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How I Gained the Confidence to Travel Alone… To Off-Beat Destinations

How I gained the confidence to travel alone

You probably decided to travel alone because you wanted to see the world and didn’t want to wait to find someone who could/would do it with you.

It may not have been your first choice, but it became your only choice. And like the adventurous soul you are, you jump in- book your tickets, pack your bags, and put solo travel on your to-do list. Yes!

But then panic sets in.

It could be right before leaving, or even just after arriving. The world suddenly feels… overwhelming. You start thinking this decision was ridiculous; how could you ever manage the next week (month, or year) on your own?!

Trust me, I’ve been there.

Yet somehow I’ve managed to go it alone to places like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine- and then come out of it all wondering why I was ever worried in the first place.

Through solo travel, I gain confidence. But how do I gain the confidence to actually start the travels, and then stick with it?

From my Bishkek apartment, back when I was so young!
From my Bishkek apartment in 2008, back when I was a young solo traveler!

My Biggest Confidence Boost When Traveling Alone

I sign up for classes or group activities. Yep, that’s it. I sign up for language classes, group tours, field work, teaching work, volunteer work, etc.

Starting a solo trip off with a class or group activity does all of the following:

  • Provides a purpose to the trip. I’m no longer running blind; there’s actually something there to offer support when I arrive. I’m less likely to call a trip off before it starts. While there, I’m learning a skill or offering a service. That makes it less likely that I will turn around and hop on the next plane home.
  • Puts me in touch with others immediately. I may meet other travelers, and I definitely meet locals who speak English and have a general idea of what foreigners need to grasp in their country.
  • Provides access to services that make travel easier. It could be visa assistance or just a transfer from the airport to the accommodation. Some classes and group activities offer optional weekend trips.
  • Provides a more stable environment. Solo travel, new cultures, strange places… it’s SO different from your home life. It can take time to adjust, and let’s face it, you need time to grow the confidence for more solo travel when your class or group activity ends.

I’ve signed up for Russian language school in Kyrgyzstan, a month-long archaeological dig in Spain, Spanish language school in Guatemala, got a teaching gig in Ukraine… you get the point.

You don’t have to do anything that intense either. The act of joining a group tour (like Contiki), finding an event on meetup.com, or just staying at a hostel can make solo travel seem less daunting.

Plus, other solo travelers will be doing the same. Hello future travel buddies!

almaty, kazakhstan
The awesome guest house owner in Almaty, Kazakhstan took us out for a night on the town. Solo but not alone! (photo by So Young)

Classes or Group Activity Ideas for Solo Travelers

Language Classes:

This is my favorite recommendation for solo travelers. Not only does signing up for a language school at your destination help you to feel more comfortable and connected while solo, it also arms you with language skills and cultural insights that make traveling alone afterwards even better!

If you’re traveling solo for 6 weeks, maybe think about a 2 week survival language class first. And take advantage of the extras a language school offers, which could be visa assistance, weekend tours, social events, the opportunity to meet other international friends, etc.

Language school perks:  Meeting other travelers and meeting locals. I'm here with 2 other Americans and one of their host families for dinner.
Language school perks: Meeting other travelers and meeting locals. I’m here with 2 other Americans and one of their host families for dinner in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

TEFL Courses:

If you have any interest in teaching English abroad, getting a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate is key. Courses for this are found at many unique destinations around the world, so why not save it for the beginning of a solo trip instead of taking it at home online? Here is just one source to search for TEFL courses abroad.

Cooking Classes:

It could be a single day event, or a much bigger learning experience. Either way, it’s probably going to put you in touch with other travelers and also give you a purpose to the beginning of your trip when you feel most out of it.

Teaching Work:

Becoming an English teacher is a great way to explore a new location in a way that becomes more structured. When I got my teaching gig in Ukraine, I was immediately surrounded by other American teachers who became a de facto family of sorts.

English teachers in Kieve taking a weekend trip to Odessa together!
English teachers in Kiev taking a weekend trip to Odessa together! (photo by Tanya R)

Volunteer Work:

This can range from helping to care for elephants in Thailand to building houses in Central America. Volunteer work is great because you’ll be put into a group setting with structure and given access to people who know what foreigners need when they arrive.

Some ideas include Wwoof, Workaway, Habitat for Humanity, and Elephant Nature Park.

Field Work:

One of my first big solo trips was spending a month on a small Spanish island uncovering the remains of a Roman fort. I LOVED it. And I made friends for life while doing it.

There are lots of opportunities for those who like history and are not afraid of getting their hands dirty over on the Archaeological Institute of America website. Search here, and be sure to select “volunteer” opportunities as those are the ones that don’t require a prerequisite.

archaeological dig
While taking part in archaeological field work, I learned a lot and was instantly introduced to a dozen new friends.

Group Tours:

Solo travel drama solved! While tours aren’t always the most cost-effective way to travel, even just signing up for a day tour (like those available on Viator) is enough to help get you settled and acquainted with your new destination. For big adventures, look into Intrepid Travel or G Adventures.

More Ways to Gain Confidence Before You Travel Alone

Read blogs of travelers who have been to a destination before you. Seeing that someone else has done it makes it a lot less scary!

And don’t forget, we have plenty of solo travel interviews on the blog, and the lovely members of the HPLWorld community are always there to offer advice and support!

Happy travels!

How do you gain the confidence to travel solo? What helps you to stick with it during the tough times?

How I gained the confidence to travel alone... to off-beat destinations.

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Kate - Travel for Difference says

    Being confident is so important when solo travelling. If you let fear over rule you, you instantly become vulnerable! It’s hard not to be scared sometimes, but I always have something I want to achieve when I’m away. It keeps me in the right headspace!

  2. AlicevstheWorld says

    I love travelling alone but can find it quite nervewracking at times, so thanks for sharing these tips. I never thought of classes as a way of making fast connections with other travelers, and I didn’t no that archeology volunteering was a thing! I’ve always been fascinated with archeology so I’d love to do this one day.

  3. Dee says

    great tip !! About the taking a class! I’ll have to start travelling solo as its hard to find another female friend to join me.. and I think the classes are a great way to feel more comfortable.

  4. Julia Boechat says

    I loved the tips about the Archaeological sites! I even looked a few in my own country, but they have nothing going on around here. Defo wanna do it in my next trip.
    I think I became confident to travel alone when I went to Italy to take Italian classes for a few weeks and so much went wrong, but I still managed to work it out. It was really good for me, in retrospect.
    I also love going to Free Walking Tours, because I always end up eating lunch with someone and exchanging tips.

  5. Moira Muhs says

    Brooke I enjoy the peace your traveling alone brings. I too am a micro weight traveler. Switched to a nylon backpack I designed and made. I actually purchased a drone hard on one side backpack but it was not perfect and it got way too much attention even with a backpack cover. I do like some of the design from the Kickstarter backpack. IT looks like she hit her goal too
    Keep traveling!
    Moira

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