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Does the thought of traveling alone give you a case of solo travel anxiety?
Well then, you’re in the right place to learn how to transcend that anxiety… and actually, let’s start this conversion with these two very important facts:
1. Your feelings of anxiety are normal & valid!
How do I know?
👋 I’m Shelley, and I have been a solo traveler in Mexico since April 2018! As a longtime solo female traveler, I’m going to let you in on this little secret:
2. Even veteran solo travelers get anxiety about solo travel sometimes.
The only difference is that we know how to work with those feelings, rather than let them overtake us. That skill, like most skills, comes with practice!
RELATED BLOG ✈️ Afraid to Travel Alone? These 5 Powerful Tips Will Help
What does this all mean for you?
It means that if you’re anxious about solo travel, you should be; you’ve never done it.
You’re about to step out into the unknown. The unknown is anxiety-including — though it’s also exciting — it just depends on how you name your emotions!
Sound deep af? We’ll dissect and unpack all of that in this blog, don’t worry.
For now, let’s look at five effective ways to transcend the most common solo travel anxiety triggers, starting with solo female travel safety.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Is it safe to travel alone as a woman?
Is solo travel safe?
The majority of my solo travels have been in Mexico. As you might imagine, I get the “Is Mexico safe for solo female travel?” question a lot. Like a lot.
If I had a peso for every time someone asked me about Mexico solo travel safety, I could retire from blogging! I digress.
After years of time spent traveling to half the states in Mexico — a country perceived as incredibly unsafe by the U.S. mainstream media — I do understand where the question comes from.
Truth be told, I felt a little scared of Mexico before I got to know the country.
However, my perspective on safety, and why I believe I stayed safe while traveling Mexico solo, was that I took 100% responsibility for my own safety.
Well, no one place on earth is safe, if you really think about it.
Follow along on my solo travel + Mexico travel adventures!
Safety is a Feeling — Not a Fact
If feeling safe/unsafe is based on the probability of something terrible happening to you, then yes, you are unsafe absolutely everywhere — even in your own home!
Based on this, I believe the best we can do is be hyper aware of our surroundings when traveling. If something feels off, or sketchy, or unsafe, LEAVE. Don’t question it.
I feel that 99% of all “bad” stories I’ve heard from fellow solo female travelers came because they questioned their own intuition.
Remember: Safety is a feeling, not a fact. If you feel unsafe, you are unsafe.
If you’re looking to overcome your solo travel anxiety about safety, consider not looking for the answer to this question externally, and turn your attention inward: to your intuition!
RELATED BLOG ✈️ Afraid to Travel Alone? These 5 Powerful Tips Will Help
Using Your Intuition to Stay Safe
One of the ways I believe I have stayed safe as a solo female traveler is by trusting my intuition completely.
If I felt an off, strange or bad feeling about anything, that thing was a no. No, as in No further questions, your honor — not a No as in Let me make sure my bad feeling really does lead to something bad.
Now, I had urges to question myself. This was not an easy mindset shift since conventional “wisdom” tells us to value facts over feelings.
But, one more time for the people in the back; Safety is a feeling, not a fact.
My reality is that I feel as safe in Mexico as I did when I lived in South Florida. Now, there are statistics that will tell me I am not safe by simply being on Mexican soil; but I can assure you I do feel safe.
So who’s right?
My feeling of safety, or the statistic?
What if I get lonely or homesick?
Here’s the deal…
You probably will get homesick.
You’re leaving your home, after all, so your probability of homesickness has shot through the roof! When you leave your home, you kinda sign up for homesickness.
The key here is, not to hope you don’t feel homesick; but rather to know how to deal with this very normal feeling when you feel it.
I believe the second key to reducing solo travel anxiety around feelings of loneliness is to learn how to treat yourself kindly when you feel lonely or homesick.
We humans, to our own detriment, love to long and pine for what we don’t have.
Example: I have curly hair, and every single straight-haired woman loves to tell me she’d do anything for curls. I’ve come to love my natural hair, but before I did, I spent every minute of my existence wanting straight hair.
#SoloTravel 101: The key is not to hope you don’t feel homesick; rather, to know how to deal with this very normal feeling when it arises ✈️🧳🌎Tweet
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What am I getting at?
Well, you went on this trip for an adventure. You wanted something you don’t have in your day-to-day life; whether that be new surroundings, a new experience, a new whatever.
In your day-to-day life, you were longing for what you didn’t have — adventure, travel, freedom, etc.; so you traveled. By this same exact logic, once traveling, you can then expect to long for the thing you now don’t have — home.
