“Aren’t you scared to travel alone?”
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this question over the past few years. I’ve been traveling alone for a while now and, truth is, fear has always been there. But with every trip, I choose to move past it.
Fear isn’t only a physical reaction to danger. It’s also a variety of thoughts that permeate our heads when we’re about to take an unfamiliar action. Reasons vary when it comes to why people don’t travel, but one of them is definitely fear—the unfamiliarity of being alone in a new country.
I often hear people say that they want to travel, but no one wants to join them so they drop their plans. While I understand their concerns, I’m convinced that with willingness and courage they can overcome them, the same way I did.
Here are five fears that keep us from having a solo adventure, and how to let go of them:
Boredom. We usually associate the word “alone” with “boring.” And if we are traveling alone, won’t we eventually get bored? Through travel, I’ve realized that the only companion in the world who never allows us to get bored is ourselves. If you really put your mind to it, you can never truly run out of things to do. I’ve only been in the country of Georgia for a few days, but I can’t even begin to list all the things I’ve done and people I’ve met.
Read a book, write in your journal, go sightseeing, meet other travelers, take a course, or explore nature. And when you find yourself alone, know that this is your chance to reflect and sit with yourself. Spending time alone while traveling is different than spending time alone in our own country—our comfort zone. If you believe you might get bored, you will. But if you perceive aloneness as an adventure and a necessary part of our growth, it will never get boring.
Loneliness. Most of us already feel lonely when we’re surrounded by family and friends in our own country. How would we feel in a faraway land, away from everyone and everything we know? Well, we’d feel awesome, only if we choose not to perceive this feeling as loneliness. Physically, you might be alone, yes. But, how do you see it mentally? Yesterday, as I sat alone on top of a hill in the Mtskheta mountains, I looked around me and realized I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, the good news is if you are a social creature, you will meet plenty of other people with whom you’ll make precious memories. And whenever you feel alone, switch mentally from “victim mode” to “healing mode.” Take this alone time as your chance to get to know yourself better, to become your own motivation, and to see the world authentically without other people’s opinions.
Safety. I understand how this one can be discouraging. When I first started to travel alone, safety concerns stopped me from doing simple things, like taking a cab, hiking, or walking alone in a remote area. With time, I’ve learned how to work with my intuition and logic. With the combination of both, and a bit of awareness, I’ve been able to stay safe.
Before doing anything now, I think about it logically. Is it safe or not? For instance, when I traveled alone in India, I never hitchhiked at night. It didn’t seem safe to me. Then I ask myself, how does it make me feel? If I don’t feel good about what I’m going to do, I don’t do it. When you travel alone, you automatically become more responsible. Since no one else is responsible for your own safety, you take on that role without even realizing it.
Lack of confidence. Traveling alone is not easy. You’re basically doing everything on your own: making your own choices, managing your own time, safety, and well-being, and learning to overcome fear and negativity. We may feel at times like we can’t do it all, but we can—as Frida Kahlo said, “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
Frida was right. This is precisely what I have experienced in my travels. I’ve realized that I’m much stronger than what I think when I’m lying in my bed at home. Once you’re at the airport taking the first step toward your journey, you will feel that there is strength and courage lurking within you. Unleash them!
Other people. “What will people think if they see I’m traveling alone?” This could be a tough one since we are always trying to live up to other people’s expectations. However, what people think we should be doing is often very different from what our experience is presenting us. Focus on what you want and need when you’re alone out there, rather than worrying about everyone else’s opinions.
This is your experience, not theirs. What they think about you is their own perception. The moment we focus on creating our own reality, the perceptions of others will matter less and less.
And finally, here’s a quote from Robyn Davidson that has always motivated me on my travels:
“The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision.”
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman