One week before my departure for Italy, I sat on the edge of my bed, mind swirling over my to-do list. “Don’t go to Europe.” Those were the words that rang out in my head as I tried to keep my thoughts positive.
I was beyond stressed out – aside from finishing up papers, taking finals early, and moving out of my house, I was filled with anxiety thinking about my first time traveling alone.
Fear had started welling up inside of me. I worried, thinking, what if I didn’t make any friends? What if I got into some kind of trouble? What if someone took advantage of me? These were all valid questions worth addressing as a first-timer, but I had to be honest. As Jim Carrey once said, there’s a difference between “a dog that’s going to eat you in your mind, and an actual dog that’s going to eat you.”
Of course I got on the plane. Two years later I can confidently say that first solo trip was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I’ve since traveled alone many times, and while fear still sometimes creeps in, here are some truly empowering ways I used to deal with it.
5 Way to Confront Your Fears
1) Tune into your senses
Our bodies are constantly talking to us, and that gut feeling is usually right. When you find yourself questioning choices or feeling anxious, take a few deep breaths and check in with your body. Where are you feeling fear? Where’s it truly stemming from? Staying present and connected with yourself is crucial when you’re traveling solo.
2) Read up on your shit
It may sound obvious, but a little bit of research goes a long way. When you head overseas there’s usually a million things to do in order for everything to line up accordingly – so do your homework, make a list, and prepare. Before I went to Burning Man last year, I think I read just about every article there was out there for first-timers, and being physically ready was a HUGE factor for being mentally ready for the experience. I’m not sure anyone’s ever truly ready for the insanity that is your first Burn, but a little sure went a long way.
3) Push yourself to connect
Before leaving for Europe, I thought I would be alone the whole time and that would be OK. I was soooo wrong! I was hardly alone at all except on the occasional train from one city to the other. I was constantly with someone, but if I hadn’t pushed myself to say hello, or ask for directions, there’s no way I’d have met as many people as I did. Say hi! Be curious! Ask for help! People are surprisingly welcoming and friendly even in huge cities, and especially in hostels.
4) Radical trust
While preparation is key to safely traveling alone and kicking ass while doing it, at some point you just have to let go and allow what will be to be. Travel can be equally challenging and rewarding, and it’s important to go with the flow and let the universe work its magic for you. The right people and lessons will come your way if you let them. Radically let go of expectations and trust that everything will work out, because it will.
5) Remind yourself why you’re doing this
When nothing (or everything) goes right, think back to the reasons why you went solo in the first place. When I was traveling alone in Vietnam and lost my camera, I was kicking myself for being stupid, but the people I met as a result ended up becoming my best friends – plus someone eventually found the camera and sent it to me. Sometimes things don’t make sense in the moment, but when you reflect on the arch of your adventure and the reasons you went in the first place, it all comes together.
About the author:
Kelsey Rains is a writer, editor, world traveler, and entrepreneur mostly based out of Portland, Oregon. Kelsey’s first ventures into writing and traveling started in college when she studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for five months. The experience left her speechless (for once) and she vowed to continue journeying through her 20’s. Kelsey has worked all sorts of jobs, but her main passion is writing and creating. She hopes to encourage others to fearlessly follow their passions and live fully in each moment. Check out her writing here: www.kelseycreating.com