Sunday, November 29, 2009

Traveling Alone

I have traveled alone since my first trip to Europe in my early 30's up till and including now at 59, spending six months away from home in a condo rental in Florida.  So this article resonates with me. 

Posted on November 8, 2009 - by Janice at Solo Traveler
For Those Afraid of Traveling Alone

In one evening I encountered two thoughts about fear. When ideas converge like that, I just have to write about them.

According to a recent post by Seth Godin, people are “afraid of anything with too many choices, too many opportunities, to look foolish or to waste time or money.” In Steven C. Lunden’s, CATS, The Nine Lives of Innovation, “The doubts and fears accumulated over a lifetime are there, in part, to keep us safe and secure. They can also serve as a straight jacket preventing innovation.”

Solo travel is full of choice, opportunity, occasions to look foolish and waste money. On the flip side, home is safe and secure. But is life in a straight jacket what you want? Personally, I think it’s important that fear doesn’t stop people from traveling alone.

I have met many, many people over the course of writing this blog who have come out and declared their inclination to travel alone. They have felt freed to speak about this choice as positive rather than a sad option. Unfortunately, there are also many people who are fearful of traveling alone.

One of the first steps in facing any fear is to name it. Break it down to see the source of the fear and determine whether it makes sense or not.

What do people fear about traveling alone?

So I put this question to my favourite crowd-sourcing forum, Twitter. Not everyone who follows me on Twitter actually travels solo so this is my best source of a random sample. It includes people who enjoy traveling alone and those who don’t. Here’s what I heard…

@HowdyFrom – 1) looking lonely to others 2) not being able to share the experience.

@20sTravel – safety would be number 1 for me. I should add that it’s really my mother’s fear about my traveling alone more than mine

@rtwDave – Serious illness.

@cultoftravel – Fear of being lonely

@Dtravelsround – Getting wallet/pport/etc. stolen w/no support

@Spitfirekixee – Greatest fear re traveling–getting scammed by crafty businessfolk who prey on “tourist-looking” peeps.

@jianantonic – My biggest (only?) solo travel fear is getting lost. Having to figure out an unfamiliar place on my own is nerve-wracking.

And, I love this one…

@vrdeals – 1 fear: having no one to back up all the stories you come home with!

Deconstructing my fears
I still get nervous when traveling alone. I’m not afraid but I am nervous. It’s not for my safety as I trust most people and I’m careful. I’m not anxious about getting lonely because I’m quite capable of starting conversations. I don’t worry about sharing the experience because I know that I will have to relate the stories too often for my liking when I return.

No, my worry is about me being clumsy with my documents and time. I worry about missing flights and misplacing tickets. I don’t think they’ll be stolen, I think I’ll place them down absentmindedly and lose them.

So, with this understanding, I use the appropriate tactics when traveling alone. I plan my time carefully. I use my project management skills and start with the deadline and back up each step of the way along a time line – with extra time built in for the unexpected – to know my starting time. I have also established a specific place for documents every time I travel and developed the habit of using it.

Deconstructing your fears
I invite you to break down your fears about traveling alone the way I have. Get to know them. Dismiss what isn’t real and develop tactics for what is. And watch the “How to Travel Alone” section of this blog for strategies to deal with many fears about traveling alone.


Barbara said...

Hi Barb, I think the fear of traveling alone, at least for me, is very age-related. When I was young I wasn't afraid at all - neither of being alone, since it was so easy to meet people as a young single traveler; nor of being clumsy about departure times, documents, or finding my way, since when you're young you tend to be uncomplicated about such things and they just work out somehow; nor physically afraid of robbery or illness, since when you're young you feel invincible. Now I worry about all those things! And possibly justifiably so?

Barb said...

Hi Barb, That's understandable...especially the possibility of illness as we age, which is really the only thing I am concerned about now. I think we have to be more prepared (knowing about medical facilities where we plan to travel and if our insurance will be good there, setting up emergency plans with relatives back home, asking our physicians what is the best course of action should we become ill abroad, etc.) Even the minor food poisoning I experienced one day in FL last year when I was alone made me feel more vulnerable. That's why I plan to do a lot more traveling asap, while I'm pretty healthy. At any time, a person can be handed a medical diagnosis that might make travel difficult at best and impossible at worst.

Patrick Kimball said...

And the best part about traveling kids!!!

Barb said...

Pat, Maybe I should make you a coupon for Christmas for one free weekend of babysitting so you and Kate can get away! (And then later I could renig on it...inside joke...giggle.)


Kate said...

That sounds like a great idea! Could you make it a week though? And then not renig?? Thanks.

Lynn said...

One of the things most worrisome is taking a tour with an unknown group for the first time and being disappointed with the accomodations or the food. I have friends who were thrilled to visit China, but said the food was awful. Other friends said they loved Japan, but could not eat raw fish and found the food boring.

Researching trips exhaustively is necessary, but difficult. It helps to have someone you trust refer you to a tour, or to go where you will visit someone who lives in the country where you are headed.