Whether you’re a naturally nervous person or are prone to panic attacks, travelling, especially solo, will only heighten those anxious feelings.
In April, I went on my first solo trip for almost a whole month. Prior to this, I considered cancelling multiple times and tried to think of any excuse to not go. Thankfully I pushed myself through the initial fear and made it through the month as a more confident person who now has a tad bit less anxiety (at least when it comes to travelling).
Start with small steps
Instead of jumping into the unknown, I began my month-long trip with places and people I was comfortable with. I used a bus service I was familiar with to get from Glasgow to London. I chose London as my first stop since I had been there once (briefly) before so, even though it felt new, it wasn’t overwhelming. While travelling, literally EVERYTHING is outside your comfort zone, so go easy on yourself and try to do things as close to your comfort zone as possible with activities that feel familiar to you.
Focus your energy on the task at hand
When you’re travelling, you’re always planning the next ten steps ahead so you’re never left free-falling. Yes, you should have a general idea of where you’re going next and the accommodation planned a few days before you arrive in the city, but once you have the major details down, completely ignore them.
When I get off the bus or train in a new city, it’s so easy to start panicking about all you have to do. “I have to find how to get into the city, then get to my hostel, and oh no what if I can’t find my hostel? How will I find a new one on short notice? Will I make it to city centre in time to make the free walking tour?” This thought process helps absolutely no one, least of all you and your travel-weary body.
Even though your body may be filled with excited anxiety, locate the next immediate step and divert all your energy to that. Instead of thinking about how to get to your accommodation, focus on how to get into the city center. Then you can focus on how to find a restaurant, or how to get to that cool museum you read about online, or how to figure out where to go next. You may not be able to get rid of your anxiety, but you can use all of that excess energy to accomplish your next task.
Get a SIM card
If you’re travelling out of your home country, you can walk into any phone store you see and buy the cheapest SIM card you can find. This is just to ease your worries. You’ll never be stranded or completely lost, since you’ll have a little bit of data to use GoogleMaps or call the police in case of an emergency.
Write every little thing down
I forget directions easily when I’m stressed. I’ll immediately forget which metro stop to get off at the second I look away from the map. Always keep a piece of paper and pen on you, because you can’t always rely on your SIM card (that much data would be expensive). Write down explicit directions containing as much information as you could possibly know.
Read blogs of other kickass female travellers
In the days leading up to my trip, I read ThisBatteredSuitcase’s website like it was a religious text. Having anxiety can make you feel like you’re all alone, which will cause you to spiral even further. Reading about other women’s experiences and their fears will make you realize that everyone is scared and everyone fears the unknown. If they can do it, you can do it too, right? Right.