Solo Travel Anxiety: 5 Common Triggers & How to Overcome Them

Feeling solo travel anxiety about traveling alone as a woman?

Well then, you’re in the right place to learn how to deal with travel anxiety, using tips, tricks and mindset hacks I’ve personally used throughout my years of solo female travel. Right off the bat, I want to start this conversion with these two very important facts:

1. Your feelings of solo travel fear and pre-travel anxiety are normal and valid.

How do I know? 👋 I’m Shelley, and I have living in and doing solo travel in Mexico since April 2018! As a longtime solo female traveler, I’m going to let you in on one more little secret:

2. Even veteran solo travelers (like me!) get solo travel anxiety from time to time.

The only difference is that those who have traveled alone before have learned how to work with those feelings, rather than let them overtake us. That skill, like most skills, comes with practice.

In short, if you’re anxious about solo travel, you should be; you’ve never done it. You’re about to step into the unknown, and the unknown is anxiety-including — though it’s also exciting, it just depends on how you name your emotions. Sound deep? We’ll dissect and unpack all of that in this article, don’t worry. 

For now, let’s look at five effective ways to transcend some of the most common pre-travel anxiety triggers, starting with solo female travel safety.

🎧 This article is also available as a Solo travel podcast!

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HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

1. Is solo travel as a woman safe?

Safety is a Feeling — Not a Fact

If being safe vs. unsafe is based on the probability of something terrible happening to you, then yes, you are unsafe absolutely everywhere on the planet — even in your own home.

Based on this, the best solo travel tip out there is to remain hyper aware of our surroundings when traveling. If something feels off, or sketchy, or unsafe, LEAVE. Don’t question it. If someone is giving off creepy vibes, get away from them ASAP; don’t worry about a kind or politically correct exit, just get away.

RELATED ARTICLE ✈️ Scared to Travel Alone? 10 Tips on How to Embrace Solo Travel

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 for ways on how to get over travel anxiety about safety, consider not looking for the answer to this question externally via news sites and statistics. Rather, turn your attention inward, and start to listen to your intuition.

Now, some places are safer than others, that’s for sure. However, as someone who’s done quite a bit of Mexico solo travel, I know there’s a lot to be said for intuition. Before visiting Mexico, I was repeatedly warned that it’s unsafe for women, but after three years and 14 states visited, I haven’t felt unsafe once.

Happy woman on a swing in a mountain field | Solo travel anxiety

RELATED ARTICLE ✈️ 111 Solo Travel Quotes About Traveling Alone that Will Inspire You


HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

Use your intuition when traveling alone

One of the ways I 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, the fact remains that safety is a feeling, not a fact, and your feelings are your best gauge of safety.

My reality is that I feel as safe in Mexico as I did when I lived in South Florida. Now, statistics will tell me Mexico is not among the best places for solo travelers, nor is it one of the safest places for female travelers; however, I can assure you that I do in fact feel quite safe in Mexico.

So who’s right? My feeling of safety, or the statistic 🤔


HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Before traveling, take a few minutes to 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.

Solo travel safety items

While the vast majority of solo travelers are safe overall, that’s not to say travel safety is a guarantee for anyone. Whether you’re a solo female traveler, traveling in a couple or a group, travelers are always easier targets, especially for petty theft like pickpocketing.

For this reason, consider the travel safety items below, including an anti-theft purse, anti-theft backpack, and hidden picket security scarf. Some solo women traveling also wear a fake wedding ring, and bring a door stopper with sound alarm.


Mexico Solo Travel: 20 SAFE Destinations for Female Travelers (According to Solo Female Travelers Who Have Actually Been to Them!)


Is solo travel in Mexico safe?

The majority of my solo travels have been in Mexico — and as you might imagine, I get the “Is Mexico safe for solo female travel?” question a lot. I always say that if I had a peso for every time someone asked me about Mexico solo travel safety, I could retire 🤣

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, since really, no one place on earth is 100% safe, if you really think about it.


HOW TO get over TRAVEL ANXIETY

2. What if I get homesick or feel lonely?

Here’s the deal: You probably will get homesick at least once. There, now you know!

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, since you can’t really feel homesick at home.

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.

