The Fear Of Travelling Solo

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While we grow up we begin to be more “aware” about certain hazards, that are introduced in our mind at the cultural level, beliefs, rumours and all the noise generated constantly in media.”

Travelling alone can be a frightening thing. Or at least that was my first feeling when I heard about it for the first time. At that moment, I never imagined that later in the future it could be the reason that would allow me to travel anytime when I had the chance to do it.

Our mind is programmed to protect us from uncomfortable situations and possible hazards. It will push us back to try things that are out of our control. While we grow up we begin to be more “aware” about certain hazards, that are introduced in our mind at the cultural level, beliefs, rumours and all the noise generated constantly in media.” But we are programmed to protect ourselves from the prehistory. The prehistoric man had to face the hazards of being killed by other tribes or wild animals.

As our mind says “no” to things that are out of our control, it reproduces negative thoughts. The idea of travelling alone could reproduce something like… a dark day where you are walking to find your accommodation. The environment is calm and the only noise is reproduced by the wheels of the suitcase hitting the tiles of the floor. You don’t have internet on the phone and there are strangers around, with who knows what intentions. Then, you feel anxious about getting lost and having the possibility of being… – insert fear here – ?. In the end, the reality is not like our mind reproduces it.

“I sense much fear in you”

Before, for me, travelling wasn’t an option if I didn’t have someone to come with. Today that’s a different story. But, what did happen to make me change?: the only answer I’ve found so far is; inspiration + time.

It was a slow process of assimilation after knowing stories and experiences from other people. For sure you have read or heard about “travelling solo it’s amazing and blah blah blah, just do it” which is true, but easy to say when you already have experienced it. However, taking action is not that simple the first time. Why? – continue reading 🙂

Travelling solo in Gdansk (Sopot), Poland. March 2017

I still remember when I was a child on my first day at school and I was “left” “alone”. It was uncomfortable to be in an unknown place (the school) surrounded by “strangers” (my new classmates and teacher?). But in the end, everything was fine and I made new friends. Travelling alone for first time is a kind of similar thing: a bit uncomfortable at first, but got interesting and better than expected later.

About this topic we can find 2 kinds of people:

  1. People that never have thought about the idea of travelling alone: because they are a couple, a have family or simply because the idea hasn’t come up or hasn’t been considered it (yet). Other reasons might be not having enough money to afford a trip or even visa issues.
  2. People that have thought about it, but that haven’t tried it yet: considering that they don’t have economic problems or visa restrictions, the main reason for not having tried travelling alone are:
    • Safety
    • Being lonely
    • Feeling awkward alone
    • Being disoriented and getting lost

It’s all about what we learn

Our mind is so powerful that the beliefs created during our life or by local negative experiences, can empower negative thoughts and stopping us to even consider being “exposed” to “danger” in other places. We contextualize based on that knowledge and experience.

Despite my home country (Chile) is probably one of the safest in Southamerica, in my hometown I learned from I was a kid that I had to pay attention in the street since I could be robbed or assaulted. In addition, TV doesn’t help much, news always showed (and continue informing) murders, robbery, assaults and bad things that made me afraid about the world. But also comments like:

  • ”Every day the crime is being worse”
  • ”Don’t trust on unknown people”
  • ”In that place, there was an attack, don’t go there”

For example, there was news about something that happened to 2 Chileans guys that were travelling in Malaysia about 2 years ago. They had the bad luck of crossing path with a drugged guy who was asking money from them. To summarize the story, he 2 Chilean guys acted in self-defence and the attacker passed away. Both Chilean guys went to prison, waiting for the sentence. After that, when my family and friends knew I was going to Thailand, they were alarmed “did you know about the 2 Chilean guys in Malaysia?”.

Views from the Citadella, Budapest. August 2016.

It can’t be denied that everywhere is totally safe, but that doesn’t mean that everywhere is dangerous and less if you take precautions. Obviously, it’s not good to expose yourself showing off, for example, expensive stuff or fancy clothes if you are going to visit a place that is not. In the end, everything is about balance and having a bit of common sense.

For women, travelling alone might be even more frightening. However, curiously approximately 70% of solo travellers I have coincided on my way were women. When I’ve heard or met women were travelling alone, it was for me a source of inspiration and admiration.

When is the moment

At the moment you feel that you would like to go somewhere, and your friends can’t come with you, it’s the start. If you heard about someone else story about her/his solo trip, you put yourself in that scenario as well. But stepping back it’s totally normal and it’s something I did several times.

Because if we are aware of what we are afraid, maybe will be easier to reach the ‘Freedom‘!”

How did it exactly happen to me? To be honest I was always trying to find a someone that could come with me. Even after hearing about the experiences of my solo travel friends. However, in summer of 2016, all my friends had different ideas and plans, but I hadn’t had much chance of travelling around Europe yet. I had a little budget to travel, but nobody could join me. I had 3 options: doing nothing, joining to someone else’s plan, or doing what I wanted alone. What you had chosen?

