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I Want to Travel But Can’t Find a Travel Partner (aka Solo Travel Anxiety)

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Does this sound like you? Do you want to see the world but think that there needs to be someone else with you to do that?

When I was in high school, which were the glory days of my guitar playing, I would try desperately to recruit other friends into wanting to get their own guitar. More than anything, I wanted another girl to play guitar with because at the time, I was one of very few female guitarists that I knew in my town.

So, if a friend came over, I’d spend a little bit of time showing them easy chords until they felt excited about the possibility of playing guitar. Why did I do this? Because… well… I felt overwhelmed by all the guy guitarists — the ones busting out crazy fast metal songs or the ones busting out Jimi solos behind their heads. Even going to the guitar shop to buy a pack of strings was intimidating and having someone with me on that journey was sure to lessen the awkwardness.

nervousYou can apply the same idea to world travel where going on this big trip by yourself can seem very overwhelming. Many people will not set off on such adventures without a travel buddy because… let’s face it… solo travel can be scary!

I know because I have both been afraid to travel solo but have also done most of my travel alone (much like the people we talked to last week who have a fear of flying but still manage to do it).

But why, Brooke? Why go alone if you don’t really want to?

That’s easy! Not everyone has the same travel dreams that I do, so finding a friend that wants to do the exact thing is just not a possibility. Instead of sitting at home and thinking that I’ll never be able to travel because I can’t get so-and-so to do it, too, I simply decided to fulfill my dreams and set off on the solo road.

Benefits of Solo Travel

solo on Poland train

Solo on a Poland train in 2008

Since then, I have traveled to places like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and New Zealand all by myself. Not only have I managed to survive without any major hiccups, health concerns or threats to my safety, but I have also grown and benefited from solo travel in many ways:

Solo travel has a way of making people stronger. I don’t think it works for everyone, so if you go and find yourself in solo travel Hell, I apologize. For me, however, I find I become a lot more confident on the road when I am basically forced to do it all myself — find food, book accommodation, deal with local transport (and taxis!). I sort of throw myself into the mix and it works!

baltics crew

The Baltics Travel Crew - Met in a hostel

Solo travelers generally tend to be more open to meeting others. Now I said generally, but not always. I find that if people have travel partners, they already have plans and tend to go about those without the need to seek out new travelers. However, happening upon other solo travelers in hostels and such can put you in touch with some of the best travel companions you may ever have!

Solo travelers get to do what they want and when they want it. There’s no need to collaborate with other members of the group. If you want to change plans at the last minute, that’s OK!

Tips for Lessening Solo Travel Anxiety

Now that I’m a seasoned solo traveler, I don’t hesitate to go it alone, and I will tell others to do the same. However, if I ever do get a little nervous or flustered, I tend to do the following:

  • Remind myself that thousands of other travelers are out there traveling solo right then and now, many of which are going to the same destination as me.

Other tips for the apprehensive solo traveler:

gold coast boat ride

Join in group tours and activities.

Join a group tour. Tours like Contiki, Intrepid and Gap Adventures have long tour options with bunches of fun, adventurous people. You’re never alone and you don’t have to tend to the daily planning because it’s all done for you!

>> Other options include Wwoofing and volunteering.

Book into hostels, especially smaller hostels. I find that big hostels like the YHA chain in Australia come with more of a hotel vibe, which means it is generally less of a place where you can meet other solo travelers. I love the family-style hostels with good communal rooms where travelers can congregate to chat.

>> Read about my favorite hostels around the world.

Try CouchSurfing. When you CouchSurf, you are staying with a local, and that means you are instantly introduced to an insider and also someone who might be willing to show you around.

Trial a short solo trip. Go away for the weekend to somewhere nearby all by yourself. Try eating out solo, too, as that tends to be a source of discomfort for many when traveling.

Read solo travel blogs. It’s always good to read about the day to day experiences from other travelers that have managed to be solo in some crazy parts of the world. When you are able to put yourself in their shoes, it can sort of put the idea into perspective.

Solo Travel the Way to Go?

I often feel that I wish I had a travel partner with me (yay for upcoming trip with Patrick!) — to share in the adventure, to lessen the awkwardness of some situations, and to just chat with on those long bus rides — but I also firmly believe that solo travel has its place, and in some cases, is just better.

What do you think? How do you feel about solo travel?

This has been the final post in a series on travel anxiety.

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26 Responses to I Want to Travel But Can’t Find a Travel Partner (aka Solo Travel Anxiety)

  1. Randy Kalp February 21, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    Awesome story! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you are one bad lady! πŸ™‚

  2. Alouise February 21, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    For as much as I love solo travel I used to be really hesitant to travel solo. But it always seemed like when I could travel my friends couldn’t, and when my friends could travel I couldn’t. So the solo thing came out of necessity. I actually started with a Contiki trip in Europe, and spent a few days in London by myself. Then I ended up liking solo travel, and now I actually would rather travel alone, because there’s more freedom.

    • Brooke February 23, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      The freedom thing is a big deal πŸ™‚ Same – solo travel came to be out of necessity

  3. Amber February 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Ah! This is MY big dilemma right now! I DID come up to the Arctic alone for a year, but.. i’m still in Canada, so.. it doesn’t count (in my books)! Now that my year is coming to a close in May, i’m thinking about heading over to Chiang Mai for a few months to start my REAL nomad life.

