How to Emotionally Prepare for Solo Travel

Hanging off the back of the tram in Budapest carefree and excited
Hanging off the back of the tram in Budapest carefree and excited

The flight is booked, deposits paid, and now your emotions are all over the place, making you second-guess if this whole solo travel thing is for you.  Well, I’m here to tell you, it is!  Jumping into new adventures can trigger a whole spectrum of emotions, from anticipation and excitement to overwhelming and unexpected angst and apprehension.  Here is a step-by-step guide on how to emotionally prepare yourself for your solo travels.

Stigmas Attached to Solo Travel

Before I traveled alone, I had preconceived notions and misconceptions about solo travel. Once I decided to go for it, I became the receiver of many of these questions, opinions, judgments, and doubts.

– “They must not have friends; no one wants to travel with them.”

– “I’ll be lonely.”

– “Aren’t you scared?”

– “They probably don’t have any real relationships.”

– “It’s too dangerous for women; you’ll end up in the back of someone’s car.”

– “She must be running from her problems or responsibilities.”

 

– “They’re not interested in stability or family.”

– “How can your father/husband allow you to do this?”

– “It’s so sad; she has to do this by herself.”

– “She’s a lost soul and has no direction.”

– “It’s selfish.”

– “I’m too old/ too young.”

– “You’ll get bored all by yourself.”

Have you thought through any of these?  We have been socially conditioned to think there is something wrong with being alone. It is something to be ashamed of, self-conscious of, and even judged by.

This is BALDERDASH!

Sometimes doubts are only brought to light by others.  I address this further down, as a seasoned traveler, I have still been affected and second-guessed myself because of other people’s beliefs, experiences, and most often fears even when they have ZERO experience there.  If you have been holding yourself back from the amazing life you want to lead because of any of these beliefs, you are only robbing yourself.

Benefits of Solo Travel

Solo travel can be an incredible growing experience in all facets of your life from relationships to careers to personal mental and emotional health.  If you are struggling to come to terms with solo travel or someone you love isn’t supporting your decision here are 67 Reasons Everyone Should Travel Solo.

 

17 Ways to Emotionally Prepare for Solo Travel

Traveling solo is not for the faint of heart, but that doesn’t mean each person can’t do it.  These steps will help you ease your nerves and help you emotionally prepare for solo travel. 

Pause, Reflect, Acknowledge, and Identify Emotions

Take a moment to find a quiet mental space for yourself and step away from whatever may have triggered these strong emotions.

Many seasoned travelers still have moments of uncertainty.  Whether you are preparing for your first solo trip or your 40th country, these emotions are telling you something and it is time to check in with yourself and see what you need to pay attention to. 

Butterflies are normal, fear is normal, worry is normal, nervousness is normal, anticipation is normal, excitement is normal, giddiness is normal, and you are allowed to feel them all. Ask yourself:

How can I label what I am feeling right now?

Pensively sitting in New Dehli, taking a moment to breathe from the loud and chaotic city around these walls
Finding a place of solice in Dehli, India to escape the noise and chaos.

Identify any Physical Sensations

Nervous knots, butterflies, sweating, muscle tension, clenched jaw, heart racing, dry mouth, tears, laughter, smiling, warm and tingly sensations? All these physical sensations can be associated with feelings of nervousness, excitement, happiness, anticipation, or anxiety.

Decipher what it is your body is telling you right now. 

Accept & Articulate Why You Feel This Way

Accepting how you feel is the more challenging step. Make space for self-compassion and sit with these feelings without judgment. You are not the first traveler to feel them. Many of us have. Don’t suppress those feelings; let them all come out.

“It is perfectly normal to feel nervous, and I am allowed to feel those feelings when starting something new.”

Maybe it was the idea of missing a friend or having a long-distance relationship.  Or a conversation where someone questioned your motives. Dig into why you feel this way.

For each negative belief, write it down. Some are legitimate, and some are less plausible, but none are irrational.

