Taking Your First Steps in Traveling Alone

dan standing in pacific crest trail meadow
Traveling alone takes balls. Big balls.

We spend our whole lives with a support group around us. For years our parents look after us, stepping in whenever we have a problem or need help.

Soon we gain friends to take over from our parents. If trouble pops up there’s always somebody to lean on. Somebody to listen, give advice, to help.

Traveling alone means giving up that support network. It means complete reliance on one person–yourself. Once you learn to depend on yourself you gain a deeper sense of who you are. You experience true independence, but taking those first steps can be hard.

Before I first set off alone, I was constantly scared. I came up with a thousand scary scenarios in my head that could happen to me. What if I’m mugged? What if I run out of my money? What if…what if…what if?

I knew that whatever happened, I would be alone to figure it all out. That scared me even more than the problems themselves. Would I know how to deal with any problem facing me? Without that safety blanket of friends and family, who would I turn to when trouble arose?

Laying in the snow.

I understand now that the hardest part of traveling alone is deciding to do it. Building up the courage to trust in yourself. Telling yourself you’re strong enough and badass enough to take on the world alone.

It helps if you have something to motivate you. For me it was one horrible thought in the back of my mind. What if I go through my life and experience nothing? What if I waste all the time that’s given to me?

Eventually I decided the regret of a wasted life would be more painful to me than anything I would have to suffer when traveling alone. In a fit of hysteria I searched for some place to go, something to do.

Knowing I was going to leave my own support network behind, I decided to volunteer abroad. This a great way to take your first steps as a solo traveler.

Volunteering gives you a new support network instantly and somebody to turn to in times of trouble. It automatically puts your mind at ease about your trip. By volunteering you relinquish some control, but in return you gain reassurance. If anything goes wrong you know there will be others to turn to and help. There’ll be other volunteers who are going through the exact same stresses as you. There will be coordinators to help whenever you need it.

Sitting on a rock in the wilderness.

If you’re young and you’re having second thoughts about traveling alone for the first time, then I really do recommend volunteering. It helps to build up confidence in yourself, allowing you to prove you can leave home without friends and family in tow. It also helps you to gain the skills you’ll need later on when traveling alone.

Some may think this is a cop-out. That it’s not truly traveling alone. But volunteering differs very little from backpacking. You’ll leave home alone. Meet new people. Be reliant on yourself.

I’ve volunteered in numerous places and I always look back on those times with the fondest memories. It’s a great way to meet people with similar interests and gain skills needed for further travel.

If you’re not wanting to volunteer, then consider doing a group tour. Tours aren’t only for old people, there’s plenty of groups our there that cater to people on all ages. Again, by going on a tour you’re relinquishing control but at the same time gaining the knowledge that you have a network of people around you if something does wrong. Somebody else takes ownership of your stress because the tour manager will have to take on any problems that arise. Tours are a great way to meet new people and build confidence for further travels.

Maybe you long to jump in right at the deep end though, then the best thing I can suggest is research. Then more research. Then even more research.

Finding out about places before going to them gives you the confidence you need in order to tackle them. If you know about problems before they happen to you, then you’ll find they’re easier to deal with. If you go in without knowing anything you’ll be easily overwhelmed.

The majority of travel success comes from being prepared. Preparation leads to confidence. All confidence is is the feeling that you know what you’re doing!

Standing in front of Mt. Shasta.

Confidence leads to less anxiety in taking those first steps. Being prepared allows your trip to go along smoothly, any hitch can be easily overcome as you know what to do.

The most important thing of all, is to believe in yourself. (Cheesy!) Realise that millions of people travel alone and very few of them end up in any real trouble.

The worst thing that happens to most travelers is they suffer a little discomfort. If anything worse happens remember that home is always one phone call, or even one flight away.

Taking those first steps will help you grow and it will prove to you that you have balls. Big balls. That you can take on any problem. That you’re not scared of life or the world.

That you can travel alone.

Have you gone traveling alone? Was it all that you feared?


  1. says

    You know, I’ve never really thought of travel from that perspective… of just booking a trip and going on your own with no research or anything. I suppose people do it and if you think of it that way, then it’s totally scary!

    But you’re totally right — there’s a way of being brave and adventurous without needing to be all by yourself. Most traveling, like you said, involves other people — even if you depart alone. Much of the fun of traveling is interacting with other people in some way, shape, or form.

    I also think you hit the nail on the head: sometimes you have to weigh regret against regret when you’re an anxious person — which would you regret more? And then do that.

    Finally, I think your bit about research helps. I know the trips that have been kind of less pleasant on my own were when I made big assumptions about how it was going to go and those assumptions weren’t backed by any facts or anything. I think the major things for people who are traveling alone to research are safety, accommodation, and transportation. The rest of the stuff can be kind of fun if it’s left a surprise — like where to eat and what to see. But definitely those things can make or break a trip! YAY!

    • says

      Thanks again for another wonderful comment, without you this site would be like a ghost town.

      I’m sure there are people that go out and travel without planning. My friend and I did it and I guess our travel wasn’t as eventful as it could have been simply because we didn’t know what places had to offer. A lot of travellers love to shit on guidebooks but without some guidance you don’t know what exists!

      I guess we can never know what we’ll regret more because we can’t tell the future…however it’s easy to look forward and think “In the future I’ll look back on this choice and I know I’ll be mad at myself for not choosing the thing I want.”

      The sad thing about life though is often life makes a choice for you.

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