The most common reply I get every time I talk to someone about my nomadic lifestyle is that they wish they could do it too. People tell me about their solo travel dreams, and share the fantasies of being a solo backpacker somewhere in Amsterdam, then they come up with common excuses as to why they can't realise them:
They fear they will feel bored alone. They fear it's not safer for them as a woman. They fear their parents won't allow.
Fear. It's what keeps us from living our dreams and doing what we'd always wanted to do.
I remember when I'd initially decided to quit my job to travel (& I'm not asking you to do so), I was equally scared, as I was while leaving for my first ever indefinite backpacking trip to Bhutan. And two years later, even today, as I plan a trip, or worse, find myself standing behind the exit door of my home in New Delhi, or inside a railway station in another city, I feel no less scared to start the journey. Fear of unknown has always remained there. It has always accompanied me, and proved to be more loyal than any friend, any habit, I've got in this lifetime.
With all that fear, it was much easier to stay at home in my comfort zone than to break out and travel. And that's what most people choose - a lifestyle based on public opinions and industry standards. They stay at home, held back by their own fears, wishing they could travel but never doing so.
And I always encourage people to travel solo, at least once in their lifetime, because I've learned that such an experience educates us more than a job, a school can ever do. We learn to be humble. And to be stronger. To be self-reliant. And being positive, even in the toughest conditions. We meet people from different backgrounds, who help us expand our horizon, and see things more clearly. We learn about finding solutions to our fears.
Sure being on your own, in a new land, we do not know about, takes a lot of courage. But while different people give different excuses as the reasons, I think fear of the unknown is really what holds them back. But looking at these fears logically, they have no substance:
You Aren't The First Person To Travel Solo
One of the things that comforted me when I began traveling solo was knowing that lots of other people have done it before me. People have travelled the world on their own. And if all of them could survive it, and go back home in one piece, there was no reason I wouldn't, too. You aren't the first person to leave home and do a bike trip to Thailand. Columbus had a reason to be afraid. You don't!
You Are Just As Capable As Everyone Else Don't doubt yourself. You're just as capable, as smart. If other people can travel the world, why can't you? What makes you think you lack the skills? Can you not say hello to strangers? Have you not bargained for prices, while living in your city? Do you not make it home every evening after your office? Don't doubt yourself. You got by in your life just fine now. The same will be true when you travel. Trust yourself.
You Will Make Friends People always ask me how I make friends on the road. They tell me that they're not very social and that it's hard for them to meet strangers. The truth is that when you travel, you are never alone. There are many solo travelers out there in the same boat as you. Though you might not find many solo travellers from your home country, as is the case with me, being an India, you'll always find people from other communities, who are ready to share a part of your journey. Meeting people from across the world moreover only makes travelling a lot more fun.
When I'd initially started travelling, I used to be nervous talking to strangers, but the fear subsided as I eventually realized that every traveller is willing to make new friends. And one of those friends was me.
The World Isn't As Bad And Unsafe As You Thought
If you fear solo travelling can be unsafe, please don't. I've been travelling for over two years, with 90 of my journeys, both in India and abroad, being conducted and completed solo. I've lived with locals, slept in their homes, and even hitchhiked with them. I did solo bike trips and even camped out in the wild - all by myself. And if you think I could do it because I was a man, (which sure makes things a little easier, I don't disagree) but let me tell you that there is a good share of solo women travellers out there. And there's no reason for you to find it scary because you're a woman.
The anxiety of travelling on our own sure curbs us from doing it at all and heading off into the unknown. But once you look at why you are afraid of doing it, you'll realize there's no reason to be. You can travel. You are capable. It's not as hard as you think.
Don't let fear win.
This post was originally published on FootlooseDev.