Have Anxiety About Your First Solo Trip? Read This.
So you've got your first solo trip booked—or maybe your cursor is hovering over the "book flight" button. You're feeling excited...
...but you may also be feeling nervous, anxious, overwhelmed, afraid. You might be wondering if you can really do this, if you'll even like it, if you're making a mistake or getting into something you can't handle.
If that's the case, you've come to the right place! Trust me—I've been there. If you looked at the browsing history on my computer for the night before my first big solo trip, you'd see searches like airline cancellation policies and cost to cancel a flight.
In fact, I told myself I only had to last one week (on a trip intended to be several months). If I hadn't adjusted yet and was still freaking out seven days into my first, long-term solo trip, I'd call it off and come back home.
Now, let's be real: It DID take a few days to get my "sea legs." Handling every aspect of a trip on your own is a big, new undertaking, and it takes some getting used to at first. But each day I got more and more comfortable, and my trip turned into a seven-month long adventure that completely changed me.
I adore and prefer solo travel nowadays, but I remember my feelings (paralyzing fear and anxiety) the night before that first solo flight like they were yesterday! So today, I'm going to help you work through those feelings yourself. Take a deep breath. Let's get you back into a positive headspace about your first solo trip.
If you prefer a quick summary, here's the gist. If you want more on each bullet point, read on below.
Fear/anxiety is normal. You don't have to be fearless (and you won't be) before you take your first solo trip, and that's just fine. Use it as a tool—don't let it use or control you.
Don't judge your experience or yourself too quickly. Be patient and allow time to adjust to this big, new experience. Don't swear off solo travel forever at the sight of your first setback or stressor (like I almost did).
Remember that you're never more than 24 hours from home. The decision to go on a solo trip is undo-able. You probably won't ever have to/want to undo it, but it can be comforting to know you can.
You've become comfortable doing lots of things you were nervous about at first. Solo travel will be no different. Every moment is a learning experience.
Confidently traveling alone is a learnable skill you WILL get better at with practice, just like you'd get better at speaking a new language or playing an instrument with practice.
There are no rules. The most freeing part of solo travel is that you get to decide everything yourself, so don't worry about living out your trip based on anyone else's opinions or preferences. Just feel and explore what feels right—it takes a lot of the pressure off you!
Take comfort in solidarity—in knowing that there are thousands of diverse women out there traveling alone right now, too. Lean on the digital community of FSTs, too.
Imagine all the possibilities of this amazing opportunity, and let that keep you motivated.
Learn more about my course, Solo Travel 101, which will teach you everything you need to know to be prepared and confident before your first solo trip.
Fear is not a blocker. 🙅🏻♀️
Think of the biggest accomplishments so far in your life. Are you telling me you weren't nervous on your first day of college, or on your first day of a new job, or when you signed that year lease, or when you moved to that new city? If we avoided everything that caused us fear, we'd never do anything. It's an annoying fact of life that most cliches are completely true, and that includes Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Your brain's job is to keep your body safe. One surefire way for your brain to do this: It will tell you to avoid any unknowns. If the only experiences in your life are familiar ones—things you've done before and places you've been before, from which you've already emerged unharmed—your risk is very low.
Fear is useful—it helps us stay safe. If your instincts are telling you a situation is unsafe, you must listen. They're usually right. But when it comes to experiences where the only source of fear is the unknown—like taking a solo trip—it's generally worth acknowledging the feelings of fear, and then doing the thing anyway.
Go s-l-o-w-l-y. 🐌
Be slow to judge yourself and your experience. One of the mistakes I made on my first solo trip was to quickly assume that solo travel wasn't for me when things didn't instantly come up roses. Being in complete control of this big adventure is a big adjustment, so be patient. Try not to make snap judgments about your destination, or about yourself and your abilities until you've really given yourself and the experience a fair chance.
if it helps, think about one of the first skills any human learns: how to walk. When babies lose their balance and fall over, they don't give up and decide that walking just isn't for them. They don't even think twice about trying again. It's because we're all born with an innate understanding that continual practice and making mistakes is the only way to improve at something. It's the same with solo travel—don't give up at the first sign of a challenge or a mistake. You'll get better.
The 24-hour idea. 🕑✈️
The 24-hour idea was what got me to actually get on the plane for my first solo trip. I told myself: If you don't like it, you're never more than 24 hours away from home. You can back out and hop a flight back at any time.
It helps me, when making a big decision or taking a leap, to remember that many choices are un-doable. You can break a lease, you can break up with a person, you can quit a job, you can book a return flight in minutes. I'm quite positive that you won't ever need to actually follow through with the 24-hour idea, but I found it comforting on my first trip—to help me keep perspective.
And don't forget to be patient with yourself. Use the 24-hour rule in your mind when you need a little comfort, but don't actually act on it until you've given the experience a fair chance. I can pretty much assure you that you'll end up loving the experience once you've allowed yourself time to adjust. Know that backing out is always an option, but don't jump to that extreme too soon.
