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Managing Solo Travel Fears

For people like me, who’re a little shy, solo travel can be unnerving. I’ve been traveling for nearly all my life but hadn’t, until about two years ago, traveled on my own.

I was on a three-week mercy mission in London and decided, at the last minute, to treat myself to a short vacation in Paris before I flew home. Thinking about it now, I must have been out of my mind to pick Paris, the city of love, for my first solo travel experience. However, it turned out to be the perfect place to wet my feet in solo travel.

But I wasn’t thinking about that as I boarded the Eurostar that Thursday morning. Doubts dampened the excitement I felt and tugged at the edge of my mind like insistent children, waiting for reassurance. And as the train moved away from London’s St. Pancras Station, old fears tightened like a band around my stomach. The more I tried to ignore them, the more they clutched until finally, I decided to look each one straight in the eye.

Getting lost: Getting lost was a fear I hoped Paris would help me conquer. I’ve gotten lost so many times, my friends generously describe me as ‘directionally challenged.’ My most embarrassing experience was missing my exit and getting lost five minutes from home. It took more than 20 frustrating minutes to find my way. The worst part was, I could see the top of our apartment building almost the entire time I was driving around.

Eating alone: Having people, especially family and friends, at the table can turn a meal into a celebration of life and love. I was terrified just thinking about having a meal in a restaurant by myself. My fear was heightened because I knew no one in Paris who I could call to rescue me.

Sleeping alone in an unfamiliar environment: This was, by far, my biggest fear. I don’t rest well when I’m in a new environment, and my anxieties increase when I’m alone. Looking this squarely in the eye as the train took me closer to Paris did little to calm my nerves. But I was determined not to let this fear paralyze me.

Even though, intellectually, I felt that I had dealt with the fears that plagued me, I was still feeling a bit unsure. When the train came to a stop at Paris’ Gare du Nord, I took a deep breath, drawing on my inner reserves for the courage I knew I lacked.

As I exited the station and headed for the taxi stand, shouts of Taxi! spoken with a different inflection flew like darts past me. French was everywhere; then it hit me: This is Paris.

A smile lit up my face as my taxi arrived. I chatted with the driver about work, football, and politics. Oui, je peux le faire! I can do this.

I didn’t let fear shackle me. I went wherever I wanted and never got lost even when I returned to the hotel past midnight.

My steps were uncertain as I walked into my first restaurant, solo. The hostess showed me to a table but as I waited for my server to arrive, I gave in to my fears and walked out. I laughed at myself as I walked away because I knew I’d have to face this fear. Two days later, I tried again. This time, I stayed. My waitress was friendly and by the end of the meal, I had made friends.

That first night in my hotel room by myself, I put the chair under the door handle for my peace of mind. It took a while before I slept but when I woke the next morning, I felt refreshed and ready to explore Paris.

I returned to London five days later, feeling a boost of confident I never had when I left. My solo travel had emboldened me in ways I couldn’t have envisioned. I don’t have another solo trip planned but I can’t wait to see what I’ll discover about myself on the next one.

 

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Comments

  1. I’m glad you “went for it” and visited Paris — certainly a place for which it is well worth conquering one’s fears. Do you speak French? I realize I have never traveled solo to somewhere I don’t speak the language.

  2. Me too, Suzanne! Paris was the perfect place, especially since I didn’t know anyone I could feel totally free to fail.
    Yes, I speak some French, enough to not feel like a fish out of water.

