"I'm not brave enough to travel solo."
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
The title of this post is a comment I've received from many different women since I started SheGoes. Even before, I'd get this sort of comment from people I'd meet while traveling alone, or people who I had told that I'd traveled alone.
If you've read any of my other blog posts, you'll know that I *love* breaking down misconceptions about solo travel and the women who do it. So here's one for today. Write this down on a little piece of paper and tape it to your mirror or put it in your pocket:
YOU CAN BE AFRAID OR NERVOUS ABOUT
TRAVELING SOLO, AND STILL DO IT.*
*In fact, you will be afraid/nervous about taking your first solo trip! It's pretty much a guarantee, because it's a healthy emotion that comes along with ANY big undertaking in life. So that's one piece of certainty you can take comfort in!
To prove and support this conclusion, I have eight other lessons about fear for you today, especially as it relates to taking a solo trip. Here goes!
To start, let's think about other people who do scary things. For example, let's talk about a person or couple who decides to have a baby or adopt. 👶Taking full responsibility for a tiny, fragile human, their most formative years that will affect them for the rest of their life. That is terrifying.
Do you know what percentage of parents-to-be feel fearless, confident, and totally ready for the challenge? 0%. Nobody jumps into parenting 100% free of doubts, fears, or nerves. It's just not a thing. Now, I'm not saying taking a solo trip is the same as having a baby—I'm just saying that feeling fear before any major undertaking is how life works! I was nervous before my first solo trip, and you will be too. It's a rite of passage. Making a big change to your life or your routine will feel scary—period.
Lesson #1: NOBODY IS FEARLESS. EVERYONE IS NERVOUS.
Guess what else? Approximately 350,000 babies are born each day.📈 And 100% of their parents feel afraid, anxious, nervous in some capacity. But people keep having babies, and they always will. Same with moving to a new city, quitting a toxic job, starting a business, going back to school, buying a house, or taking a solo trip. EVERYONE has fear associated with taking a leap, and people take leaps in life all the time anyway.
Lesson #2: PEOPLE DO STUFF THEY'RE SCARED OF EVERY DAY.
Are you a human? K cool. That's all that feeling fear says about you. It means you're feeling a completely natural, helpful emotion. (There is a 100% chance you're an alien or a cyborg if you never feel afraid of anything. 👽) Being brave doesn't mean you never feel scared; it means you do stuff even though you feel scared. Fear expert Kristen Ulmer sums it up nicely: You are supposed to be scared when you’re doing big things — okay? Acknowledging this can be life-changing.
Lesson #3: YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO FEEL FEAR. IT'S SUPER NORMAL.
Going back to our having-a-child analogy: Just because the parent(s)-to-be might feel scared doesn't mean they're not excited, too. That's an important thing to internalize. Fear can and often does coexist with other, more pleasant emotions. 😱😀😭😳If you're having a baby, you'll also likely experience excitement, hope, joy, and many other positive feelings.
Humans are complex, our emotions are complex. If you're feeling fear alongside excitement, it's a sign you should sit up and think more seriously to whatever big thing you're considering, because it's probably good for you, it's probably what you want. This includes taking a solo trip. Fear + (excitement/hope/joy/etc.) = a recipe for something INCREDIBLE for you.
Lesson #4: FEAR CAN COEXIST WITH OTHER EMOTIONS.
Being afraid is not cool, according to society. 😎🚫 We're taught to admire people who fearlessly take the leap, people who put themselves out there with no worries or doubts about how they'll perform or how they'll be received. THIS IS PROBLEMATIC, because people like that don't actually exist.
As we learned in lesson #1, everyone is afraid. So admiring a person for not showing a normal emotion like fear or worry perpetuates the view that fear is weakness—which it is not. But because this compulsion is so deeply engrained in us, a lot of people try really, really hard to not show any fear at all, ever.
It's kind of like the quote people use to talk about Instagram. Don't compare your reality to someone else's highlight reel. 🎥 Don't compare the fear you feel to what others show. Peek inside the brain of ANYONE doing ANYTHING big, and you'll find some fear. Always. It's how we're wired, and it's not inherently bad.
So if you decide not to take a big leap, not to take that solo trip, just because you look at others who have already done and they seem totally unafraid and 1000% confident—you're working on false information! They're scared (even if they didn't show it), and they still did it. You're scared? You can still do it.
Lesson #5: PEOPLE SHOW FEAR IN DIFFERENT WAYS; SOME NOT AT ALL.
I want to be clear about one thing: Fear helps keep us safe. It's our brain saying, "There's an unknown ahead. Be careful." In the cavewoman days, it helped us steer clear of dangerous situations. It does that today too, but in our modern context, it takes it to the extreme. Our brains instinctively tell us to avoid ANYTHING that involves the unknown, because a ❓represents a potential risk.
But if we still lived our lives with fear as our master, we'd never leave our houses or form a relationship with any other human or do anything meaningful, because all those things involve unknowns and risk. Fear can help you stay safe, but it can also hold you back from things that will be really rewarding. You have to learn to recognize which is which.
Fear prickling your neck, telling you to be afraid of the dark alley you're about to walk down alone? LISTEN. Get out of there. But fear giving you goosebumps before you ask that person out, apply for that job, go back to school, book that solo trip? Acknowledge it, listen to what it has to say, and then do the thing anyway if it's something you truly want or dream of.
Lesson #6: FEAR SERVES A PURPOSE.
Your definition of courage is probably false. The dictionary's is, at least! 📚🤦🏻♀️I can't articulate it any better than Nelson Mandela did: Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Being fearless is not a requirement for solo travel (spoiler alert: there ARE no requirements for solo travel! It's all about who you are and what you want to make out of it).
But not only that: You will not be fearless before your first solo trip. You might even have butterflies before your 10th solo trip. Courage has nothing to do with fear—in fact, courage never comes without fear. It's kind of a packaged deal.
Lesson #7: COURAGE DOESN'T MEAN NO FEAR. IT MEANS DOING THE THING DESPITE FEELING FEAR.
I want to close with a quote from a Ted Talk that Shonda Rhimes gave in 2016: A crazy thing happened—the very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear. So that's the bottom line. If you never do what you're scared of, you'll live in fear of it. The only way to banish your fear of something is to do it. The only way to reap the benefits of traveling solo is to go, in spite of any/all your fears, and do it. 💪
Lesson #8: THE ONLY WAY TO GET RID OF FEAR IS TO DO THE THING.
Preparation is one great way to decrease fear and anxiety you're feeling about something before you dive in and do it. If you're feeling nervous about your solo trip, I've got the perfect resource for you! Check out my comprehensive online course, Solo Travel 101, which will teach you everything you need to know about traveling alone as a woman. Questions? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org