No people for a high five? self five!.

I’m not a psychologist, but I like to understand how we think and progress against things we struggle with. As I passed personally for the process of ‘not wanting’ to travel alone to actually ‘doing it’, I thought in bringing up all that abstraction and making it more tangible and helping out others to understand the same fears and concerns. Because if we are aware of what we are afraid, maybe will be easier to reach the ‘Freedom‘!

The mental model

Awareness > Consideration > Reassurance > Decision > Action > Freedom

Awareness > Consideration > Reassurance > Decision > Action > Freedom

The process of Awareness about travelling alone it’s something triggered by someone that you trust and tells you about her/his experience. From that moment starts the process of Consideration, imagining yourself in that scenario. In the process of consideration, the idea of travelling alone might be rejected several times and probably discarded. Here is when our negative thoughts come up.

Nevertheless, I started to consider the idea of travelling alone later, like in a maturation process. I met more people that had done it and hearing a lot of great experiences, it started to consolidate more Reassurance. The example helped my brain to complete the gaps that were filled by fears, which are all things that were out of my control; for ignorance or lack of experience. Some of us may never feel like to travel alone, others would like to, but naturally will be afraid of.

That moment when everything starts to make more sense.

So, at the moment of summer 2016, I had the wish to travel, but I wasn’t totally sure yet. Before to take the Decision, I gave to my brain what it wanted by providing the necessary information and tools that covered all the gaps that were filled with concerns. It means trying to find responses to what provoked me insecurity, giving alternatives at the moment of living the experience (will cover it in another post!).

Make a realistic sketch of the trip > Search a flight > Take action and buy it. Then make the realistic plan to complete it.

After having provided tranquillity to my brain, the Decision was done and made a rapid sketch of the places to visit. This was the moment to take Action, so the next was to find a flight and click on the button “Pay Now”. That would be my point of no return. I remember to be in front of the laptop during a long time watching and hovering with the cursor over the payment button, while my index finger was ready to click. Suddenly it seems that gravity did its work and I clicked on it…
boom! it was a rollercoaster of emotions.

Taking a decision without taking action, would be a synonym of procrastination, and it would be a sign of still having doubts about doing it… I was in that loop until I just simply pulsed the button.

Moscow, Russia. August 2016.

Freedom is the trip itself, the unlearning and new learning, the experience and all those moments that become treasures in your life.

To summarize the mental model:

  • Awareness is the introduction of a new idea or concept. It’s the first time we hear about travelling solo. Brings the questions, how did she/he do it? why? What did she/he do alone? How did she/he manage with this or that?
  • Consideration is the process of reflection about a new idea. It reproduces in our mind how would be us in that scenario. Having a picture and a narrative from someone helps to make us think about what it’s possible and that it isn’t totally a crazy idea.
  • Reassurance is the assimilation of a new challenge, which provides more comfort and security. It comes from hearing different stories, experiences, research and information of the context and facts that provide more peace of mind. When most of our initial questions are answered, makes us closer to try it.
  • The Decision comes after having enough knowledge and assimilation of the future scenario. The rest of the gaps are just a lack of experience that will be completed once the travel is started. Here is when starts the process of research of options for bookings: where to go, or how to go, and where to stay, etc.
  • Action is the moment of making real the first step that separates you from never having travelled alone to actually booking your destination or first stop. It comes after having mapped a route, a scenario or strategy that draws the travel itself. The moment of taking action, it’s when the process of planning the trip starts. And what is the first step? Buying flight tickets or booking anything else. Taking a decision without taking action, would be a synonym of procrastination, and it would be a sign of still having doubts about doing it… I was in that loop until I just simply pulsed the button.
  • Freedom is the trip itself, the unlearning and new learning, the experience and all those moments that become treasures in your life. Freedom starts here since when you do once, the next ones don’t require the same amount of effort. Now you are the one that decides when it starts again (a new adventure and a new stage of your “game”) – You might be interested in reading The Game of Travelling, an analogy of travelling like a game: every new trip, it’s a new adventure with new challenges and learnings 🙂
Travel solo, and…. freedom!

In which step are you?

  • Probably if you never had heard about traveling alone before reading this post, now you already will be at the step of Awareness.
  • If you are not sure about it or simply you’ve been thinking about it, maybe you are in the Consideration step.
  • If you have an idea where you would like to go, but still not sure about going alone, maybe you are in the process of Reassurance.
  • And you know where you would like to go, traveling alone, maybe you are close to taking the Decision.
  • And if you have it clear, where to go and how, you just need to take Action,
  • And if you already did, you are already found Freedom, in that case, where will be your next destination?

Share your thoughts and tell me, does it make sense? Would you take action if you had more control? What fears or concerns stop you? Your thoughts will be very appreciated! See you in the next one ;).