  3. Off an on I have done a lot of solo travel. My first big solo trip was a 5 month one to Fiji, Australia and NZ and for 90% of the time I enjoyed it. This past summer was a big one for solo travel. For restaurants I now pull out my Kindle, order a glass of wine and enjoy myself. I have managed to engage in quite a few conversations – but I wouldn’t do a really fancy restaurant on my own.
    That trip to Paris must seem like a long time ago now but the lessons learned stay with you forever.
    Leigh recently posted..Photo Essay: Driving Quebec’s Gaspe PeninsulaMy Profile

  4. First of all, fantastic pictures. But, this is one of my favorite posts of your’s, Marcia. Because….I discuss my fears of traveling alone overseas with my traveling friends a lot! I love how you shared that the experience boosted your confidence 🙂
    Mike recently posted..My Top 10 + 1 Favorite Meg Ryan MoviesMy Profile

  5. I find when I travel solo I’m much more receptive and open to the people around me. I’m able to meet people so much easier, than I’m often not “alone” even when i’m traveling solo. However there are moments when being alone was really tough, like getting injured in Croatia, but overall it can certainly be empowering like you say.
    Anwar recently posted..Friday Photo: The Path AheadMy Profile

  6. Well, I would say Paris was an exciting 1st solo travel experience! Kudos to you for facing your fears and giving yourself such memories!
    Patti recently posted..Where’s the Beef?My Profile

  7. Thanks, Patti. It was trying at times but I’m glad I didn’t let my fears ruin the trip.

  8. Thanks for saying that, Mike. It can be difficult but it’s certainly doable. Hope you get to try a solo trip soon.

  9. Wow, 5 months! That must have been quite the adventure, Leigh. And this summer too.
    I can say now, traveling solo is a great way to learn a bit about yourself. I certainly learned a few things and rediscovered parts of my I’d forgotten.

  10. Great post that expresses anxieties shared by so many others.
    Irene S. Levine recently posted..Long tables for the solo travelerMy Profile

  11. I find this post very interesting… because I spend most of my time traveling alone. Solo travel can be very freeing… but it’s difficult in a country where the first language is not one that you speak and you have no one to compare notes with! Kudos for picking Paris.
    Sharlene recently posted..Stumptown Coffee RoastersMy Profile

  12. Loved your photos, and I can well understand your fears, but like so many things if we face what we’re afraid of we come out stronger and bolder. I’m glad you enjoyed Paris on your own and hope that you have more solo trips planned without the ensuing anxiety 🙂
    Johanna recently posted..The Empty Nest Syndrome and Tips to Help you Set a New CourseMy Profile

  13. Travelling alone make you realized one thing. You friends and family make a lot of difference in the atmosphere and the way you are going to enjoy the place visited either for pleasure or business.
    Michel recently posted..Comment on Cozumel by carte r4i gold 3dsMy Profile

  14. Congrats on your first solo trip, Marcia! I know how it feels but at the end of, it sure gives a confidence boost.
    Salika Jay recently posted..Albuquerque International Balloon FiestaMy Profile

  15. Thanks, Salika! It was a great boost to my confidence.

  16. Thanks, Johanna. I don’t have one planned but I’m not as nervous about them as much now.

  17. Thanks, Sharlene. I’m sure it would have been more daunting if, on top of everything else, I didn’t speak French.

  18. Thanks, Irene!

  19. Eating at restaurants is the one thing that I still feel odd about while traveling on my own. I tend to stick to fast food places or sandwich shops to avoid the awkwardness!
    Scott-QuirkyTravel recently posted..Lifelike statues, natural springs, and pioneer villages: 24 hours in Hamilton County, IndianaMy Profile

  20. Isn’t that sense of confidence fabulous after you’ve faced your fears straight on? Loved your story about your solo adventure. I think that Paris is a great choice — solo or not!
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Bertinoro: The Balcony of RomagnaMy Profile

Trackbacks

  1. […] is now part of a blog carnival about solo travel experiences and conquering our fears hosted by Inside Journeys. Though I’ve traveled quite a bit, I have not done much solo travel. As a relatively newbie […]

  2. […] post on long tables is part of a linkup on Managing Solo Travel Fears sponsored by Inside […]

  3. […] this post to Marcia Mayne’s “Solo Travel” blog carnival on her website, Inside Journeys, where you can find links to other solo travel […]