    My other problem though, is that i have a life partner down in Vancouver. Unfortunately, he’s not on the same page as i am about travel, so.. it’s either not go (not happening), or go without him. So i have solo anxiety, but also i know i’ll be pining to show and share my experiences WITH him.. and that can’t happen if i’m alone!

    So yes. We shall see if i can overcome all of this next January (when i plan to go to Thailand). In the meantime, it was nice to read your post! I’ll go check out the rest of the series as well. Thank you!

    Amber.. the GyypsyKat

    • Brooke February 23, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Hi Amber,

      I want to wish you luck on your upcoming solo travels and getting things figured out with your partner in Vancouver! Keep us updated on your decisions and journey πŸ™‚

  4. Christine February 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    I’m traveling with a few friends right now, and it’s awesome–but I must say, it’s a difficult adjustment! I’m used to doing everything on my own and doing exactly what I want. Waiting for other people to be ready, giving up some of my exploring time to hang out–it’s different, but it is nice to have someone to watch the sunset with and have a drink with. Still–if I couldn’t convince them to meet up with me, would have been just as happy checking out these new places by myself!

    • Brooke February 23, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      There are moment when having someone there is just PERFECT… and well… others when it’s not πŸ™‚ I find that I HATE waiting for others to get ready… downright drives me mad… but enjoy the company while you can!

  5. Rebecca February 22, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    I never thought twice about traveling solo. I either go alone or not at all. Not even a question about which option I took. Since I do so much travelling alone, it feels so weird to me when I travel in a group! Sometimes I even find myself wondering off from the group if I travel with a tour.
    Funny enough, I couldn’t even imagine traveling with people I meet on the road and like “create our own group”. That would just drive me crazy. It’s either organized tour (so everyone is on the same page officially) or no tour for me.

    • Brooke February 23, 2012 at 9:52 am #

      I love traveling with people I meet on the road. It’s usually so casual like “Hey I’m going here tomorrow, wanna go?” It’s so casual that if you change your plans or have to run off to do something else, there’s no drama.

  6. Elena February 22, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    I have always travelled solo. I have always loved the independence, how strong and empowered i felt. But before my latest travelling adventure, I felt like something was missing and I was craving having a travel partner. I felt a little fed up of travelling solo-seeing beautiful places, hilarious things, wanting to share it with someone but realising you were alone.
    Meeting people while travelling is great, but sometimes, just sometimes i felt a little annoyed at meeting all these people then never seeing them again. Yes, i wanted a travel partner.

    So i did. I got one. A great friend. And it lasted less than a week.

    I have now come to the conclusion that, however well you think you know someone, only true friendships or relationships will last a travel adventure/vacation.

    πŸ™‚

    • Brooke February 23, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      Haha, so funny and true πŸ™‚

  7. Candice February 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Funny, I’ve been on so many solo trips and I still can’t get over my solo anxiety. Agh! Thanks for this Brooke, I’m glad I’m not alone!

  8. Danial Shah February 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    I can totally relate to that solo traveler thing since i started traveling alone myself for the reason no one was willing to travel though they always admire. Its good. Not at all scary but a great learning experience.

  9. SoloMate Travel March 1, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Traveling solo can be a great experience. You can pick your destination AND your itinerary. And like you mentioned, traveling on your own can give you the confidence to do anything!

  10. Brendon March 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    The worst part of solo travel for me is always having to grab some one to take photos for you and not being able to split a lot of expenses πŸ™‚

  11. Carol December 3, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    My anxiety is actually the reverse of this: I get anxious about having to travel with others. Maybe I’m just selfish, but I want to spend my travel time and bucks on what I want to do rather than having to compromise my adventure. Unless I am sure that my travel companion has the same travel goals and budget, I’d usually rather travel solo. Also, I like to travel off the cuff rather than planning ahead, so that means making decisions on the fly; you have to really be in sync with your traveling buddy to be able to wing it like that.

    I agree with the article that the best part of solo traveling is that you meet more people. When people see that you are with others, they just tend to not want to intrude. Traveling solo makes you a lot more approachable. Solo traveling also tends to lead to more in-depth interaction when requesting help, directions, restaurant recommendations, etc. The restaurant recommendations, especially, can end up being an inroad to friendships, as they often become invitations to share a meal.

    On the other hand, if you are not hosteling, housing tends to be less expensive when shared with a friend. Another upside I’ve experienced when traveling with friends is that several times I have been fortunate enough to be traveling with a friend who was generous enough to foot the bill for more luxurious accommodations, modes of transportation, and/or meals. That was pretty great. πŸ™‚ And even though I am so opinionated about what I want to see and do, I must admit that I have enjoyed some of the “compromises” that I’ve made in order to be a good traveling buddy.

  12. Jade February 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Really, really loved this article! I’m planning my own solo trek around Europe, starting in about 10 weeks time. And today, the anxiety really hit home. Reading this has really helped. At the very least, knowing that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. Thank you!

    • Brooke February 14, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

      So great this helped you out! Good luck on your travels. Feel free to drop a line if you need some guidance along the way, or feel anxious about traveling solo πŸ™‚

  13. Brittany December 22, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    Another great post. This is what my blog is all about. My journey to travel solo but also the fear and the negativity I get in doing so. This post really helped me out. I would love to feature this post on my blog!

  14. Sanjana @ Green Global Travel April 6, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    Great post! Solo traveling is definitely something everyone should try at least once! Thanks for sharing your tips!

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