Does solo travel fill you with dread? Like public speaking, it can be a no-go zone for some people. Remember that fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. It’s our inbuilt survival instinct that keeps us safe. But fear also has a downside. It can determine perception as reality, paralyse action, create anxiety and cause us to lose faith in our abilities - and our dreams.
I love to travel, but my husband doesn’t. So, faced with the alternative of staying forever grounded, I chose to venture off alone for the first time when I was 55.
I jumped in at the deep end, signing up to walk the 96km Kokoda Track! My friends were horrified, my family hesitant, all concerned about my safety.
There’s no doubt that as the date approached, I was a little nervous too. Even though I’d trained hard, my concern was more about finishing the trek than travelling alone. I’d done my homework, booked with a very reputable adventure company and, once I arrived in Papua New Guinea, everything was catered so I didn’t have to worry about any of that.
That first solo journey was a tough physical and mental challenge. It was also amazing, memorable and emotional. My unexpected reward was a huge sense of achievement and renewed levels of confidence.
My travels since have included other treks but I also love more leisurely opportunities to discover different ways of life and landscape. Experiencing other cultures, trying new foods and cooking styles, and learning the history of people and places is enlightening, liberating and fulfilling.
Returning home, there is a renewed appreciation for other lands and for the goodness of people met along the way. A much-needed foil to the fear and angst peddled to us on a daily basis through news services.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”.
Tips to help your solo motivation:
Ease into going it alone by joining up with a small tour group. You get to be independent but don’t have to do all the organising yourself. You’ll return more confident to take on more of that responsibility next time – or just continue to work in with destination tour operators who cater for single travellers.
Planning is essential, particularly if you're like me, a mature traveller who likes flexibility but some creature comforts as well. It might be great for young people to ‘wing’ it and bunk down wherever they find themselves. When I’m on my own in foreign lands, I prefer to know where I’ll be spending the night and how I’m getting from A to B.
The research to prepare is interesting and enjoyable, building a sense of excited anticipation to experience all you’ve been reading about. Your confidence will grow too as the chosen destination becomes more familiar and plans start to take shape.
Common sense, the most valuable item you can pack. The same sensible approach you take at home will stand you in good stead. Would you go at night into an unknown, dark, isolated part of town by yourself? Of course not! Neither would you head off alone with a perfect stranger, hitch a ride or carelessly put yourself in harm’s way. Travelling is no different.
Make the commitment. Don’t let a dream go unfulfilled because at first, it seems daunting. For my first solo to Kokoda I paid a very early deposit so that I couldn't change my mind. I was committed. And once you’ve travelled solo you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
A final message from Mark Twain: