Traveling alone can be daunting and scary – but it’s not as bad as you might think. I understand the hesitation in the back of your mind… I had it too. There’s no college course on how to survive your first international trip alone. You aren’t born with this kind of knowledge, although it comes easier to some than others. It’s best to plan in advance, but some people prefer to just pick a destination, go, and figure the rest out when they get there.
Here’s some of the wisdom I accrued from traveling India alone:
Map Everything Out, Before You Leave
Knowing where you are going and what you are doing will reduce your anxiety about traveling alone. Research culture. Research the best places to stay or eat. Be aware of what you want to do, where you want to be, and when. Not everything goes according to plan, but at least you will have some idea of what to expect from your journey to another country.
If you prefer the thrill of last minute decisions, or otherwise NOT planning your trip…
At Least Learn How To Be Safe And Protect Yourself Abroad
Again research culture. You wouldn’t want to risk presenting yourself in a way that can land you in a dangerous situation, such as insulting someone by accident. On another note, know where your nearest consulate is. Check in with family from time to time, via the internet, or at least document the places you are going and staying. Dress according to culture; bad people know how to target foreigners. Lastly, trust your instincts. If something seems amiss, it probably is. At least that’s the mindset you need to keep.
Keep Calm, Ground Yourself, And Respond Accordingly
If something doesn’t go according to plan, it doesn’t mean your trip is ruined. Like everything in life, your adventure will have unexpected moments, twists and turns. You could wind up paying a random expense you had no way of planning for. You could wind up in a city that doesn’t have any cheap hotels, despite the research you did that said otherwise, before arriving. The essence of adventure is the unexpected. Don’t let the twists and turns ruin your experience.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.” – Eckhart Tolle
Always Have A Back Up Plan
Keep in mind what you will do in case something doesn’t work out… but don’t obsess about it. That’s the difference between being prepared and being paranoid. You need to know what to do next, if you suddenly need more money or if the hotel you booked lost your reservation, you need to know what you will do to handle the situation. Come up with a plan B for everything. Hotels, car rentals, taxis, flights, trains, social gatherings, dinner… Everything. I always make my back up plans as I come up with the original idea. For example, if I have arranged to go with someone to a social event, I also think about how I will get there if my friend can’t make it.
Meet New People And Make Friends
Don’t be afraid to be social and meet new people. Having friends in another country can be educational, fun and helpful. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, making friends abroad. Especially if you get the chance to incorporate them into your life forever, and more so, if you get the chance to make memories with them. Making friends in the country you intend to travel to, before you go, is a nice idea, but can be risky. Make friends while you are there! Friends can help ease your anxiety about being alone, and can help you find anything you might need while you are in their country.
Harmonize With Your Environment For A Better Experience
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Or so the saying goes… When you are in another country, be observant of what others are doing, saying, wearing, etc. If you are respectful of culture, you will earn the respect of everyone you meet. Dressing according to culture is not just for the benefit of everyone around you, but also for your benefit. It can be extremely fulfilling, and ultimately makes you feel like you truly belong there. Not to mention it can be culturally educational, and an all around adventurous experience.
When you travel abroad, you will find endless opportunities to try new things. You will have the opportunity to do new things, see places you have never seen, eat food you have never tried, and think about things from a whole new perspective. Take chances! Do things that make you nervous! You will earn a lifetime of memories and wisdom.
In Case Of Panic…
I never said this was going to be easy. There will be times you become completely confused, frustrated, upset, lonely or really missing home. The best thing to do, is to go back to your hotel (or hostel, or guest house, or wherever your temporary home is), close the curtains, take a deep breath and just relax. Turn on your favorite music. Lay down and meditate or think about all of the things that make you happy. It’s important to spend some time alone, but also consider getting online and talking to your friends and family. The great thing about technology, is that it helps us stay connected to the people we care about most.
After spending some time alone, online with friends or family, or possibly after a nap, you will feel like you are ready to continue your journey. Everyone has moments where they feel they can’t handle their journey and want to go home. However, the best part of the journey, is sticking it out. You can do it!
As I said… Traveling abroad alone is a scary thought at first. In many cases, the first few days of being in another country is the hardest. Many say the first day is the hardest. In my case, I was numbed by amazement and wonder my first day in India. The next few days it slowly sank in, and in my experience, the first two weeks of being in another country were the hardest. After that, I felt comfortable and liberated. I went on to stay four months in India, and am actively planning my return trip.
Don’t give up on your dream to travel, because you are afraid to go alone! You will thank yourself for the rest of your life, if you go through with traveling abroad alone. You’ve got this!