’t like those letters to begin with? 😛
At the end of the day, if every person’s experiences were identical, doesn’t that sort out of take out the magic and mystique that travel should come with?
Let your days unfold organically, and those once-in-a-lifetime experiences will usually happen when you least expect it.
And if you want to be extra sure you don’t miss anything, a quick Google search of “must-see places in Budapest” will yield enough results to where you can get an idea of things that are actually worth seeing.
There’s also a lot of overhyped places out there, so don’t feel like you’ve missed out because you didn’t order coffee at a cafe that Adele did, which is the reason it’s famous to begin with, lol.
7. My main fear is having to do everything on my own and not having anyone to turn to if I need help. Navigating the city and public transport or not being taken advantage of because I don’t speak the language. -Brittany W.
I can’t stress enough how privileged we are to have English be a universal language and often the second, third, or fourth language people around the world are “forced” to learn whether in school, or as part of their industry.
When it comes to the world of tourism, you’ll come to find that the only other translated words for signs around the world, is in English.
I have my Google translate app on my phone which is handy for quick words here and there, but for the most part, people in their 30’s and under will especially know English, and you’ll be surprised to know that many have learned just from watching movies alone!
People who live in tourist towns can spot a worried foreigner, and all it takes is a gentle “Excuse me” (and please try to say it in their language, as that might help the cause), and then ask for the help you need in English, and more than likely, they’ll know the answer or at least point you to someone who will.
There are police officers, security guards, and locals everywhere who get asked, “how do I get to the airport?” a million times I’m sure, and they’ve helped people in the past, and they’ll continue to help people in the future.
8. A fear of a lack of consistent community and health struggles. I traveled mostly in countries without clean water to drink and so dealt with the natural repercussions of that. Also, I could make friends anywhere, but after awhile I missed consistent friendships that had depth. Better yet a sense of community. I would turn to social media to talk with friends, but it’s not the same. I worried the more I traveled the weaker my friendships back home would become and my mental health would take a dive. -Holly J.
Holly brought up two really good points that I think are hard to prepare for beforehand. So the lack of consistent community is indeed a tough one. How can you really develop or nourish a friendship or relationship, if you’re always leaving them!
Though social media and facetime has been a lifesaver for us, it doesn’t quite compare to the face-to-face interaction we crave.
The first thing I had to learn was to get really, really comfortable with my own company. It sounds weird, but until you love and cherish your own company, you won’t understand how valuable the company of others is.
Even as a solo travel blogger, there’s an online community of other solo travel bloggers, and we’re in Facebook groups and often check in with each other. Of course, it doesn’t beat hanging out in person, but it helps!
And nourishing friendships from afar, should be a two-way street. As travelers, we feel guilt that our friends aren’t with us, and that we’re the ones damaging the friendship, when in reality, they should be just as excited about your trip as you are!
If they’re you’re true friends, they’ll be the first ones to comment and like your social media photos, because they know how big of a leap you took to be doing this, and subconsciously, your journey is inspiring them too.
I wrote a cheeky post a while back about how to travel and not make your friends jealous, and I recommend you take a peep after this article to understand the impossible feat and irony of that.
And if you find yourself really struggling with the lack of community, why not try and plan to meet up with a friend in another country? My friend for this is Greg. Canadian goofball, giant, and giver of the best hugs. I met him in London in 2014, and he’s one of the most hilarious and warm people to be around, especially when I feel a lack of community where I am.
He understands my life and he gets my sense of humor. His company is invaluable to me, so we always tried to plan to meet up every 6 months or so. Between the two of us, we’ve been to over 60 countries combined, and we’ve reunited in 4 of them. Hoping to reunite in number 5 before the end of this year!
Secondly, your mental health is also something I can’t stress enough in terms of treating it before its long term effects spill over into other areas of your life.
Depression is something I battled on and off and it doesn’t matter how coveted your life may be, it’s not something to take lightly or ignore.
This other blog has some great tips about ways to overcome depression abroad, but it’s so essential that you address it and not suppress it, because it could be extremely dangerous in the long run.
9. A fear of losing my freedom and ability to travel. I’m living that fear out every day here on this deployment. I guess they say it’s best to face your fears… -Oriana R.
