Updated: Aug 10
When you see another woman traveling solo, how do you feel? Do you feel inspired, excited and determined, thinking, “Yeah, I want to do that! I'm GOING to do that!”?
Or do you feel intrigued, fascinated and maybe just a bit envious, thinking, “I WISH I could do that, but I don't have what it takes”?
There are plenty of articles out there that can give you tips on researching and planning a solo trip. But I want to talk about the fears and misperceptions that creep up about what you really NEED in order to travel solo successfully.
Three Myths: “In order to travel solo, I need to....”
1. ...have a super extroverted personality. You know the type: the person who walks into a room confidently and lights the place up, makes friends with seemingly no effort, and seems to be surrounded by fans wherever they go. Yes, you will find people like that when you travel, but shy kids travel too – and I'm one of them!
I'm confident in many ways, but I get very nervous meeting new people. Sometimes things click right away, sometimes it takes me a while to warm up. A few weeks ago I went to an international mixer in Buenos Aires and as soon as I walked in, my first thought was, “This is my worst nightmare”. Super crowded, loud, I knew absolutely no one, and there was no one to help introduce me. What do I do? Who do I talk to? I immediately got a glass of wine even though I normally don't drink very often. I just needed something to do with my hands. Eventually a more outgoing person introduced himself and from there it got a bit easier. So I stuck it out and eventually had some nice conversations, but I was definitely out of my comfort zone!
The thing is, even if you're shy or introverted, when you travel solo, you'll find that you make the friends you're supposed to make in the way that's comfortable for you. Maybe at a coffee shop, wandering around an art museum, or journaling in the park. You can stretch yourself a little of course – make eye contact and smile more, say hi and introduce yourself (or go to a scary mixer like me) – but don't think you have to be the life of the party to venture out into the world of travelers. Just be yourself.
2. ...have everything figured out down to the last details. Noooooo! In fact, it's usually better if you don't. The best adventures usually arise from the plans that didn't work out or the days you had no plan.
One of my fondest memories from traveling solo is the time I got stuck in Arequipa, Chile for an extra day on my way to Machu Picchu and palled around with two other travelers I had met in the bus station, wandering around for the afternoon, and bumping into a group of teenage musicians dressed in matching costumes who serenaded us in a plaza overlooking the city. That doesn't usually happen when every minute of the day is perfectly planned out.
Here are the bare essentials of what you need to have figured out before you go: passport and visas, money, guidebook and general idea of where you want to go and what you want to do, and maybe a place to stay upon arrival. Anything more than that you can really just wing – it's up to your comfort level.
3. ...have no fears, self-doubt and feelings of loneliness. PLEASE. You're human. You don't have to be the perfect picture of confidence to travel by yourself. There WILL be times you doubt yourself – wonder why you picked this place, or chose that bus, or didn't pack that shirt – or even question your LIFE when you're on the road. I'm sure many of my friends and family would never suspect that I get nervous about traveling and have to give myself a lot of pep talks – and I've been doing it for 20 years and have no plans to stop!
Another thing: As easy as it is to meet people when you travel solo, you will likely feel lonely. You might even get really sad at some point. You will miss what's familiar and comfortable.
The great thing is, these feelings are all so GOOD for you. They shake you out of your routine and make you listen more deeply to the desires that drive you, and they also give you proof that you can survive bad feelings.
Life isn't all about being comfortable! There is no growth in comfort. We grow and change when we challenge ourselves. Be prepared to feel challenged emotionally and physically when you travel solo and revel in it – you're becoming a badass.
The One Thing You Really Need:
Trust in the voice inside your head that told you that you WANTED this, even if it sounded a little crazy. Trust in your passions and curiosities that when followed will bring you to the most amazing people and places. Trust in a world that is SO full of good people who want to know you and help you, despite what our newsfeeds tell us.
Trust in the value of experiences over materials to consume – this adventure will stay with you forever, it will lodge in your heart for good.
Trust in your family and friends back home. Even if they don't “get” it, they love you and still will when you get back.
And trust in yourself. You got this. You can venture out on your own like an explorer. You can learn and connect and grow and change. You can love yourself enough to give yourself this gift.
Don't let fears about traveling solo stop you. If you are intrigued or fascinated by the idea of taking a trip by yourself then that is your sign – you are meant to do it.
Allow yourself to dream and trust that you can do this.