Traveling solo can elicit a mixed bag of emotions: Excitement, happiness, fear, boredom, stress… the whole gamut. Still, traveling alone is well worth it. Don’t let the fear of boredom or anxiety prevent you from reaping these benefits. Instead, follow our tips for coping with stress and getting the most out of your solo adventure.
- Create an itinerary. Detailed trip planning can create a sense of security. If nothing else, consider booking accommodations in advance—it’s a huge stress reliever to know there will be a roof over your head come nightfall. Also read up on how to pass through customs and the rules for duty-free shopping. Knowing the regulations for your destination(s) will help you arrive prepared.
- Make new friends. Nothing beats loneliness like not being alone. It’s easy to meet new people on organized tours, in internet cafes, or through volunteer activities. Get a head start by connecting with fellow travelers on travel forums prior to the trip.
- Designate an emergency contact. Keep their contact info handy at all times. Also be sure to let someone know your general whereabouts each day. The knowledge that someone is looking out for you can do a lot to ease anxiety.
- Reach out to loved ones. Skype, write an email or postcard, or make a quick international call to a friend or family member. Hearing a familiar voice can be grounding and will help settle any nerves that arise during travel.
- Bring a memento. Create a tangible connection to home by bringing along something comforting, whether that’s a playlist of favorite songs, photos of friends and family, a favorite item of clothing, or a lucky pebble.
- Practice self-care. Travel can disrupt normal routines (and that’s often a good thing). But don’t let self-care slip through the cracks. Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise, and seek out comfort if anxiety flares up. Taking good care of yourself will make it that much easier to cope with any stressors that arise during travel.
- Make a list. Research the destination in advance to learn what kinds of exciting opportunities are available to tourists, from amazing hotel breakfasts to city-wide scavenger hunts. Outline everything you want to see and accomplish during a trip, and focus on crossing off each of the items on the list. Staying busy is a sure-fire way to fend off boredom.
- Ask questions. Take an interest in other people’s stories, whether you’re talking to an airplane seatmate, fellow travelers in a café, or locals at market. Conversation is a great way to gain exposure to new people and ideas, learn about a destination, and pass the time.
- Invest in gadgets. It’s okay to take the easy way out sometimes. A book, a deck of cards, a Gameboy, or an iPad queued up with a favorite TV show are all simple ways to kick boredom to the curb. And of course, take advantage of in-flight entertainment whenever it’s available.
- Plan for evenings. Nighttime can be hard on solo travelers because many sites are closed, other travelers have gone to bed, and there are fewer distractions. Expect that evenings may bring on boredom and plan accordingly. Consider going to theater or film events, get absorbed in a book, or take care of housekeeping like doing laundry or repacking a messy suitcase.
- Assign a project. This great idea comes from The One Percent Club: Assign yourself a project for the trip, whether it’s keeping a travel journal, taking five high-quality photographs every day, reading a certain number of books, blogging, etc. Having a sense of purpose will keep you focused and keep boredom at bay.
The Silver Lining
Believe it or not, anxiety and boredom come with some real benefits. While traveling alone might be a bit stressful, focus on the fact that it allows an almost unheard-of amount of freedom. It affords the opportunity to rediscover what makes you tick—you get to decide what to do, where to go, and when to do any and everything. Similarly, research shows that a little boredom is actually a good thing: It can boost creativity, encourage daydreaming, and foster the growth of new goals.
Instead of viewing anxiety and boredom as negative states to be avoided at all costs, look for the positives. Keeping an open mind and practicing the strategies outlined above will ensure that any solo traveler can cope with boredom and anxiety in constructive ways. And just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell upon your return!