Oriana’s case is special, because I know this adventurous soul is a bird wanting nothing more than to spread her wings, but her stationary deployment makes her feel a bit trapped.
She’s able to see the world via her deployment, but not quite how she’d like. First off, thank you so much for serving and dedicating your time and efforts to our country, and I hope you find the best solution possible to travel on your own means for when your deployment is up. You and Travis 🙂
The world will always be here for us when we’re ready to explore it!
10. My biggest fears revolve around getting kidnapped, raped, or attacked in someway because I’m a solo female traveler. Next is probably getting robbed and maybe loneliness.
This is a common fear amongst women, and people would be surprised to learn that one of the biggest demographics of international travelers is NOT men. It’s women. Bold, brave, and beautiful souls defying stereotypes and seeing the world the way they want.
You have to keep your wits about you. This isn’t something you teach, but your intuition over time develops and your gut will never lead you astray.
As long as you stay in public spaces, avoid dodgy streets/neighborhoods, and just walk with confidence as if to challenge someone to even think about trying to grab you, because the wrath that cometh, dear Jesus, they have no idea.
In terms of loneliness, the irony of solo travel, is that you’re never really alone. Friendly souls everywhere are a conversation away from inviting you to join their table/group or adding you to their plans.
You have to meet people halfway though. Talk to strangers (remember everything we learned growing up, yeah screw all of it). Talk to people you don’t know! Ahhh, the horror! WRONG. They are PEOPLE. A PERSON. Just like you.
They happened to grow up halfway across the world than where you did and how cool is that? Talk about your cultures, funny stereotypes, or things you love about their city or country. Find common ground and the rest will come naturally.
11. My biggest fear when traveling is that I will offend someone or hurt their feelings in my ignorance. It actually becomes a bit of a problem because it makes me overly cautious. I’m naturally quite shy anyway and this magnifies that problem. -Diane D.
Such a great concern, Diane. Because with mainstream media brainwashing us daily, it can be a challenge to navigate facts and outright sensationalist news.
Have a quick browse through this article that goes over some generally “rude” things tourists do in foreign countries.
We don’t live in these countries and it can be hard to do things exactly like how they do it, but I’ve never been met with rudeness because of my ignorance in that department.
I think tipping is always the biggest issue, because in some countries it’s suggested and in others (France, Japan, etc) it’s considered offensive or unnecessary.
A quick Google search of “do they tip in __________” takes five seconds and will let you know whether it’s customary to tip in that country, and knowing that much will put you somewhat at ease.
As a rule of thumb, it never hurts to ask a local or passerbyer. Just the fact that you’re concerned about offending them shows a great deal of empathy, which I think is one of the best qualities to have in a person.
But don’t spend your entire time walking on eggshells, because you won’t be perfect, and sometimes those imperfect moments are what make our travels memorable in hindsight.
12. I’m aging. My fears are that I’m not as tough and strong as I used to be. I fear I look more vulnerable, more of a mark. Sometimes I need help with my bags. This is really unpleasant for me but I’ve had to suck it up… I fear something happening that puts me out and not able to tell about my insurance or how to reach family. -Sherryl L.
Bless you, Sherryl. Because sometimes I see other adults who look like they have a target on their back because they’ve just went to an ATM, and they’re counting their money in the sky to look at the bills, and then casually stuff it in their back pocket in a busy street, and I know they got the attention of at least five people who may try and rob them.
Again I stress the importance of trying to make a local contact beforehand, going to well-known areas where there is sure to be security or other tourists to help, or only traveling to developed countries.
It’s no secret that the infrastructure is lacking in countries like Vietnam or Albania, so for your first solo trips, I’d recommend somewhere like Scotland, Switzerland, or Austria — countries that are developed, very tourist-friendly, and will have information booths everywhere to assist you.
So try and build your confidence in those developed countries first, before venturing to other places.
13. I would say my overall fear is being taken advantage of due to the language barriers. Additional charges, misdirected, etc. -Jenna B.
This is valid and unfortunate, because tourists do tend to look like dollar signs to the average taxi driver or bartender who knows he can get away with charging double, because no one will question it.
