Solo Travel: It’s OK to Feel Strange at First!

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Most digital nomads (although this is fortunately changing at a fast speed) are solo travelers. And solo travel is scary for most people. And you have all the reasons to be scared. After all, you’ll be alone, thousands of miles away from home, in a country where you won’t be able to speak the local language and where you don’t know anybody. Of course you’ll be scared. Of course it will feel strange!

It did to me at first too. Everybody goes through that phase.

What’s most important, though, is to NEVER let the fear stop you from traveling. No matter if it’s the fear of being alone, fear of terrorist attacks, fear of missing your flight or whatever… NEVER let fear stop you!

Do you know what’s worse than trying to overcome that fear of traveling the world alone? Not traveling the world at all. Not allowing yourself to see that dream become reality. Not making it happen. You’ll get old and frustrated and sad that you didn’t make it happen when you had all the chances to do so.

Right now, in this particular moment in time, traveling is extremely easy. It has never been easier to travel the world and more and more countries open their borders, change their mentality and make things happen.

Look at Thailand: they’re enjoying a touristic boom and are making all possible changes to make it easier for us to visit. They are constantly making changes on how visas work in order to allow digital nomads spend more time in the country.

And Thailand is not the only country that caters to digital nomads and world travelers. Most of the countries out there are starting to see the potential and are in a race around the clock to make it easier for you to visit them.

You never know what the future will hold, though.

Although globalization should mean that traveling should get easier and easier, let’s not forget the fact that a war can start at any moment in time and completely change the way things look on a global scale. You never know what will happen.

This is why it is extremely important to start traveling now and never let the fear of solo travel keep you glued to a single place.

Taking off on your own forces self-reliance and shows you how to be comfortable with your own personality and problem solving skills, while improving nearly everything about you. Even during my mental breakdowns, I like to liken myself to a phoenix rising from the ashes of emotional ineptitude. The next time I get lost on the metro in a new city, brain cloudy from an overnight train and drunk off exhaustion, maybe I’ll cope a little better. When my foreignness shows (it always does), and I get ripped off by yet another vendor, I’ll take that lesson (after sulking) and haggle like a champ the next time. Admittedly, I’m still working on this.

This is life. This is how you get experiences to tell your kids about. This is how YOU do it!

And that’s the great thing about solo travel: its not about being fearless and chauvinistic! To me, at least, its about embracing and accepting those innate personality flaws that we all have, and actively trying to make ourselves suck less. Travel is just a catalyst for this. Like therapy on overdrive. A crowded, social common room in a hostel can help an introvert become comfortable socializing with strangers.

Meeting new people and listening to their stories can be a humbling experience. There’s been a huge focus on solo travel (especially for women) lately, and it’s a damn good thing. Everyone should try traveling alone at least once. But, its definitely not for everyone, and ignoring the genuine, imperfect emotions that we feel when we set out on our own is just silly.

Because of, and in spite of, all of the wonderfully intoxicating aspects of solo travel, its equal parts liberating… and sometimes terrifying. Horror stories, media hype and apprehension from (generally well-intended) friends and family can make even the sanest person’s brain go wild with possible worst-case-scenarios (seriously loved ones, just accept my globetrotter lifestyle and stop being fear mongers, okay?). For some people touching down in a foreign city can be pretty nerve-wracking. Heck, even when I’m not alone I still get nervously excited about those first few hours in a new city.

And you know what? Being scared to travel alone is okay. As long as you don’t let the fear paralyze you, it’s totally normal to be a little freaked out.

So, acknowledge that little voice in the back of your head that says “Pssst, this is crazy”. But then, once you’ve told it to STFU, hit that new city with vigor and confidence. Enjoy yourself, learn as many new things as you possibly can, try new foods, talk and listen to everyone who is willing to indulge your curiosity of new and interesting people, take a stab at the local language (even if you sound like an asshole). After all, except in the most extreme of conditions, you’ll never be truly alone.

This is true! You will meet a ton of people when traveling. You will make a lot of friends. You will be in a ton of crazy fun situations and horrible ones (like getting robbed, for example) – but it will all make you a better person.

You don’t have to travel just to be with somebody, just like you don’t have to not travel because you are alone. The number of people in a group should have no direct connection with you traveling the world.

Yes, it usually sucks to enter a restaurant, order some food and eat it alone… but it’s better than staying at home, surrounded by fake friends who give you fake smiles all the time, who are trying to do what you don’t care about (like keeping up with the Joneses), drinking a special wine that you don’t care about from your special crystal glass that you don’t like, listening to stories about dog poop, beautiful cats and other utterly uninteresting stuff.

The choice is ultimately yours. My recommendation? Do it! Just do it! It feels strange – and it does for all of us. But it gets better over time.

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