GAINING THE CONFIDENCE TO TRAVEL ALONE
How I gained the confidence to Travel Alone
GAINING THE CONFIDENCE TO TRAVEL ALONE
My name is Alexis Craft and I am a 19-year old college student from the Pensacola, Florida. As I write this, I am a few weeks away from my first solo travel backpacking trip. Well, technically, my first ever backpacking trip. And the closer it gets, the more unreal it feels. For I have only gone on vacations/trips with my family that have lasted a week or two at a time. So, as I look ahead to two full months of traveling alone through countries and cities I have never been to before, ultimately excites and scares me.
THE LONG ROAD TO BEING OKAY WITH BEING ALONE
If someone would’ve told me 3 years ago that I was going travel overseas by myself, I would’ve never believed them.
I grew up with little self-confidence, and it took me years to finally be okay with myself. I lost a lot of my close friends growing up due to fallouts or my personality being “too much” for them, so that really didn’t help my self-confidence. However, it did help me to realize that it is okay to be alone! At first, in middle school/high school, I would hide in bathrooms because I was scared of walking into a situation where I would know no one. Sometimes I would tell my mom I was going to an event, hide in the bathroom for 30 minutes, and then leave because “nothing was happening”. And when I went to college, I realized I should actually be attending these events that I was going to, because what was wrong with going for 5 minutes and then leaving if it was terrible? So, during my first year of college, I would force myself to go to parties alone, and though those would ultimately backfire on me because I would be one of the only people who knew no one, I learned to trust my gut. I learned when I wanted to go out and when I didn’t. During the summer after my first year at college, I made myself go to concerts alone, go on day trips to explore nearby towns, and just hang out with myself. So now, in my second year of college, I can go to events/parties/plays/concerts alone, have an amazing time, and maybe even embarrass myself, and be okay with it!
All of this helped me be okay with being alone. And when it is condensed in a short paragraph, it sounds somewhat easy to do, but it is a harsh journey to go through. So if you find yourself in a similar position such as not having a lot of friends and having little self-confidence, I do recommend going out by yourself, trying new things, and joining different clubs. Becoming more comfortable with being alone is a difficult route to go through, and I do not recommend forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do since it does test your mental health. For example, forcing myself to go out to parties and clubs ended in me regretting going out and crying in bed. Alternatively, making myself go to places that I knew I would enjoy (ex. going to museums or concerts alone), led me to have an enjoyable experience. These situations still pushed my boundaries but I was more in control of them, which led to me being okay with being myself, which led to me realizing that I love alone time.
Also, if you have the same social anxiety that I did, you may cry or have a breakdown before each of these situations. Everyone needs to determine for themselves whether putting yourself through this will help you or not – only you know yourself well enough to decide this. I learned, for example, that when I don’t want to go out alone or when I get a bad gut feeling about an event, to not go to it. Because usually, it won’t be worth it and you will waste time if you do go! You won’t be in the right state of mind to reap the benefits and it’ll just make you feel worse afterward. However, when you do feel okay with or even excited about an event, try going alone and see if you like it or you don’t. There is no harm in going, staying for 5 minutes, hating it, and then leaving to have a relaxing night in the comfort of your room.
LEARNING TO ENJOY ALONE TIME
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. For with being alone, you can fix that by hanging out with friends or family. But with being lonely, no matter where you are whether it be in a crowd or with a group of friends, there is still an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Knowing the difference between these two is essential to know when you need alone time or when you need to have someone help you out. And for me, it took me a while to work through being lonely and to realize that it’s great to have alone time. I started saying the phrase “It’s okay to be alone” to make myself feel better when I had no close friends. And instead of hanging out by myself and mop for a weekend, I would take a day trip to a nearby city to get used to being alone and having a good time doing so! And now, looking back at all the awkward and weird situations I put myself in, that pushed me out of my comfort zone, they were all worth it because they helped me gain the confidence I have now. Well, at least some of them. I am not saying to force yourself to do things that you would have a terrible time doing, but putting yourself outside of your comfort zone every once in a while and giving these things you never thought you’d enjoy a chance, you might discover new sides of yourself you never knew existed.
Also, I gained confidence in my ability to make friends, to talk to people, and to stop hating on myself for making a situation awkward. For example, I used to criticize and overanalyze conversations I had with people to see where it went wrong, and then would make myself feel bad for when it, even if the other person didn’t feel like it went wrong at all! I had to stop that to finally be okay with myself. The whole process of this took a long while, but the majority of it took two years to finally love myself. Two years may seem like a long time to gradually get better, but I did overcome a lot of the obstacles in my way, and “better late than never”, right? 😉 Now, I am able to book a one-way ticket to a country I have never been to before and know nothing about, all because I am confident in who I am as a person.
TIPS ON HOW TO PREPARE YOURSELF FOR YOUR FIRST SOLO TRIP
- Get used to spending time alone and find out whether you actually enjoy it– go on a day trip somewhere, explore a nearby city, etc.
- Become an expert planner – I love spontaneity, but for a 2-month trip, you at least need to like planning and have good time-management skills.
- Trust your gut – Traveling alone can be dangerous, so if you feel like someone or something is sketchy or if the route seems dangerous, trust yourself!
- Learn how to react in stressful situations – Being in a place where you don’t know the native language can be difficult, so if you lose something, have something stolen, miss a plane/train, you should know how you react to these situations so that way you can be better prepared if they happen.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses – Know where you excel at and where you need help!
- Reach out to others who have traveled alone and ask for advice – Others have traveled alone to the places that you are most likely going, so reach out to bloggers or friends or family members who have done the same!
- Be confident in your ability to try new things and talk to people. – You will have to get used to asking questions and talking to people since you won’t know anyone for a while, so make sure you can strike up a conversation with someone.
- Research, research, research. – The world is pretty much at our fingertips with the internet. If you have any questions about the specific place you are going to, google it!
There are multiple ways to prepare yourself to travel alone and it ultimately depends on the person and where they are traveling. Thankfully, I am going to places that are well-traveled and I know a few people who have gone there alone before me. Am I worried about feeling lonely on this trip? Somewhat. But then again it is only one month overseas, and one month across the USA. And I have endured way longer, in way worse mental states, in places that I didn’t have a lot to do, so I am confident that I can handle it, which is such a milestone for me to admit! I am confident in myself and my ability to meet new people and I absolutely cannot wait. Now, when will you plan your next solo trip?
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We are a team of four feminist travelers coming together from different parts of the world to share with you what we have learned from traveling, living, loving, and exploring all over the world. Join us and tell your story about female solo travel, relationships, mental health, city guides, or whatever else comes to your mind.