We humans, often to our own detriment, tend to long for what we don’t have. In the case of being homesick during travel, you’re longing to be home because you don’t have it in that moment. However, when you were home, you were longing what you didn’t have — travel.

In fact, you wanted what you didn’t have (travel) so much so that you planned a trip, took time off work, booked a ticket, and traveled there! By this same exact logic, once traveling, you should also at some point, expect to long for the thing you now don’t have — your home.

Woman sitting on a bench under purple and white flowers

RELATED ARTICLE ✈️ How to Travel Alone for the First Time: 10 Useful Tips


HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

Realize feeling homesick & lonely are normal

Now that you know you’ll likely feel homesick or even lonely during travel at some point, how do you work with these feelings and not let them turn into full-fledged vacation anxiety?

Easy: Be kind to your feelings, and to yourself.

If (or when) loneliness and homesickness show up, accept them as simply a feeling you’re feeling — and not the end of the world. Remind yourself that homesickness isn’t a dragon you have to slay. It’s a fleeting thought that popped into your head, and will soon leave, if you just feel it and let it be on its merry way.

I did a 10 day silent meditation retreat on the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, and one of the things I learned by not speaking and only listening — was just how many thoughts we have per day.

💡Get this: According to a 2020 Queen’s University study, we have more than 6,000 thoughts each day. 

Want to know which thoughts pass on the quickest? The ones I didn’t attach to, the ones I didn’t assign a negative name to, and the ones I didn’t judge myself poorly for thinking. Almost as if by magic, those thoughts passed quickly, and a new one showed up.


how to overcome solo travel anxiety

3. What if i lose my phone or passport?

You might in fact lose your phone or your passport, or both. There’s really no way around this fact, so best to be honest with yourself. You simply might, because losing things happens to us all from time to time, both during travel and while at home (sometimes, even in your home 🤣).

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 traveling anxiety has a chance to kick in, is actually the best time to prepare for the worst.

Woman with red hair looking at her cell phone | Solo travel anxiety
HOW TO get over TRAVEL ANXIETY

If you lose your phone

One thing I try to remember to do while traveling is a PKW check. 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. While PKW isn’t a guarantee you won’t lose your phone, keys or wallet, regularly making sure you have them will certainly help.

“One of the great things about travel is you find out how many good, kind people there are.” ~Edith Wharton

If you do in fact lose your phone, you have to believe you’re resourceful enough to figure out a solution. This statement might seem vague, but 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 — and all of these people will likely go out of their way to help you. Besides them, your hotel or hostel staff, or Airbnb host can assist also.

Map and passport with stamps
HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

If you lose your passport

The U.S. State Department says more than 300,000 American passports are lost or stolen each year, so while annoying, a lost passport is not the end of the world. To be honest, this probably sucks a lot less than a lost phone.

Head to the U.S. government’s website for more info on the complete lost or stolen passport procedure, and check out the tips below. The three items below are some preparatory measures they recommend you take before you travel abroad, to expedite you getting your new passport.

  1. Make a color photocopy of your passport, and bring it with you when you travel.
  2. Snap a clearly-visible photo of pages 1-2 of your passport.
  3. Bring 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 for about $10USD.

💡 Solo Travel Tip: Keep your actual passport separate from the photocopy and extra photos when you’re traveling, as you definitely don’t want to lose everything at the same time!

Contacting the U.S. Consulate or Embassy

With the color photocopy, photos of your passport, and two passport photos in hand, the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy will assist you in getting your new passport so you can return to the U.S. In fact, with all that ready to go, you’re much more prepared than the average traveler.

how to overcome solo travel anxiety

Get peace of mind with Travel Insurance

Want to put your mind all the way at ease about a lost passport or phone? Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also get solo travel insurance for your trip.

World Nomads travel insurance has plans that cover a lost phone, luggage, bodily injury, getting sick, etc. — and you can get your FREE quote right here ⤵


HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

4. How will I meet people as a shy introvert?

Myth: Solo travel is only for extroverts

Hello, fellow introvert! I have taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Test at least 25 times (don’t @ me; I love a good personality quiz), and have always come up as an INTJ — the “I” result in this test meaning introvert.

For me, this “solo travel is only for extroverts” myth is my absolute favorite to bust, because from my experience, it’s been just the opposite. Here’s the thing about solo travel that I’ve found after years of traveling alone: The vast majority of other solo female travelers I’ve met have been introverts.