Think back to learning to drive. 🌮
It's an analogy I love to use with solo travel, and it's inspired by this:
Do you remember the specific moment you suddenly switched from anxious and afraid of driving to ultra-comfortable and basically on autopilot? Probably not. That's the thing to remember about any kind of learning experience: We're usually not able to see or grasp how much progress we're making until after, when we look back.
This is just one reason I love to encourage solo travelers to keep some kind of record of their trips, especially their first ones. Going back and reading a journal, for example, will remind you of things you forgot you'd ever been nervous about. You'll find it hard to even remember some of those feelings of fear, and you won't recall specifically overcoming them—you'll just know you did, over time.
So just remember that, even if it doesn't feel like it, you're learning and growing every SECOND of your solo trip. Be patient. Focus on having fun and learning about yourself, and the skills and confidence will come naturally.
It's like learning French or how to play piano. 🎹
How would you set out to do either of these things? You'd find an expert to give you some guidance. You'd practice what you need to know. You'd make mistakes and learn from them, without giving up. You'd practice some more. Eventually, you'd start building the skill.
Spoiler alert 🚨: All skills are built this way, it's just that the linear process isn't as easy to see with more abstract, complex skills like confidently traveling alone.
If you miss a flight, book a bad hostel, get lost, or have any other kind of solo-travel mishap, don't quit or assume solo travel isn't for you. Would you stop trying to learn French after a mispronunciation, or quit piano after a few wrong notes? No, because you know that those mistakes are the building blocks of your new skills.
Once you learn to recognize the immense value in making mistakes and working through mishaps, you'll feel more relaxed because the pressure's off. Anything goes, everything helps. Any mistake or setback is a lesson in the school of solo travel skill-building.
There are no rules. 😎
THIS IS THE BEST PART. This is the reason you'll fall in love with solo travel, and also the reason that you should feel relieved—the reason so much of the pressure is off.
This trip has to meet no one's expectations but yours. It's designed to please only you, whatever that looks like.
As I like to say, you can go to Paris and not visit the Louvre, not go up the Eiffel Tower, and not eat a single croissant and still have an incredible time. You don't have to plan your trip according to what people are doing on Instagram, or per the recommendations your cousin's friend's sister gave, or by the latest guidebook. There are literally only two boxes to check for your entire trip:
☑️ Be safe
☑️ Have fun (whatever that means to you)
That's it. You're going on this trip solo, so there's no one to judge you or complain about any aspect of how you planned your trip or how you want to spend your days. Sleep in, skydive, have four meals a day, visit weird museums...whatever you want. Enjoy the freedom!
You must be this tall to ride. 🎢
I used to be really afraid of roller coasters. I'd stand in line fidgeting and fretting and nervously glancing up at the track every few seconds. But what helped me get on my first upside-down, loop-de-loop ride was observing the people who were getting off of the ride.
I was encouraged by the diversity of people who were exiting the ride smiling, clearly having enjoyed themselves. Women about my age, young kids, older people, and everyone in between. The wide range showed me that there's no "type"—lots of different people braved and enjoyed this ride, so I could too.
That's why I love sharing stories of diverse women from diverse circumstances who travel solo and love it. Either you'll think: Hey, she's a lot like me. If she does it, maybe I can too. Or, you'll think, There are women from five continents, ages 18-60+, of all professions, backgrounds, stories, and experiences doing it; maybe I can too.
Plus, if ever you feel overwhelmed or uncertain or nervous or lonely on your solo trip, I always feel it helps to remember all the other solo-traveling women who are out there in solidarity with you. Remember that we all started somewhere, that we all had nerves and anxiety before our first trip. You can imagine, at any given time, women from all corners of the world experiencing new parts of it on their own, just like you.
And, better yet, reach out to the solo-travel community online. Engage with myself and others in the SheGoes community for advice and inspiration. In this supportive, interconnected world of female solo travel, you're never actually alone!
Think of all the possibilities.
Do your very best to keep an open mind about this experience. You never know who or what may cross your path and turn into an amazing memory for you. Try a little visualization, if that helps. Imagine yourself making friends with kindred spirits from all over the world, seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes and thriving cities the planet has to offer, trying food and smelling smells that you've never even dreamed of. This opportunity is a ripe fruit full of potential, just waiting to be picked and enjoyed by you! 🥭
Take a crash course. 🤓
My course, Solo Travel 101, teaches women everything they need to know before embarking on their first solo trip—so you can hop on that plane, boat, or train confident and fully prepared.
It includes video-based lessons, guides, and worksheets on topics like:
making friends as a solo traveler
tips for dining alone, packing lists
essential safety information
advice for dealing with naysayers
ideas for documenting your trip, and so much more.
Visit the course info page to view the curriculum outline, and to learn more about how I can help you become a confident, competent solo traveler!
Happy learning and happy travels,