Last Updated on October 22, 2014 by Christine Kaaloa
Fear can be a bitch. Yeah I said it. I said the “B” word, because I mean it.
Although I’ve been a solo traveler for over six years now, you might be surprised to know I still have moments where I’m afraid to take the plunge and buy a single ticket. Yeah, you heard me correct. As macho and gung-ho as I as I am about solo travel and despite all my positive, travel-gasmic solo experiences, …there are times I gulp hard, when I think about traveling alone. Call it a knee-jerk reaction.
There’s always going to be countries, whose culture or beliefs, terrain,.. I know nothing about and that initially feels scary. Of course like many, I think it would be easier to find my courage with a partner. I always assume planning would be easier with two heads vs one and that experiencing the unknown with someone else, would be less stressful.
True, I’m a huge advocate for the joys of public transportation, but sometimes, the idea of getting lost and having to afford a taxi (who might run me around the city to hike their meter) initially seems scary to me. … So does looking stupid, pathetic or lonely. … Of course, there’s always the possibility of pick-pocketing and crime. And then let’s not forget how much cheaper it’d be splitting costs and resources! You see, I don’t always trust my resourcefulness and ability to make my occasional car-crashes work… especially the last-minute ones.
Hey, I’m only human and those are my fears in an inflated nutshell. What squirrel would tackle that?
But let’s get down to the nitty gritty with important deciding factors:
Do I have a travel companion? (Looking for a show of hands…)
Big fat NO.
Do I deserve to hate my life for a lack of one?
Everyone fears being alone… but surprise, you already are!
Forget skydiving, shark cages and whatever extreme sport that appears life-jeopardizing…. Solo travel is such an extreme sport, that even the most adventurous and macho men I know, won’t do it. What does that tell you?
Everyone fears being alone. It’s not a new concept.
Many people will risk their physical lives on a extreme sport thrill to call themselves “adventurous” and ‘live on the edge”, while fear being alone with themselves. What’s up with that- do we find ourselves that scary?
If you think about it, being alone is probably the most adventurous thing you can do for yourself. Am I the only one vibing with that idea?
The irony is that in life, we’re all solo travelers, without realizing it.
Yes, whether single, solo or part of a couple, we’re all essentially alone. We’re alone, because no loved one or friend will ever trulybe able to hold your hand through the highs, lows and personal risks you feel like you’re experiencing on the inside. No partner will help you make your dreams happen. No one can console the worst sorrow you’ll feel or experience regret for a dream you will never live. Not one. Not family member or a marriage partner (… sound in: “divorce”). No, only you can give you all those things.
Our fear shouldn’t be about being alone. It should be about what happens if we don’t know how to be alone.
A right perspective creates miracles
As a female solo traveler -yes- “I put my life on a ledge”. There’s no cage to keep the unpredictable and wild cards of life from taking a bite out of me, no parachute to soften my fall. This is me facing the world .. standing on my own. Raw and real. Look Ma, no hands! (Face-plant).
This means I have no choice, but to make my trip amazing. …No option other than survive and to make things happen for myself, as if my life depended upon it. My life depends upon me! And this means I will do hard research about my transportation options. I’ll have to find backup solutions and practice travel safety sense everywhere I can. It means I need to watch my back, be vigilant and find a way to make resources out of strangers.
Being and traveling alone gets a bad rap… a real stinky one. The negative assumption comes from those who either, never experienced being alone or are so afraid that they spend from start to end resenting their first solo trip … collapsing, whining or caving in, because they’ve forgotten how to crap alone, without partners or husbands. Sorry, that was strong, but I’ve met folks, who don’t know how to be alone to the point they’re unable to make decisions without a partner. Now that’s extreme.
And yet, I occasionally succumb to a similar pathetic, self-pitying fear of aloneness, like a bad L.A. smog wrapped around me.
Fear! Fear! Fear… don’t you ever feel suffocated by it? Aren’t you tired of being afraid of yourself and dreams?
I know I am. It can be exhausting…
And when I feel that exhausted by my fears and fears of not living, it’s exactly when I book my ticket!
I love your blog. I am always feeling afraid to get started to travel alone. I am afraid of loneliness. Maybe I should try it first then judge it.
