“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”
This statement is, to me, an absolute truth.
The feeling of confidence gained on trips now is not as dramatic as it was in my early years of solo travel. But still, with every trip, I feel a surge of the confidence that had waned a little while I was at home.
For some, solo travel confidence comes naturally. Others require some direct action to build it. One reader wrote to me saying…
“… while allowing room for spontaneity, I've researched countless blogs, spoken with friends and friends of friends, tidied up loose ends at work and home. I've been ecstatic and energized and caught up in the whole process. I've dotted my i's and crossed my t's. I leave for Thailand in a week and all of a sudden I'm terrified. I'm that shadow of my young self, lacking in confidence and self-esteem, full of doubt …”
I've received a number of emails by solo travelers expressing a similar excitement about going and yet anxiety at the last minute. So how does one get and maintain that confidence for solo travel? I have some advice.
My Top Tips for Solo Travel Confidence
- Go cold turkey on the crime shows. These shows wildly overstate the threat of violence in this world. Yes, you must take safety seriously but take a break from the crime shows well before leaving on your trip so that your imagination doesn't run away with itself. Read: Solo Travel Safety: 50 Tips (Revised and Updated)
- Do your research. The more you know about where you're going the more confident you'll feel. Study a map of your destination so that you have an idea of how your destination is laid out. Find out about local transit and the cost of taxis so that you know how you'll get around. Understand the currency and exchange rate so that you’ll be able to quickly do the math in your head to know what something costs in your own currency. Get a few phrases down.
- Book your first few nights' accommodation. Your accommodation is your safe haven. Whether it's a hotel, hostel, B&B or apartment, book a place with great reviews before you leave so that you know you'll have a soft landing when you get there. Use The Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide which includes 223 listings from 62 countries, all recommended by solo travelers.
- Find your cheerleader. When you’re getting nervous talk to friends who are thrilled about your upcoming trip and stay away from those who are only lukewarm or even negative. Those enthusiasts will bolster you.
- Sign up with your government. Check your government's advisory website and register with them as a citizen traveling abroad. Here are the pages for the US, Australia and Canada. The registration service is no longer offered to British Nationals. They are offered basic travel information here and asked to sign up for alerts.
- Plan for communication. Whether you prefer email, text, phone or Facebook, if you can find WiFi you can get in touch with home for pennies if not free with a smartphone. Skype allows you to call directly to a landline for just a few cents a minute. Most libraries can give you access to a computer and the Internet. Read: Use Your Phone Anywhere in the World: Free and Low-cost Options
- Get a local contact. Remember six degrees of separation? Well that number was determined based on snail mail – well before Facebook. Now you likely have a friend of a friend just about anywhere in the world who is local and whom you could meet for a coffee or call should you have a moment of anxiety.
- Be patient with yourself. Take things slowly. If possible plan something simple for your first day like a city tour or a museum visit. Take the time to sit, watch, see how things function, let the rhythm of your destination catch you and then go with it.
- Pamper yourself. What do you find calming? Is it a cup of tea or coffee? Being by water? Reading a book? A massage or facial? If you get nervous know what will calm you.
- Find what's familiar. There are international brands that look and work in a familiar fashion everywhere in the world. Think Starbucks or McDonalds. If you need a taste of home go to one of these places for an hour.
And if all the doesn't work read 10 ways to look confident even when you don't quite feel so.
Wondering About Travel Insurance?
- “I just couldn't leave my mother to travel when she got sick. Fortunately, my travel insurance reimbursed me for my flights which was all I had spent to date”
- “I lost my prescription glasses on a hike in the UK. When I got home I was surprised to learn that my travel insurance would pay out up to $300 for them.”
- “I was in Sydney, Australia when a crown popped off a tooth. I had it fixed by a local dentist and recovered the cost from my travel insurance.”
It takes just minutes to buy travel insurance. You could be thankful you did for the rest of your life. Here are two companies to check out.
You can read my full report on travel insurance here: Going Alone? Travel Insurance is a Must