Pursuing Your Dreams: How To Get Over The Fear Of Long-Distance Solo Travel
Close your eyes. Imagine yourself standing somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: a bustling street in Thailand, a quiet town in the South of France, a busy intersection in New York. Imagine the smells and sounds enveloping you right there. Imagine how you’re feeling at that moment, taking it all in. Now imagine you are standing there alone.
For me, this is the moment where my fears and some of my anxiety kick in. Alone? No way.
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Why are we afraid?
When you think about it, when do we ever travel alone? We go on family holidays as kids, we go on field trips with our schools; we don’t ever really go anywhere alone unless we’re just that type of person, outgoing and adventurous. Most of us don’t even go to the movies alone, let alone half-way across the world to a country where most people don’t speak our language. A fear of solo travel is quite common. And it’s perfectly all right to be afraid. Of anything for that matter, not just travel. However, fear is no reason to give up on your dreams. One could even ask “are we ever really brave in the absence of fear”?
Facing our fears makes us grow and become better versions of ourselves, better human beings. And growth is often unpleasant, but without it, we wouldn’t get too far, would we?
How to get over your fears
As with any other fear or unpleasant knot of feelings, there are certain things you can do to ease yourself into it, and make the experience more pleasant:
Have a plan
Knowing where you are going, how you are getting there, and what you are doing while there will help a lot. Research your destination well in advance, and arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. Knowing what to expect will eliminate a lot of the anxiety, as what we most often fear is venturing into the unknown.
You can also make sure to choose destinations that are particularly safe and geared towards solo female travelers, and work your way up from there.
Know what the risks are
Before you start planning your trip, ask yourself: What do I fear?
If you’re afraid you will get very sick while traveling, figure out a contingency plan: where are you going to see a doctor, what does your travel insurance cover, what kind of medication can you take with you? If you’re afraid you will get lost, make sure you have a real map on you at all times. Even bring backups if you need to, and find as many apps as you need to keep you safe. Learn the basics of the local language, but don’t worry too much – you’ll most often find a way to communicate with others, even if you don’t speak the same language.
Remember that the riskiest things you can do are walk around alone at night in areas that are not deemed safe, drink too much alcohol, and generally, place yourself in situations you know very well might not be quite safe. And that’s something you can control! By exercising some basic precautions, you can always stay on the safe side.
Take care of your belongings
One of the most common fears we experience when traveling is the fear of getting mugged or robbed. And that’s perfectly understandable – no one wants to get their passport, money, and other valuables stolen. What you can do to reduce this risk is to only stay at reputable hotels or hostels, lock your things up when you’re not in the room, disperse your cash between several hiding places, and definitely don’t take all of it with you.
Take comfort in the virtual
Being alone in a strange country can often bring about a feeling you may not have been expecting, wrapped up in the fear: loneliness. Luckily, you can finally use all those social networks for some good.
Stay in touch with friends and family, and always let them know where you’re going, and who you’re with. It might sound silly, reporting on your movements to someone, but it will make you feel a lot safer. Someone knows where you are, and they’re waiting to hear from you. If you fail to call them back, they will raise an alarm, and you won’t ever really be alone.
Just do it
Finally, the best piece of advice I can give you is: dive right in.
I know it’s scary, I know that just the thought of boarding a plane alone can get your palms sweating. However, the thing about dreams is that you need to pursue them, otherwise they’ll never come true. And the dreams that make us just a little bit afraid might be the ones we need to chase after the most. They say the best things in life are hard – while that may or may not be true, getting over a fear will bring you a new lease and perspective on life. Do your future self a favor, and book that trip today. Even if it’s to a neighboring town.
Like Agatha Christie once said, you never get to know yourself better than when you are alone on a train in the middle of the night, traveling to a new country. Embrace the fear, and the person you really are.
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