Now that you know you’ll likely feel homesick or loney at some point, how do we work with this feeling and not let it turn into full-fledged solo travel anxiety?
Easy: Be nice to it.
If/When (likely, when) the feelings of loneliness and homesickness come, accept them as a feeling you’re feeling — and not the end of the world.
Homesickness isn’t a dragon we have to slay. It’s a fleeting thought that pops into our head, and will soon leave, if we just feel it, and let it be on its way.
According to a 2020 Queen’s University study, we have more than 6,000 thoughts each day.
The ones that pass the quickest? The ones we don’t attach to, and simply let pass by until the next one comes.
What if I lose my phone or passport?
Real talk: You might in fact lose your phone or your passport, or both. There’s really no way around this fact. You simply might, because losing things happens to us all from time to time.
It’s great you’re thinking about this before it happens, because that means you’ll be prepared, as much as you can, if it does.
Long before you even travel, and before your solo travel anxiety has a chance to kick in, is actually the best time to prepare for the worst.
If you lose your phone
One of my general solo female travel tips is to always check to make sure you have your PKW.
I stole this acronym from an episode of the show Broad City, where Lincoln tells Ilana to make sure she has her PKW, or phone-keys-wallet, before she leaves the house.
When I’m leaving Place A for Place B, I do my PKW check. This way, if I ever arrive at a Place B, and I’m missing one of these things, I know they are likely back at Place A.
As you might have gathered, PKW isn’t an exact science; you could still lose your phone while traveling.
If you do, believe me, you’re resourceful enough to figure out a solution when it happens.
Here’s what I mean:
There’s no way to know how you’ll find a solution until the problem happens, because your circumstance when it happens will determine how you’ll handle it.
Think about it:
By this point in your trip, you could have made a travel BFF, or become buddies with your neighbor or the barista at the coffee shop downstairs — all of these people will likely go out of their way to help you.
Besides them, and as a general rule, your Airbnb host, hotel or hostel staff, kind strangers in general, etc. will help you… just as you would help them.
“One of the great things about travel is you find out how many good, kind people there are.” ~Edith Wharton
Related Blog ✍️ 111 of the Most Inspirational Solo Female Travel Quotes by Women
Get Travel Insurance for Peace of Mind
For extra peace of mind, you might want to travel with your laptop or tablet as a phone backup. You might also want to set aside money in an emergency fund to buy a new phone, if you lose yours.
Want to put your mind all the way at ease?
Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your solo trip.
World Nomads travel insurance has plans that do also cover bodily injury, as well as a lost phone, luggage, etc. I have a whole page about Travel Insurance, or get your FREE quote right here.
If you lose your passport
A lost passport, while annoying, is not the end of the world — at all. People lose their passports all the time! To be honest, this probably sucks a lot less than a lost phone.
Here are some preparatory measures you can take before you travel abroad:
- Make two (or more) color photocopies of your passport; bring one with you when you travel, and leave the other(s) with trusted folks back home.
- Snap a clearly-visible photo of pages 1-2 of your passport, and email them to yourself.
- Take this preparedness even one step further by bringing two extra passport photos with you when you travel.
- You will need the official photos in the correct specs, which you can get in most Walgreens in about 15-minutes and for around $10.
Pro Tip: Keep your actual passport separate from the copies and extra photos when you’re traveling. You definitely don’t want to lose them both at the same time!
Contacting the U.S. Consulate or Embassy
In the event of a lost passport, the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy will assist you and make sure you can get on a plane and get home, even if you’ve lost your passport. Those extra official passport photos can usually expedite your lost passport procedure.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
What else can you do?
Enroll in the free STEP Program before your trip.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling abroad to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country you’re headed.
After you’ve registered, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc.
STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.
Simply knowing where the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate is from your accommodations while abroad, puts you another step ahead.
How will I meet people if I’m shy/introverted?
Myth: Solo travel is only for extroverts
Hello, my fellow introvert — I am from your Tribe! That’s right; I have taken the Myers-Briggs at least 25 times (don’t @ me; I love a good personality quiz!) and I have never always come up as an INTJ.
In fact, this “solo travel is only for extroverts” myth is my absolute favorite to bust.
Here’s the thing about solo travel that I’ve found after 2.5 years travling alone:
The vast majority of other solo travelers I’ve met have been introverts!
How can this be?
Easy; and in fact, I believe extroverts represent the minority demographic of solo travelers! Extroverts are extroverted so they have a large enough circle of friends and acquaintances around them to find a travel buddy.