Reality: introverts make better solo travelers

Really, both introverts and extroverts make perfectly fine solo travelers, however from my. experience, extroverts represent the minority demographic of solo travelers.

Extroverts being extroverted, tend to have a large enough circle of friends and acquaintances around them to find a travel buddy. This is great because the sheer amount of time you’ll spend alone while solo traveling really only even appeals to an introvert anyway.

Happy woman on a bike tour with male friends | Solo travel anxiety
HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

3 Ways to make friends while traveling

Now that we know introverts most certainly can travel solo — how does one come out of one’s introverted shell and meet others? Here are just four of the many ways you can meet people while traveling.

1. Group TOurs: Travel Solo with a group!

One of the easiest ways I’ve met people is through group tours. They both provide a chance to see sites with others, which can be safer, depending on the country and site you’re visiting, and an easy way to meet people.

You can book tours in advance with Get Your Guide or Viator, or if this is your first solo trip, maybe a fully planned solo trip would make more sense. For those, head to G Adventures or Contiki, two great companies offering some of the best solo travel vacations.

2. Sit at the bar, or go to a bar

Bars are easy places to meet people, but you could also go to a restaurant or coffee shop and sit at the bar, rather than a private table. If there’s one thing I learned by sitting at a bar solo, you never stay solo for long. In fact, it’s almost harder to stay alone for long when you go out to eat alone and sit at the bar.

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 a passerby that it’s cool to say hi and chat you up.

RELATED ARTICLE 🍷🍽 Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear

3. Pre-travel online networking

You might also consider joining some Facebook groups expats in the city or country you’re headed to. Another great online meeting place is meetup.com. If you’re into any niche hobbies or activities, for example acro yoga, see if there’s an acro yoga meetup or acro yoga studio where you’re headed.

💡 Solo Travel Tip: Do some internet networking in Facebook groups and travel forums before you even take your trip! Even if you don’t meet up with anyone, you can get great tips from locals this way.


HOW TO get over TRAVEL ANXIETY

Practice 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.

However, the only way to get comfortable with something is to practice doing it. Whether it be baking sourdough bread, painting floral landscapes, or doing a headstand in yoga, if there was a way to get good at something besides by practicing, we’d all be that instead of practicing.

Since there’s not, we must practice to make perfect (or at least easier and more comfortable).

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 you if they want to be approached, or not, by their body language and overall vibe. Below are three demographics who might be good people to chat up:

woman taking a photo of another woman on her cell phone | Solo travel anxiety

RELATED ARTICLE 📸 6 Epic Solo Travel Photography Tips + 5 FREE Presets

1. People taking selfies

One way I’ve met people is by finding someone who’s taking a selfie, and offering to get a photo for them. About 99.9% of the time, they will offer to reciprocate and take my photo, which 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!

2. fellow solo travelers

If you see another solo person in a museum, at a famous site, popular attraction, or other places frequented by travelers, there’s a good chance they are a fellow solo traveler. Much like you, this other solo traveler is likely wanting to connect.

3. 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 in Tip #3 the suggestion to opt for an outdoor table while solo dining? Well, there’s a method to my madness! Sitting at an outdoor table nonverbally signals you’re someone who’s approachable, versus the person at the dimly-lit table in the back corner of the cafe who clearly wants to be left alone.


how to overcome solo travel anxiety

5. What if [insert your worst case scenario] happens?

When we don’t have a mental picture of how things will look or play out, we often tend to assume the worst. Psychologists call this catastrophizing, and it actually does serve a purpose — it helps keep you alive. Since you’re new to solo travel and you don’t have a mental picture of it, you might be doing this.

catastrophizing: to view or talk about (an event or situation) as worse than it actually is, or as if it were a catastrophe

From an evolutionary standpoint, assuming the worst outcome keeps you alive, because you essentially avoid anything even remotely dangerous. Now, being alive physically and actually enjoying your life are two very different things, which is why it makes sense not to think in catastrophizing terms so often.

Besides the fact that always assuming the worst case scenario sucks the fun right out of life, it’s also actually false. Take a moment right now and vividly recall the absolute worst case scenario from your past…

  • Did you survive it? I’ll 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!

