Top Tips for Stress-Free Solo Travel
Traveling alone can be an incredible experience. Without anyone else to dictate your movements, you can be free to set your own agenda. You can see however many Buddhist temples you like, check out the Great Wall of China or gaze at every work of art in the Louvre.
However, there’s no denying that solo travel can have a dark side. Being alone and abroad is stressful. You might start to feel homesick or anxious, and minor mishaps can start to feel like disasters. Instead of relaxing and enjoying your trip, the whole experience can quickly start to resemble a chore.
Things don’t have to work out that way, and there are plenty of things you can do to make solo travel a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Here are some pro-tips from people who have beaten their travel anxiety and discovered how to see the world on their own terms.
Don’t be a Slave to Your Schedule
If you’re traveling solo, it’s tempting to fill your schedule up with activities. Subconsciously, your brain might be telling you to work extra-hard to cram your days with sightseeing and tours, instead of wandering aimlessly around strange cities.
However, there’s really nothing wrong with aimless wandering. It’s a great way to get to know a city, and it can also be relaxing. Try to avoid packing your itinerary with structured activities. Instead, leave some empty time to relax and lose yourself in the life of wherever you travel. You never know what you might find and you wont risk burning out in the first few days of your trip.
Record Your Emotions to Understand Them Better
Part of the stress of traveling alone is not having anyone to talk to when you feel confused, lost or homesick. You’ll probably feel all of those things at some point in your trip. They are just natural reactions to being in unfamiliar surroundings, but they can ruin your experience.
One way to get to grips with negative emotions when you travel alone is by keeping a daily journal. You could pack a small diary with you or log your thoughts on a smartphone or tablet. Either way, putting your emotions into language helps to put them in perspective.
Take Extra Care Over Transport Connections
One of the most stressful things about solo travel is making connections between trains or flights (or even boats). With no-one to jog your memory or keep you disciplined, it can be easy to forget routes, make a mess of departure times or lose tickets.
If this sounds familiar, planning your connections is well worth the effort. Before you go, write down some phone numbers for bus companies and train lines. Know how to hail cabs in your destination and have the name of airports and stations handy to tell the driver.
Be extra-cautious about giving yourself enough time to make your departures as well. It’s always fine to be half an hour early. Stations and airports can be great places to people watch, after all. What’s not fine is seeing your departure gate closing or your train ease out of the station without you on board.
Give Yourself Time to Adjust
Whenever people enter a different culture, it takes time to get used to the sights and sounds and the way people act. Being a long way from home can also be extremely stressful. However, these sensations are not permanent. They might feel powerful, or even overwhelming, but you will adjust.
The first few days of any trip will always be an adjustment phase, so be prepared for a rocky time. After that, everything becomes much easier. You’ll become more confident when dealing with strangers. You will find it easier to navigate foreign cities, and you’ll get much more value from your everyday activities.
Stay in Touch With Friends Back Home
Social media can be a great way to ease the stress of adapting to your surroundings. You might be thousands of miles from home, but nothing is stopping you from sharing photographs and thoughts on Twitter or Facebook. Aside from being a source of encouragement, social media can spur you on to experience more exciting things and see more exotic sights.
However, try to stay away from social media for long periods. Hostels around the world are full of people on smartphones talking to friends in their home country, when they should be making new connections and diving into the culture of their destination.
Try to strike a balance. For the first couple of days, use social media to help you get by, but gradually decrease your exposure as you start to become more relaxed.
Always Know Where to Pick Up A Second-Hand Book
This is a great tip for novice travelers. Before you set out on your trip, log onto Google and make a list of second-hand bookshops in every city you plan to visit. Most major cities have bookshops with English language sections, and they can be a great place to meet other travelers.
Books are a great way to forget about your travel stress. If you feel lonely, head to park or beach, settle down for a couple of hours and engage your imagination. Reading really does help to set your mind at rest.
Relax, Persevere and You’ll be Fine
Travel stress is totally natural. Remember that. Your fellow hostel guests or tour customers might seem self-assured and confident, but if they are on their own, they have almost certainly gone through their own periods of anxiety.
By planning your travel, finding ways to zone out, using social media, keeping a flexible schedule and recording your thoughts, you can find a route to stress-free travel. So if you are having second thoughts about a backpacking vacation, put your worries to one side and prepare for a life-changing experience.