I think the idea of even traveling solo only appeals to introverts. The amount of alone time required of solo travelers really only even appeals to an introvert.
Myth: It will be too hard to meet anyone
Now that we know introverts most certainly can successfully travel solo — how does one come out of one’s introverted shell and meet others?
There are so many ways!
1. Airbnb Experiences
One of the easiest ways I’ve met people is through group tours. I personally love Airbnb Experiences, and do them frequently!
If you’re unfamiliar, these tours are led by locals who are experts in whatever they are giving tours about. I’ve seen everything from a Xochimilco boat cruise/party in Mexico City, to an underwater photoshoot in a Tulum cenote.
Airbnb Experiences are also great because:
- You’re directly supporting a local and the local economy.
- They are usually smaller groups, which means a more personalized experience.
- You can instantly book them online, so you won’t have to spend your precious travel time finding a tour company.
- Like with an Airbnb stay, the guide gets rated at the end, motivating them to do a great job.
Never done an Airbnb Experience?
Click “Experiences” in the blog below, input your travel dates and city, and see what unique things there are to do where you’re headed!
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2. Pre-travel internet networking
You might also consider joining some Facebook groups of expats or like-minded locals where you’re headed. Another great online meeting place is meetup.com.
Pro Tip: Do some internet networking before you even take your trip! Even if you don’t meet up with anyone, you can get great tips from locals about the place you’re traveling.
If you’re into any niche hobbies or activities, for example indoor rock climbing, see if there’s an indoor rock climbing gym where you’re headed.
3. Eating/Drinking at a bar
You could also go to a restaurant or coffee shop and sit at the bar, rather than a table.
If there’s one thing I learned by sitting at a bar solo, you never stay solo for long. It’s almost difficult to stay alone when you go out to eat solo.
If you do opt for a table, consider one outside. This not only helps keep you occupied because you can people watch, but signals to passerby’s that it’s cool to say hi.
Related Blog 🍷🍽 Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear
4. Say hi to your fellow solo travelers
As you may have gathered, you have to engage people to meet them. Here is a more strategic approach to who to engage:
Casually make small talk or say hello to people in places largely inhabited by travelers!
If you see another solo person in a museum, at a famous site, popular attraction, etc., and that person is solo, there’s a good chance they are in fact a fellow solo traveler.
Much like you — reading this blog on how to meet people while solo traveling — this other solo traveler is likely wondering the same thing… and now you have the upper hand with this knowledge!
The art of approaching strangers
What if you aren’t comfortable approaching strangers?
I get it.
Truthfully, I don’t think anyone is all that comfortable approaching a stranger. They could blow us off, or not want to talk to us, or something worse, and rejection sucks! There’s no way around this.
However, and I’m going to real talk you again on this one, but the only way to get comfortable with something — is to practice doing it.
Think of it this way:
If there was a way to get good (or at least comfortable) at something besides by practicing, we’d all be doing it that way, instead of practicing!
Since there’s not, we must practice.
Who should I approach?
The point I already mentioned about trusting your intuition is going to also come in handy for meeting people.
Strangers will tell us if they want to be approached, or not, by their body language and overall vibe.
1. People who seem approachable
Someone who’s into the idea of chatting with a stranger is curiously looking around, they make eye contact, they smile; those are your people.
Anyone with headphones on and their nose in a book, probably isn’t looking to chat.
Recall how I just mentioned above in #3. Eating/Drinking at a bar, to opt for an outdoor table while solo dining? Well, here’s the method to my madness!
Sitting at an outdoor table nonverbally signals that you’re someone who’s approachable — versus someone who took the dark table in the back corner of the cafe, and is giving off big Leave Me TF Alone energy!
2. People taking selfies
One way I’ve met people, especially when at an attraction, is by finding someone taking a selfie.
I offer to take their photo, 99.9% of the time they offer to reciprocate and take my photo, and this interaction leads naturally into a conversation.
This is also a great way to be in some of your solo travel photos, and help a stranger be in theirs. Win-Win!
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What if X [insert worst case scenario here] happens?
When we don’t have a mental picture of how things will (likely) look or turn out, we tend to assume the worst. Psychologists call this catastrophizing, and here’s how it plays out:
“When we catastrophize, we actually do two things: first, we predict the worst possible outcome; second, we assume that if this outcome transpires, we won’t be able to cope and it will be an absolute disaster.” ~Headspace
The thing is — you will be able to cope with your worst case scenario — regardless of what your worst case scenario might be. As author Marie Forleo wisely says, “Everything is figureoutable.”