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 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.

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 in her book of the same title, “Everything is Figureoutable.”

Happy woman on a swing | Solo travel anxiety
HOW TO get over TRAVEL ANXIETY

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.

Why not? Well, you don’t have all the facts of this particular worst case scenario circumstance — because it hasn’t happened. The way you cope during a worst case scenario will depend on info you don’t yet have, and here’s an example to illustrate that.

Let’s assume losing your phone is your worst case scenario:

…Imagine you meet someone in a museum, you fell in love at first sight, and you’ve been inseparable during this entire solo trip. On your third blissful day together, you lose your phone in a park.

Well, this 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. Besides that, you might be so in love that a lost cell phone actually seems insignificant.

This now-love of yours, who you never planned to meet, will be a game changer in your lost phone scenario. If you had imagined your worst case scenario lost phone before meeting them, the way you imagined handling it happening would be different.

Random acts of physical violence

If your worst case scenario is violence or physical harm, that is of course, a different story than a cell phone. A random event, like physical assault from a stranger, is beyond awful, and 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 increase while traveling solo as a woman. In fact, according to a 2018 study by Glasgow University, more than 90% of rape and sexual assault victims knew their attacker.

However, if the prospect of this type of random physical violence gives you so much anxiety about traveling that you can’t get past thinking it will happen to you — that is valid. In this case, respect that feeling and forego solo travel, or at least wait to do so until you’re comfortable.

Happy woman on a swing in a sunflower field | Solo travel anxiety
HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

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. For me, making my own safety a priority came down to these two things:

• Avoid Risky Situations: I always tried to mitigate risk as much as possible. This included not walking home alone at night, opting for Uber over public transportation, being aware of all my surroundings, and of course, listening to my intuition.

• Listen to Your Intuition: When my intuition told me to avoid a certain street, or bar, or even a person, 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.

The #1 Reason to listen to your intuition: It’s always right!

After years of solo travel, and meeting many other solo female travelers, I heard stories like this way too many times — “I had a bad feeling, but I did it anyway, and then, [the bad thing] happened.” I’m sure you’ve heard stories like this, or even lived out this same scenario.

The silver lining? 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 pre travel anxiety symptoms; like it has done for mine.

Happy woman on a beach tree swing | Solo travel anxiety
HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

Final thoughts: Solo female travel FAQs

Is solo travel worth it?

As a longtime solo female traveler myself, I’m clearly biased. Having said that, HELL YES solo travel is 1000%. worth it.

I credit solo female travel with changing my life so much that I made a solo female travel blog and podcast to help inspire other women. While I don’t have any idea how you’ll personally end up feeling about solo travel, I know that if you’ve read this far, it seems you owe it to yourself to find out.

Here’s why I travel alone

On nearly all of my solo travel podcast episodes, I have said these very words: Solo travel is the quickest form of therapy.

As someone who did about 1.5 years of in-office therapy with an amazing woman who helped me in countless ways, I learned more in a week of solo travel than I learned in 1.5 years in therapy! We humans learn quickest by doing, not by talking about doing.

HOW TO get over SOLO TRAVEL ANXIETY

Is solo travel lonely?

Yes, solo travel can be, and quite frankly, sometimes will be lonely. Now that that’s out of the way, it may clear up some mental space to be OK with the very normal human emotion called loneliness. Since this is such a normal part of the human experience, you can feel lonely in a crowd or even in a relationship.

This brings up this relevant point: Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Just because you’re traveling alone, doesn’t mean you constantly feel lonely; for many women, it’s the exact opposite. If everyone felt constantly lonely on solo trips, we’d stop spending our hard earned money on them!

Is it weird to travel alone?

It seems solo travel for women is only weird for those who have never done it 🤣 For women who have traveled solo, we know it’s empowering, liberating, exciting, and so much more. If you truly want to take your first trip alone as a woman, ask someone who’s done it — and avoid the advice of those who haven’t.


Have any questions about how to overcome solo travel anxiety?

If there was anything I didn’t cover, please join the conversation and ask away in the comments down below! I’d be thrilled to chat with you 💗


Enjoy these related female solo travel blogs!


Please join me on my Solo Travel & Mexico Travel adventures


¡Hola Chicas!

I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… READ MORE

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