How to get the courage to travel solo: 5 small actions that have a BIG impact on your life

May 3, 2023

One thing I heard years ago that really changed my life was that doing it scared is just as brave

Cheesy? Sure. True? Absolutely!

Picture this: you, meandering the narrow cobbled streets of sunny Rome with a gelato and endless possibilities for the day ahead because you’re traveling solo. No compromising on what you do, where or when you do it, what you eat, how long you stay, or how much you spend. Trevi fountain? Maybe later. Pasta making class? Don’t mind if I do! Colosseum tour? Maybe tomorrow. I want this beautiful freedom for you friend!

So why is it so hard for some women to do? I’m not talking about physical blockers, like finances or health. I’m also not throwing shade at people who don’t want to travel solo— that’s your prerogative and I support you traveling in whatever way is best for you.

But for any aspiring solo travelers, I’m stoked for you to step out of your comfort zone in a big way by starting to think about taking a step, even a scared step, toward solo travel! Being brave enough to take risks— even if that just means having the courage to push the “book” button on your first solo trip— is going to take you places. Literally.

Here they are— my 5 best tips for women who want to take their first solo trip!

1. Get your mindset right (this is THE MOST IMPORTANT step).

Confidence and courage are the most prevalent barriers for women who want to travel solo but don’t. How do I know? Because the question I get asked most often is, “How can I get the confidence to travel solo? I can’t even eat alone at a restaurant!”

First, understand that courage and confidence are different. Courage is the ability to take action despite fear. COURAGE is what you need— sometimes just 30 insane seconds of it to push the “book” button. Confidence, which is built through the experience of taking action and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, follows the courage.

Courage is driving to the restaurant alone, sitting down alone, and eating the meal alone. Confidence is going to do it again (and enjoying it more!) the following week because you’ve had the experience of doing it once before!

Also, this is a good time to ask yourself why you’re so uncomfortable being alone with yourself. This is a whole other thing that I recommend unpacking in therapy, but the relationship that you have with yourself IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP.

Second, ask yourself exactly what you’re afraid of. Define it, write it down, and think about each fear. Maybe you’re afraid for your personal safety, or that you’ll get lonely, or that you won’t have fun and will want to come home. Next, acknowledge each fear as valid. This is important, because this is you saying to your fears “I see you. I hear you. You can stop sounding the alarm bells.” After you list your fears, write down what you would do to prepare yourself to handle them if they actually come true.

For example, maybe you’re nervous about your safety as a woman traveling alone. Super valid! But what can you do to prepare? Research common travel scams, bring a few handy travel safety gadgets, send your travel plans to friends and family (including sharing your location live with FindMy), check in with someone at home frequently, and research the place you’re going to carefully. Does it have any social or cultural norms you need to be aware of? Will you feel safer if you return to your hotel before it gets dark? Thinking through each fear and how you can be prepared will help you feel more confident in your ability to handle it!

Third, know that you’re no different than anyone else who travels solo. Whether you’re on a backpacker’s next-to-nothing budget or wealthy, old or young, single or have a family (fill in the blank with whatever excuse you’ve been telling yourself for why you can’t travel solo but they can), the only difference between you and solo travelers is simply making the choice. Making the damn choice! Decide to do it, then do it. There’s no magic formula.

2. Start small

Great! You’ve worked on your mindset. Remember: it’s not about being perfect, it’s about trying. On to step #2!

If you’re scared about traveling alone, start overcoming your anxiety by taking shorter trips closer to home. This can help you build up your confidence and get used to navigating new places on your own. Start with a day trip to a nearby town or a weekend getaway to a nearby beach or hiking trail. This way, you can dip your toes into solo adventures without some of the extra challenges of international travel, like language barriers, new sim cards/data roaming. unfamiliar airports, etc.

You can also explore guided trips with companies like EF Break, Contiki, or Intrepid. They plan accommodations and transportation, and if it’s your first time going abroad solo, it’s a fun way to meet other travelers.

3. Research, research, research your destination

It goes without being said that researching your destination ahead of time can help ease anxiety because it makes you feel more prepared. I always make a plan, even just to deviate from it! It gives me the structure, control, and confidence to be spontaneous. I usually start by looking up information about the local culture, customs, and language, and making a list of things I want to see, do, and eat.

Being armed with knowledge gives you a sense of control. The following quick guides will help, friend!

4. Connect with other travelers

Even if you’re traveling alone, you’re never truly alone unless you want to be! There are so many ways to connect with other travelers, from staying in hostels or guesthouses to joining local tours or classes. Making connections with other travelers can help you feel less isolated and is a great way to find out about awesome eats and things to see. I recommend the following for connecting with other people on your vacation:

  • Host a Sister Facebook group: You can use this to ask for recommendations and advice, or just to connect with other travelers or locals in the place you’re going, or even see if someone is willing to host you.

  • CouchSurfing app: You can use this to find a place to crash, but I only use it to connect with locals to hang out with for a day. Hanging out with locals is the best way to get an authentic experience in travel destinations.

  • Staying in hostels: Hostels are a social setting because they tend to attract a higher concentration of solo travelers. They usually have communal hang out, recreation, and dining spaces.

5. Remember why you’re doing it

Remember why you’re traveling alone in the first place. Whether it’s to learn about a new culture, challenge yourself, or simply take a break from your daily routine, solo travel offers the opportunity for personal growth, adventure, relaxation, and self-discovery. Remind yourself of your goals and intentions for the trip, and let them inspire you to keep going.

Looking for more? Be sure to check out:

Are you new here? Let’s be friends! I’m Sarah— a solo female traveler (& world’s okayest travel blogger) helping you travel the world, discover surprising destinations, & have a laugh getting off the beaten path. Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to stay in touch (I promise not to spam you- just to share the best travel hacks, guides, itineraries, embarrassing stories, and unmissable experiences)!

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