Take a moment right now and vividly recall the absolute worst case scenario from your past…
Did you survive it? I’m gonna assume you did.
Did you know how you’d cope with it before it happened? Probably not.
Did you believe you could have coped with it before it happened? Also probably not.
However, if you’re reading this, one thing is certain, you did cope with it!
In case you couldn’t think of your own personal worst case scenario, allow me to remind you that you survived a global pandemic. As far as worst case scenarios, that was up there.
Related Blog 💅 Your First Trip Alone: How Social Distancing Prepared You
Now, that doesn’t mean you wanted to cope with your worst case scenario, or that coping with it was amazing; it only means you coped with it, and it didn’t kill you.
Catastrophizing and worst-case-scenario thinking, tell us what we don’t want to happen. They do not, however, tell us what we’re incapable of dealing with.
How to deal with your worst case scenario
The thing with a worst case scenario is, it’s hard to formulate a sound plan for it before it happens. You can’t know how you’re going to deal with said situation, until you’re in it.
Well, you don’t have all the facts of this particular worst case scenario circumstance — because it hasn’t happened.
Much like the lost cell phone solo travel anxiety point we covered, you don’t know how you’re going to deal with said lost cell phone until it happens.
Let’s take the example of losing your phone as being your worst case scenario:
…imagine you met someone in a museum, you fell in love at first sight, and you’ve been inseparable during this entire trip. Well, that person is going to make sure you’re ok, likely going above and beyond, to make sure you’re safely on your way to getting a new phone.
In fact, you might be so in love that a lost cell phone actually seems insignificant.
This now-love of yours, who you couldn’t have planned on meeting, is a game changer in this lost phone scenario. However, you could never have planned for before how helpful they’d be before you even met them!
If you had imagined your worst-case-scenario lost phone before meeting this person, the way you imagined handling it happening would be different.
Random acts of violence
If your worst case scenario is violence or physical harm, that is of course, a different story.
A random event, like physical assault from a stranger, is beyond awful. There’s no way around that. I hope it never happens to any woman for the rest of time.
There is no way to plan for something like that, though. In fact, that could happen anywhere; it’s random and your chances of it happening don’t necessarily increase while traveling.
However, if the prospect of this type of random physical violence happening to you gives you so much anxiety that you can’t get past thinking this is going to happen to you — that is valid. You should probably respect that feeling, and forego solo travel.
On that same note, the prospect of a random act of violence happening to me is scary af. I will, however, say that I feel I have good coping mechanisms for dealing with transcending these types of thoughts.
Making personal safety your #1 priority
As previously mentioned, I believe my own safety is 100% my responsibility. I don’t ever assume anyone’s busy thinking about my safety; I assume, rather, they are thinking about their own.
To this end, I try to mitigate risk as much as possible. This includes not walking home alone at night, opting for Uber over public transportation, and of course, listening to my intuition.
When my intuition told me to avoid a certain street, I did. If my intuition said something feels off about this person, I got away from them. When my intuition told me whatever, I listened.
After years of solo travel, and meeting a whole lot of other solo female travelers, I heard stories like this way too many times:
“I had a bad feeling, but I did it anyway. Then, [a bad thing] happened.”
The silver lining for you here?
Your intuition is always talking to you — all you have to do now, is start listening and following its good advice. I believe listening to your intuition will do wonders for calming your overall solo travel anxiety; like it did for mine!
General female travel safety tips
- Use a cross body bag instead of a shoulder bag, and keep it at your side or on your chest, instead of on your back.
- Don’t put your phone in your back pocket!
- Take your purse or book bag into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a café/bar neighbor to watch it. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
- Don’t pull your phone out in a giant crowd and/or if the vibe feels sketchy. Remember, your intuition is always right!
- If the vibe feels sketchy, duck into a cafe, buy a water, and wait a bit until you feel better about your surroundings.
- Not wearing flashy clothes or jewelry (Side Note: Mexicans are relatively modest dressers).
- Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
- Double check to make sure you have your “PKW” (Phone, Keys, Wallet) whenever you’re leaving one place to go to the next.
Have additional tips on how to overcome solo travel anxiety?
Please let me know what they are in the comments down below.
Enjoy these related blogs!
- How to Travel Alone for the First Time: 10 Useful Tips
- 111 of the Most Inspirational Solo Female Travel Quotes by Women
- 5 Reasons Mexico is the Best First Time Solo Travel Destination
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