“I am feeling nervous because I have never traveled to a new country alone, and I don’t speak the language.”

Disclaimer: If this fear is based on medical conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression, seeking help from a medical professional may be beneficial.  While the following steps are helpful, seeking support may be the better avenue.

Write Down Your Motivation to Travel

My motivation map. I traced out my travel plans, including visas, friends who wanted to join me, and most importantly a timed reminder of why I was working so hard.

You decided to solo travel, time to remind yourself why you made this choice in the first place.

Write down ALL your reasons why you wanted to do this trip in the first place.

I cannot stress this exercise enough. Whether this is a post-it, a screen saver, a vision board, or whatever it is make sure it is someplace visible.

Refer to this again and again when you are having doubts. Keep adding to it and exhaust every possible reason why you wanted to travel in the first place, what you would gain, how this will benefit you.  Let it be an ongoing list.

This is an empowering exercise and helps reframe where you are with your emotions. When you return from your adventure, it will be good to see where you started.

Eliminate Negative Beliefs

Jumping back to all the self-limiting beliefs that are staring back at you on paper, it’s time to expand your mindset and do the actual work.

Solo travel is allowed to be both thrilling and scary. Listening to those scary thoughts is good, it’s your instincts that make sure you are clued to possible risks. Addressing fears and trepidations one by one helps either legitimize it, rationalize it, or find constructive ways to approach it.  

Once all that loud negative self-talk is out of your head, start finding solutions to negate each one.  

Do Your Research

Preparation is key to overcoming these negative feelings and putting your mind at ease.

Many of our negative beliefs come from a place of the unknown. Researching customs, cultures, and environments will help build confidence and reassurance. Utilizing and understanding tools that can make travel easier such as language apps and offline maps will help relieve stress.

“I may not speak the language, but I can learn a handful of helpful words and phrases. I can find tools that could help me better communicate, like Google translate, a language learning app like Duolingo, and I can communicate with body language as well.”

30 Best Travel Apps

Now that you have all these resources at your fingertips, it’s time to put them to good use.

Practice & Start Small

Have you ever skipped something you were genuinely interested in because you didn’t want to go alone? The regret can feel worse than the attempt.  Practicing being alone involves connecting with who you are and what you truly are interested in and care about.  It is easy to compromise to accommodate someone we love for example.  But the best part of solo travel is that you don’t have to. 

If this is something new to you, there is no need to jump into a big trip across the world before you have ever taken yourself out to dinner.

Find an activity that is new to you in your area that you’re interested in and dig into that courage to set out alone.  

Download these 12 Travel Challenges exercises pdf to help you get out of your comfort zone to get emotionally set before your solo trip.

Stay Accountable to Yourself

Once you have decided on an activity or a place you want to explore set a special date for yourself on the calendar to step out of your comfort zone.

Approach this date with the same diligence as if you were boarding a plane to some exotic and faraway land.

Ask for Support, Not Critique

Reach out to your friends and family and include them in your plans. Be open about both your anticipation and apprehension with people who want the best for you. Tell them how you would like to be supported on this journey.

Your plans of solo travel may inspire and encourage others to follow their dreams. Support each other during this time.

Some of the people we are closest to may not be our biggest advocates for solo travel and can be the trigger for concerns.

It is common for people to impose their own set of fear values and even jealousy and travel envy on others. If this is the case, establishing healthy boundaries for yourself around others’ ideologies it is important for you to be able to set off on your new adventure with confidence.  Don’t allow someone else to affect how you emotionally prepare for solo travels.  

If someone shares recent safety warnings and rationales supported by resources from accounts by Embassies and State Departments, such as recent violent outbursts or natural disasters in your travel areas, these are worth listening to. Do your research and make sure to prepare for this as well.

Find Communities, Support, and Resources

Asking questions is a great way to connect and build confidence. Nowadays, there are a slew of Facebook groups, Instagram and TikTok influencers, YouTubers, and fellow bloggers that document their journeys. Don’t be shy to reach out and connect.