I travel alone a lot… I enjoy it. Occasionally I get some comments from other either expressing pity, amusement or perhaps even disgust at my “sad” situation. I have had people ask me why I came by myself or why I could not find any friends to go with me. These comments are usually from Americans who have a extreme fear of solo travel unlike Europeans or Australians. They simply cannot comprehend why someone would travel solo and that someone could actually enjoy it.
i hate solo travelling and feel physically sick when i think about it – but I have 3 months off and i don’t want to go home or stay here – so i have to go somewhere – i just wish it wasn’t so difficult – I’ve done a solo trip once before when i was 25 and it was really scary till i was there – and then it was ok – everyone thinks I’m stupid – but i can’t help this feeling that i have of “being a loser” if i travel on my own – i know its so stupid and not realistic – i really need to grow some balls 🙂 i don’t want to go experience something on my own – i like having friends
Only the first time and it was an extended trip for about 3 months, it was very tough, but after the initial hump it became very liberating. Aside from safety concerns everyone should give solo travel a shot IMO. Keep encouraging!
@Theresa: Wow, you went full dive into solo for 3 months? Fantastic! Definitely not easy to do for a first timer, as long-term is another challenge of its own as well! Where did you travel to?
Great post, Christine. Despite traveling alone for a long time, I still feel fear every time I land in a new city and a new country. But I embrace that fear and conquer it. It makes me enjoy my travels more. Sharing this post on SW now 🙂
@Aleah: Fear is a good thing and necessary. It tests our self-belief.=) Thanks for letting me know you shared it. When fellow bloggers or folks share my posts, I can only see that it was shared somewhere and wish I had a place to direct my Thanks!
The fear factor is particularly high for those traveling through Central America, as I am about to do …. I try not to think about it too much!
@Elaine: Central America would do that to me too. I was going to pick Guatemala as my first official solo trip but some friends talked me out of it. In defense, I did hear from an expat that he felt it was safe. There are many expats learning Spanish and volunteering so maybe your travels may gain some of their aid if you feel unsteady. Wishing you the best!
I have traveled alone but it was always rough leading up to it. Even the day I arrive, I often get a panic and sadness that I wish I had someone to enjoy it with. But the moment changes when I start exploring and doing what I want. Truthfully,I feel safer traveling alone to certain places than others, especially if I know there would be more English speaking dialogue. However, it’s not a requirement. I think the part I dislike the most about traveling by myself is getting there — it often takes forever, so it’s more the boredom and worry if I’ll miss my flight if I’m not paying attention. But once I get there, I am somewhat okay! Then give me a few days…
I love your post and candidness.
I think being a woman, unfortunately, IMO, makes you a bigger target though — what have your experiences been?
Pretty much what Juliet said. I’m leaving for Australia in less than 24 hours and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost backed out in the past couple of weeks. The same thing happened when I left for Asia in February. I know that once I get settled, everything will be fine. But it’s the now and the arriving and the dreadful first night that sucks. It’s laying in that bed and realizing you’re completely alone.
@Melissa: Initial fears are always the hardest to get over. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly get over that hump without a conscious push. My loneliest moment is standing at or leaving baggage claim and realizing no one is there to greet me. Then I get my things and the do-do-do-go-go-go spirit enters and I’m too busy to think about it. =) Enjoy Australia– you’re gonna rock it!
@Juliet Navigating transportation alone can feel stressful. I missed my bus today because I wasn’t vigilant. Luckily, there was another bus and maybe knowing that made me lazy. It can be boring. Times like that, try finding things to keep occupied, like explore the area. Today, while waiting for the 2nd bus, I shot off a video on bus terminal food; otherwise, I try to see what I can sightsee. 😉
“we’re all solo travelers, without realizing it”
So true! Even when you’re standing right there next to someone who is on the same physical journey with you, they would never be on the same spiritual journey with you, your adventures are yours alone.
So somehow taking that concept and idea and tacking it on to everything else makes solo travel much much easier, though discussions on what really is ‘being with someone’ can get into a much deeper philosophical question easily.
And if all else fails, bring a travel mascot to not feel so lonely =)
@Glamorous Traveler: Yessss! And let’s not go deep as, yeah, the discussion could go much much further. lol I think everyone assumes being with someone is not lonely, but with companions and travel partners, come expectations. And so often, those “expectations” are disappointed in some way or another. It’s different from finding companions on the road.
So true! I love traveling alone since it affords me so much more freedom and I find it exhilarating. I used to hear family member expressing concern and asking “why on earth would you want to go by yourself?!” and the truth is I’m very comfortable being on my own whereas there are quite a few people who aren’t. And if it’s a choice between me going somewhere by myself or not going at all, you better believe I’ll go by myself, lol.
@kidfreetravel: I love your mentality. Traveling alone isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but i find more and more folks wanting to travel and not having people to do it with; hence, more folks consider it. If the desire to go is as strong as yours or mine… it can’t be suppressed.