When it comes to buying things off the street, never pay the price they tell you straight away. The first price will always be inflated by at least 30%, so negotiate it down to a price you feel comfortable with.
But sometimes, the negotiating isn’t even worth it. You’ll be arguing in their local currency and then realize you spent two minutes trying to get it down 50 cents more after doing the dollar conversions, haha (#guilty).
If you’re unsure of a price you’re being told, ask around and see what other people are charging, and when in doubt, just straight up say to the person who’s selling it to you, “NO TOURIST PRICE!” Lol
He’ll know that you know what’s up, and he’ll laugh and probably give you a better deal, because game recognize game.
In terms of language barriers, I mentioned it above, but we’re so lucky to come from a country with English as our native language. The world caters to English as one of the universal languages, and I have never been to a country where at least a few people didn’t know basic English words.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to meet them halfway. At minimum, I never step foot in a country without knowing how to say, “HI” “PLEASE” “THANK YOU” “YES/NO” and “BEER” haha.
A little charades here and there in between helps keep things exciting too 😉
14. Having to leave a place before I’m ready because the money is running out and not being able to find work to stay. -Felicia T.
First off, BYE FELICIA! Sorry, had to. What fun your name must be these days, haha. But this one is tough. When you’re on a budget, it’s hard to do and see everything you want to. But the beauty in that, is that the city or country will always be there.
And if you do everything you want to the first time around, you leave nothing left for you to do when you return!
I always say, my second visit to a country is 10x better than my first. Because I’m usually much better equipped, I’ll have less anxiety, and I’ll even be able to remember people and places I saw last time.
So in terms of finding work to stay. You see, money is fleeting, and we as a society place way too much value on it. There’s always money to be made and always money to be paid.
I highly recommend a site called WorkAway which is a global network of volunteer programs that help you cut costs and stay in countries a bit longer if you’re running low on cash.
I’ve bartended, worked reception at hostels, and taught English in exchange for some side cash and a free room a few times here and there in the last 3 years.
Sometimes you just fall in love with a place and you want to find a way to stay a bit longer. WorkAway has all kinds of opportunities from volunteering at alpaca farms, waitressing at restaurants, feeding ponies, or helping at boarding schools.
These aren’t “glamorous” jobs, but the ability to stay on the road and save money is priceless.
15. My fear is general safety as a solo female. -Kristy D.
As I addressed above, keep your wits about you, frequent populated areas, and if wearing a purse, never wear it just along your shoulder. Always try and cross it around your body and keep a hand over the zipper as you walk.
I was once in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam walking on the sidewalk and a motorcyclist tried to sling my purse off my shoulder (very common in Vietnam, not everywhere), and because I had that extra grip/hand over my zipper, I was able to yank it right back towards me.
It does happen, but try and only use purses that can cross your body, so that whether your hands are on it or not, it never gets yanked out of your possession.
I recommend this little number from Amazon (it’s even called the Anti-Theft bag)…
16. My vulnerability is my parents’ health not being too hot. I feel guilty if something happened to them while I am abroad, and not getting to them in time. Also with my anxiety, it’s very hard to think positive and have to consistently remind myself of my blessings and surround myself with people who are uplifting. Travel is cathartic and my way of being at peace. -Caren M.
This is HUGE. I don’t think there’s any worse thing than being abroad and hearing about your parents falling ill, or worse. It’s really something you should try not to burden yourself with, because I’m a firm believer in life happening with or without you being ready for it.
The journey of life is filled with highs and lows that keep us grounded at our mediums.
You will get sick. Loved ones will get sick. And you will have to choose in the moment whether it’s necessary to cut your trip short or not.
At the end of the day, these countries will always be there. Our parents won’t.
It’s your prerogative to prioritize your life accordingly, but never feel like you should have to choose if it’s only the lingering fear of something happening and not the actual reality.
The worst part about fear is that it’s all mental. It’s all worries over the potential of things happening, and not things that have actually happened.
If we let fear run and control our lives, we’d never leave our house again.
You’ll meet uplifting souls everywhere you go, because that type of energy has no ethnicity, it’s a global trait — and I hope they give you the inner peace you need to enjoy your travels away from loved ones.
