Who hasn’t heard incredible stories of friends’ explorations around the globe, or followed an Instagram feed that fills you with wanderlust, and felt inspired to dust off that passport and see the sights for yourself? The problem for many would-be travellers is the thought of going it alone and discovering the big wide world without someone by your side, particularly for those with anxiety. But remember, adventure is out there, and it’s for everyone
Have you ever looked at the social media accounts of confident solo travellers, perhaps hanging out with the Masai in Kenya, and thought: “That will never happen to me”?
For those who live with the spectre of anxiety, just dealing with the high street can be a challenge, so surely the wonder of independent travel is a pipedream?
This isn’t strictly true. What may be true is that we should approach things differently, but that’s the way for most things.
According to an ABTA holiday habits survey, solo travel has doubled in the last six years, so why should we miss out on this phenomenon?
Here are four stages for you to consider on your quest for independent travel:
1. Start small
An organised tour is a great first step. There are plenty of travel agencies that specialise in solo travel, so you don’t have to worry about being the only single person. I went to China with one of these, and it was wonderful. I was travelling alone, but I had support.
Once your confidence starts to grow, a staycation is a good option. There is something reassuring in knowing that you can get on a train and be back in familiarity in no time. Edinburgh, Manchester, and Dublin all have small city centres, and are just waiting for an explorer with their stabilisers still on.
2. Prepare for success
For those with anxiety, we feel happier with a degree of control. I’m not suggesting you have a timed itinerary; you need to allow for some reaction to your surroundings. But reading up on your destination can take a lot of the indecision away.
The position of your base is important. When I went on my first solo holiday to Valencia, I made the mistake of staying in a very residential district. There was a lot of exploring to be done, and I should have picked a more vibrant area.
A hotel with plenty of facilities is also a wise move. Some days you might not want to do battle with the tourist crowds – this is a holiday after all. If the weather is hot, a pool is an essential.
3. You’ve arrived
If you arrive and feel overwhelmed, don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. Even those confident people smiling back at you on social media have had their moments of terror.
One tourist failsafe, which works for me, is the “hop-on, hop-off” bus. This will be your chariot to calm. You get your bearings pretty much instantly, and will have noted down at least 10 places you want to go back to. It is also the perfect chance to sit on the top deck, let the breeze blow on your face, and just take stock.
One surprising tip is visiting the local supermarket. An hour looking around a supermarket can centre you. We live in a global marketplace, and the familiarity of a Laughing Cow cheese is strangely powerful.
4. Feeling inadequate
Evil self-doubt can creep in. Stop it in its tracks. Find a coffee shop, and reflect on everything you have achieved. Think back to when your anxiety has been at its worst. Now think how impressed that person would be by the person you are today, sitting enjoying a coffee in the sunshine. You’ve come a long way.
Break problems down. Never mind where you’re eating tonight. Just deal with this moment. Is there a shop you can browse in, or a church where you can have some quiet time? Do this until the knotty stomach starts to give up.
Having a good book with me is my ejector seat. I’ll find a lovely spot, and give myself half-an-hour reading time. Once I come back up for air, I’m refreshed to go back into the fray.
Searching for that vaycay inspiration?
There are lots of solo explorers you can follow online:
- Charli Moore ditched the nine-to-five to indulge her adventurous spirit in 2010, and she hasn’t looked back since. Instagram: @wanderlustcharli
- Matt Kepnes has been uncovering the world since 2004, and recording it on his blog. Now he’s a best-selling author helping others to understand how to travel solo – and afford it. Instagram: @nomadicmatt
- Where’s Mollie Global Travellers (WMGT) is a group bringing together those with a passion for discovering the world, meaning that while there’ll be new places and faces, you’ll also make new friends. Instagram: @wmglobaltravellers