It can feel intimidating, but we have all started somewhere. When I was planning my first long trip, I didn’t know these communities existed, and I would have loved to talk with someone who had also gone through this emotional rollercoaster.

This is a big reason why A Dynamic Life Travel and Life Coaching was created, to offer that one-on-one support.

Set Realistic Expectations

An image of San Sebastion beach in the Basque Region of Spain with gold sand, beautiful blue water and only a few people laying out enjoying the sunshine illustrating the expectations people have

Better yet, let go of expectations when traveling altogether.

Remember much of what you see online or in magazines has been edited, filtered, and narrated in a positive light.  In a 2018 study by Alliance Global, 36% of millennials acknowledged glamorizing destinations.  Now, this filtered reality is almost inescapable.

When you have allocated time, money, and preparation in planning an epic experience, it is easy to put pressure on having the “perfect trip.”  But remember, traveling to Italy doesn’t mean every meal will be good. Staying at a 5-star hotel may not be what you hoped. Going on safari doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to see every animal the guide promises you. Some things are out of your hands.

Setting realistic expectations helps prevent disappointment, as well as feelings of stress, anxiety, and frustration when you feel overwhelmed by the pressure to achieve unattainable flawless travel scenarios since let’s face it, things out of your control come up. Realistic expectations promote a healthier mindset and reduce unnecessary stress. Which leads me to…

Embrace the Unexpected

Repeat after me:

“Things come up.”

Taking a proactive approach to planning your trip most often helps you save time, money, and energy and reduces risk. The more you can anticipate, the more smoothly things go (generally).

However, learning to be resilient, embracing the idea that not everything can be predicted or controlled, and maintaining a positive mindset will help turn any obstacle into a learning opportunity.

Adopt a YES! Mentality

There is an importance to saying no to establish healthy boundaries, not get over-committed and not feeling forced to do something you aren’t interested in doing. 

However, there is a great power in YES!  Opportunities are much greater when you approach something with openness and possibility.  Trust your instincts, but stay curious, and flexible, and embrace the adventures that come with YES!  

tandem skydving in while in the air above Virginia. When emotionally preparing for solo travel, it is beneficial to adopt a yes mentality since you never know where the day may lead you.
When a friend asks if you're free tomorrow...

Motivation and Self-Care

On the days when you may feel low, be especially kind to yourself. Creating strategies to pull you out of your funk, before you are in it, is always beneficial.  Some ideas can be:

 

Create and download a feel-good travel playlist.

Establish a gratitude practice- guess what… you’re going on that trip you’ve dreamed of!

Meditation and breathing exercises.

Get into nature and green spaces.

Seek out social connections with friends and/or strangers.

And Exercise. Bonus points for outdoor exercise – run it out, go for a hike, swim, lift weights, whatever can expend energy. Finding ways to physically exhaust yourself is a way to get mental clarity and relaxation.

 

And if you are lying in bed awake stressed about your upcoming trip, get out of bed and do something else.

Celebrate Your Wins

Take a minute to reflect on where you started. Those fears we talked about at the beginning, when you start taking steps to conquer them, write it down in a journal, smile, and feel good about how far you’ve come. Share your wins.

Challenges morph into resilience, fear becomes pride, hardship can lead to compassion, and embarrassment transforms into self-awareness. Find ways to treasure and celebrate how far you have come.

If pre-travel jitters still have a hold on you, please reach out for an individual Travel Coaching session. Together we will work to emotionally prepare you for your solo travel by addressing the self-limiting beliefs, fears, and mental barriers that have been keeping you from having the adventures you always dreamed of and creating a plan to approach these challenges with gumption, knowledge, and instincts.

Curious about Travel Coaching?

If you found this article helpful leave a comment, share, and sign up to have new posts sent directly to you in the box below.  If you have additional strategies you use to emotionally prepare for solo travel, I would love to hear them.  Start a conversation let’s build this community.
Happy and safe travels,

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