17. In my first two months in Europe, I tired myself out trying to see and do everything which quickly caught up with me. It was when I realized that part of the beauty of traveling solo or long term travel was that I could do whatever I wanted to. As soon as I realized that, I began to embrace my journey. -Anna F.
I loved Anna’s commentary, which was more of a revelation, because before she met her current partner on the road, she used to try and do everything by the book, and that just gets tiring!
Sometimes we feel like we have to go to a city and complete this faux checklist of curated clichés, otherwise we didn’t really experience the place.
I’ve long gotten away from that type of thinking because it’s mentally and physically exhausting, and exactly as Anna says — the beauty of traveling solo or long term was that I could do whatever I wanted to.
And you shouldn’t want your experience to be identical to everyone else’s, because where’s the magic in that?
18. My fear is if I got into trouble somewhere that no one would know where to find me. -Bean S.
I used to worry about this too! I always try to have at least one friend regularly updated on my whereabouts (hey, Phil!) before I post on social media. My family also always knows the last country I was in via our group texts.
If you’re staying at a hotel or AirBnb, they will always ask for a copy of your passport, and in the event something were to happen, the US embassy would be contacted and they’d use their
spying sources to track your contact information of a relative.
I also have an emergency contact for each continent I’ve been to, just in case someone needed to reach them immediately. It’s in a folded sheet of paper in my passport, and in the event my passport was ever lost or it was the only thing they had, they’d at least be able to have the contact information of my mother as well as a person living on that continent.
19. My fear is making poor choices for my reservations. I haven’t traveled at all in several years and never on my own. I leave in 2 days and I’m living in a state of permanent panic.” -Chris M.
Chris! Thanks so much for your transparency and I assure you you’re going to be okay! I always use sites like TripAdvisor as they’re the world’s leading customer review network.
You can check the reviews of accommodations, tours, activities, restaurants, and more! Understand that you won’t be the first person to travel where you’re going. Millions of people have been to the very places you’ll soon be, and I bet they had an amazing time!
Trust your gut and instincts to see the world as a beautiful opportunity to learn about other cultures, as well as yourself as you navigate them.
20. My fear is my children following. -Tanya C.
Valid fear — run fast! They won’t keep up long 😉
21. My fear is running out of money or feeling so uncomfortable that I want to go home. I have this belief that I rather not try at all than to go and fail. I have to get over it eventually. -Teaonca H.
You definitely have to change your thinking, because I always told myself (when I left the US with only $500 to my name) that I would either have success or have a hell of a story.
There is simply NO LOSING when there’s evidence that you’ve tried! Shameless plug here, but in my e-book, I talked all about ways I’ve turned my excuses into excursions to get me to live out my potential and conquer my fears.
Running out of money is a common fear, and most people have their parents to fall back on — not me, lol, my mom would be “I TOLD YOU SO’ing” so hard, because she didn’t understand why I traveled at first.
But sh*t happens and times get hard. Hopefully before hand, you have at least one friend who can bail you out (hopefully not literally) if you ever ran short on cash.
This isn’t a long-term solution, and you should dig a hole of debt with friends just to be able to travel — that’s extremely selfish. But if you’re finding ways to prolong your stay and get temporary work, then a small loan goes a long way.
22. My biggest fear is that I won’t let myself explore enough because I’ll be too nervous in uncharted territory. -Rosie C.
I think the initial nerves of solo travel should be embraced! That anxiety only exists because you know there’s a handful of adventure on the other side!
The beauty of solo travel is that you’re able to dictate how crazy or laid back your days are. There’s no one to check in with. No one to ask what type of food they prefer. No one to babysit when they drink too much — it’s amazing!
After your first perfect solo trip, you’ll almost never want to travel in groups again, lol. JK, unless it’s Busabout of course 😉
23. My fear is if I would be game to check something out or try something if I’m by myself. I tend to take risks only when I’m with someone. -Biang B.
That’s all a part of the journey! Trust me, no one goes into solo travel completely confident and ready to take on the world from the get-go.
The journey and growth of self-confidence through having to conquer those fears on your own, is what makes everything so rewarding.
