For many people travel is not seen as an act to do alone. Travel is often associated with the pleasure of spending time with friends and family, an opportunity to create and share an experience together. But for some their dreams of travel are different than any others they know. They find themselves alone in their thoughts of destinations on their bucket lists and are faced with the reality that they must do it alone. It’s intimidating, a realization that I once had. I was scared to travel solo. It dawned on me that I had to find the bravery to leave alone, or to find another way. I ended up discovering an option that was suitable, and traveled solo with confidence. When you’re scared to travel solo then think of what I mention below. Here’s what I did:
I forced myself to find what worked
The thought of wandering through streets in Europe and getting lost haunted my dreams. I only spoke English and a few sentences in French and German. I knew I would be stuck, panicked, and would have a breakdown if such a thing happened. So, facing my reality I forced myself to look for options that would work for me and allow me to have my dream of backpacking through Europe.
I found a tour
I’m a huge believer that everything happens for a reason, and I think learning about the Contiki tour company happened exactly when I needed it to. Right when I was on the brink of giving up, thinking that my dream was never going to happen, I learned about Contiki through my roommates friend who was visiting. That night I spent a good amount of time sorting through all the tours and narrowed it down to two that I liked.
I took a chance
I took a chance by booking a tour knowing no one. I was putting my faith into the chance that they would be good people that I got along with on my tour. There had to be at least one person right? I spent the extra money to have a tour guide help me when needed, a plan already made for me, and a group of people that I would be thrown into.
READ MORE: 15 Benefits of Travelling Alone
I used the resources I had available
When I booked my tour I was added into a group chat where anyone who was on the same tour could talk and get to know each other before we all got to London. This allowed me to make friends with some of the people before I even left the comfort of my home. I ended up meeting with an Australian girl in London and had a new friend to explore London with before we even met anyone else in our tour group.
I faced the inevitable
I couldn’t hide the fact that just because I had found a tour didn’t mean that I wouldn’t travel alone, or that I was still scared to travel solo. I still had to fly to London by myself (the furthest flight I had taken on my own), find a way to my hotel (cabs were way too expensive, so I opted for the cheapest…the tube), and then spend a day by myself until I met up with my new friend who flew in a day later. I survived. I walked around, stopping in shops that looked interesting, and backtracked when I wanted to go home.
I learned from it and gained experience
The direct flight was no problem, finding the tube wasn’t too hard, and I asked questions when I needed to (like what ticket I was supposed to buy). On the tube I made friends with another fellow Canadian and was able to chat most of the hour-long ride.
I was open to meeting new people
This was huge for me. Usually, I’m quite shy when it comes to new people, but I made an effort to ask others questions and they had just as many to ask me. Every new place we stayed I tried to stay in a room with different people. Every new city we went to I tried to spend the day exploring with people I hadn’t yet. This changed how I traveled and allowed me learn so much about others and myself.
I developed confidence
From discovering new streets with people that you may or may not have trusted with a map, I developed my own confidence as a traveler that one must have in order to continue traveling. Talking to strangers no longer scared me, I asked questions all the time, I learned how to quickly pack my bag, I put my trust into others (sometimes), and I absorbed all the advice I could.
I learned not to panic
I had booked a one-way ticket to London and had a general idea, but didn’t know when or where I was flying out from to go back home. This meant that I had to find transportation to new cities and adapt to getting from point A to B without a bus driver getting me there safely. After accidentally booking a train ticket on the wrong day I had a mini panic attack, but ignored it, went out to explore the city I was currently in and then bought the ticket the day I was traveling to the new city at the station. In the end, whether I panic or not, it will go right or wrong and I just learned to deal with it.
Again, I used the resources available
After leaving my tour group I went solo to visit a friend in Salzburg, another in Hamburg, and then some family in Linz, Austria. I had these friends and family be my tour guides, they provided me with a place to stay and picked me up and dropped me off at train stations. Though I traveled to these places alone, I didn’t have to stay there alone. One of the friends I stayed with I had only met once 6 years before, she was more than welcome for me to stay at her place. The lesson here is to ask everyone you know if they can help. All it took was me sending a Facebook message to her saying that I would be in her area and she offered to help me.
As scared as I was to travel solo, nothing was as bad as I imagined it would be. Some people may think that this isn’t solo travel, but to me someone who travels solo is someone who makes the decision to leave their home on their own and manage to find a way around. That way around for me was with a tour group, partly on my own, and with some friends. This is what worked for me, and I think it’s important to encourage others to just go.
Don’t wait for a friend or a family member to go with you. Don’t even wait until you feel 100% ready. If you wait you may never be ready to go. Do your research, find a way, and you will be more proud of yourself for making the first step than anything else. Your confidence will increase and you’ll have a ton of new friends and stories.
Did everything go perfect for me and as planned? No. Did everyone speak English to me? No, but I managed to find a way to communicate. I slept by myself in a tiny airport in Greece on a metal bench for 6 hours overnight, I stood on an overbooked train because all the seats were reserved, I ate all my meals by myself for a day because I hadn’t yet met new friends, and I almost cried when I was running out of money and spent 60 euros on a cab. It all sounds awful but I learned from each mistake and I can now better plan for the future. I’m still a little scared to travel solo, but I’ve developed a ton of confidence to help me go again. My verdict? Go. You’ll most likely become a better person from it all.