You’ll learn to love eating by yourself, taking walks by yourself, going to museums by yourself, and jumping off that cliff by yourself. YOLO! Do the kids still say that these days? Meep.
Sure, it’d be a sweet memory to share with someone, but that’s what photos and social media are for. People will be cheering you on from back home, applauding your bravery and melting with jealousy, ha.
24. My fear of traveling alone as a black woman paralyzes all my dreams. -Sandra P.
Oh, sis. I feel you SO hard on this. Being black in predominantly white countries is intimidating as hell. Heck, there are some people who’ve still never seen black people up close before, and having to go through that regularly isn’t something you really prepare for!
But I wrote pieces like THIS and THIS to encourage more black people (women especially) to understand that more often than not, our skin color is welcomed and appreciated in so many countries, there’s even songs about it.
You’ll come to learn you’ll often get preferential treatment, and the only issue you’ll have is feeling like you’re breaking hearts with the amount of dates you have to turn down from men wanting to sweep you off your feet. More on this in another post, lol.
25. The fear of being in a country or place where I cannot come across one of my own (black people). Walked into an Asian restaurant this one time and it was packed with Asians, so I walked out instantly. Been saying I’ll go back, but… -Koketso T.
Okay, so this made me chuckle because if you walk into an Asian restaurant, who do you expect to see? Jamaicans? Lol
I know it’s hard being the only black person EVERYWHERE you go, but it’ll be your reality more often than not.
That’s why it makes the black nod* so important.
*The black nod is a look of approval, salutation, and well wishes every time you see a fellow black person anywhere in the world. You won’t know them. And they won’t know you. But you share a skin color which means you’ll have shared some level of the same type of struggles and discrimination growing up, and they’ll know what’s up. So you give them a quick nod of salute, and they will ALWAYS reciprocate. It’s called black code.
So while you’re waiting to give out those black nods, embrace the difference and you’ll come to find out that there’s an inner celebrity in you waiting to be unleashed.
If you’re the only black person in the city you’re in, you’ll get a lot of stares, but you’ll also get a lot of people asking for selfies.
They’re admiring your differences and though it feels ostracizing, it will make for funny stories when you go back home. Because that doesn’t happen in America. In fact, it’s the opposite. So let’s take what we can get, lol.
25. My biggest fear would be missing out on things/opportunities. Sometimes you discover amazing places or people or food because someone pushed you to. I feel like I need another person to take me out of my comfort zone. -Melissa L.
Just like I mentioned above, this is all a part of your growth! Learn how to take those leaps and explore things on your own. Life doesn’t always give you a piggy back ride when you want one.
So use it as an opportunity to trust your intuition and it’s also a great conversation starter. Asking a local what their favorite restaurant is, has often turned into dinner or party invites.
Take that step and let life do the rest.
26. I think for me, once all the buzz of discovering new places, trying new foods, and meeting new people settles down and it’s only me, myself, and I in the middle of the night, how do I deal with the feelings of being alone. -Rayven M.
Hey Rayven! Great question, and I think this is something that again society has played a part in — making us feel like being alone is a bad thing.
The more time I spent alone, the more I craved it! I almost became a recluse because I learned and saw the beauty of being at peace and enjoying my own company.
And as you say, once all the buzz of discovering all the exciting new people, places, and food dies down, you need to spend some time alone processing it all!
A lot of times when we travel with friends, we’re so involved with our gossip and conversations, that we miss out on those random observations and small talk with locals that could lead to more interesting experiences.
Being alone, you’re forced to seek out adventure. And there’s a beauty in that kind of power.
27. My fear when traveling alone is going out at night and taking public transportation/walking alone at night. -Christine P.
I think this is a common fear of women everywhere, and it’s no secret that we’re more targeted than men when we’re by ourselves.
But again, I can’t stress enough faking the confidence.
Walk boldly. Look like you know where you’re going. Fake a phone call just so people nearby know that you might have someone meeting you soon. Take the paths that look cleaner and safer. Avoid dimly-lit streets. Follow the crowd.
A couple times I took a bus through a sketchy neighborhood by myself (in London of all places) and I asked if a nearby couple (who were getting their mooch on) would let me walk with them until I needed to make my turn, since we were getting off at the same stop.
The sweet couple decided to walk me home instead! They could’ve spent that extra time practicing their reproductive skills, but they saw my vulnerability, and acted on it. I promise you these kind of people exist everywhere! Don’t be afraid to ask!
28. I’m 19 and I moved to France alone. Although it has been the best experience of my life, sometimes I look at a painting or a building or a cobblestone street and I wish I was sharing this all with someone, be it my best friend, my grandma, or my (imaginary) boyfriend… Telling your friends back home about your favorite beach in Nice isn’t the same as them actually being there beside you taking it all in at the same time. -Symone
Symone’s comment probably resonated with me the hardest! First of all, what a brave and beautiful soul you are! I love so much of what you shared and I have to come clean about a something I’ve only talked about in person with close friends.
I had a complimentary stay at the most luxurious resort I’ve ever been to, The Panviman Resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and not only did I have my own private bungalow, but I had a patio and outdoor jacuzzi in the middle of a jungle.
It was truly something out of a dream!
I jumped into my king size bed, amazed at the decor, admiring the interior, and staring at all the space I had to myself.
And then it hit me — all to myself, but all by myself.
DAMN, I’M SINGLE AF!
How romantic would this have been to share with a special someone? This is way too much to enjoy on my own! Why am I still single? What have I done wrong? Why doesn’t anybody love me? (yes, I’m a woman and this is sometimes how our brain works).
I began this slippery slope fallacy of ways I felt incompetent or unworthy of such luxury by myself. And I eventually cried myself to sleep that night, overwhelmed with the mix of joy and loneliness in such an immaculate setting. It was so random.
Nothing like that has happened since, but it really was the result of suppressed emotions over time. While I’m incredibly happy being single now and continue to make bed angels in every king size bed I get, I look at it as me pre-screening destinations in advance that would make for a good couple’s getaway for when that time comes.
So yes, Symone, I feel you x10. But often times our solo travels encourage our friends to take trips too, and you never know if that could lead to your next joint vacation together!
29. Honestly, carrying my bag all by myself. Escalators that work are so rare for train travel. -Jackie S.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, GIRLFRIEND.
If you guys are traveling with a suitcase, it shouldn’t be anything with less than 4 wheels. Those things are lifesavers. Let’s you just drag your suitcase right along the ground.
Every now and then I’ll wait for a handsome local to pass by as I look helpless in my struggle, and then he’ll lend a hand. Haha. Sometimes, being a woman can be fun 😉
30. My fear is loneliness. I’ve travelled alone and while I’ve met some amazing people, I’ve also gone days without really connecting with anyone other than casual chats here and there. -R. Mullin
I can definitely relate to this. I’m in a new city and country by myself. I’ve made no plans. I leave the house. And then… awkward.
Who do I talk to? Where should I go? What should I do?
I feel my anxiety kick in and I stress about having wasted a day because I didn’t have any memorable moment in those 24 hours.
But that’s all part of travel. There will be incredible days. And there will be some lonely ones filled with uncertainty.
I try to seek out places and areas where other solo travelers might be and then I approach them and boom, now we both have a new friend.
I also like to play a game where I sit on a busy corner by myself with a coffee (read: beer), and try and guess the stories and situations of all the people passing by. I give them names and funny characteristics, and it helps pass time.
I also use it to observe the ways people act so I can try and blend in better.
Whew! What great questions and I hope after reading this, you feel much more confident or at least reassured that your fears are shared across the board. At the end of the day, there’s no better way to overcome the fear of solo travel, then to just do it!
In terms of great first-time solo travel destinations, these are some of my favorites:
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Galway, Ireland
- Berlin, Germany
- Barcelona, Spain
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Krakow, Poland
- Mykonos, Greece
- Nicosia, Cyprus
- Florence, Italy
- Lisbon, Portugal
Happy solo traveling you amazing and brave human beings! If you’re still needing just a bit more validation, take it from solo travel experts like The Blonde Abroad, Adventurous Kate, and Lee Abbamonte who are all solo travel mavens!
Be sure to share this on your Facebook! You never know which friend has been anxious to travel solo — this might be the exact inspiration they needed!