It’s about time I wrote a post on solo travel tips for introverts and in particular advice for those who suffer with anxiety. As this is something I struggle with myself, I’m a firm believer in getting out of our comfort zone and facing the challenge of travel. That’s not to say it will be easy though, so I hope this list of travel tips can help.
So many of the solo travel experiences I read about before backpacking for the first time were a little over-optimistic compared to the socially anxious introvert inside me! ‘Worried about meeting people? Don’t worry YOU WILL!’ the typical solo advice blog read, ‘If anything, you’ll find it hard to get a moment alone!!!’
Roll on a few months into solo travel and, not only did I often go days without speaking to another human, at other times I WAS surrounded by people but my inability to connect with anyone made me feel bad about myself… and lonelier than ever!
There is sometimes a weird assumption that introverts ‘prefer’ to be alone – while this is sometimes the case, for many of us it’s more that we’d rather be alone than with the ‘wrong people’ – by which I mean lovely people who we just don’t click with, thus taking up a lot of our energy and bringing us down.
But even for the quietest, most watchful introvert, sharing our thoughts and conversing is kinda a key trait of our species – most of us need a bit of chitchat to keep our minds healthy! And not finding anyone we click with for potentially weeks or months on end is going to be incredibly isolating. Honestly? Dealing with this has been the biggest challenge of solo travel for me BY FAR.
The good news is that sixteen months in, I’ve learned ways to deal with it better than I used to and I am slowly able to enjoy myself on the road. So with that in mind, here are my best tips solo travelling as an introvert – and scroll down for more tips on travelling specifically with anxiety!
When choosing accommodation, check the reviews to see if the staff were friendly and helpful!
As a solo traveller, often asking for advice from the reception desk is a great way to find out how to get around a new city and get your bearings, especially if you’re feeling too shy to talk to other backpackers as speaking to staff is much less intimidating.
Look for hostels that do free breakfasts or have food onsite!
Most blogs will tell solo travellers to look for happy hours and who organise events, while I’ve had a little success with this, usually in social hostels I’ve ended up feeling lonelier because I haven’t had the confidence to join in – especially when people were drinking.
While I still recommend this, better still look for a hostel that does free breakfast! Breakfast is a great way to meet people in a more relaxed setting and it’s less chaotic minus the booze – plus if it’s free, you’re guaranteed people will be there! I’ve met people at breakfast multiple times who I’ve ended up doing an activity! Same goes for hostels with food onsite – sometimes it’s easier to meet people over dinner than it is over three pints if you’re truly an anxious personality.
Figure out how you’re going to spend your evenings! 🙂
Since the sun sets early in many countries (I didn’t realise this before I went to Asia!), it’s good to figure out how you’ll spend your evenings. This seems to be when a lot of introverted solos get lonely because the fun day’s activities are over. Download some movies from Netflix before your trip, get the Kindle app or find some podcasts. Personally, I also started my travel Instagram so I had a way to chat with people in the community without having to make exhausting small talk with real-life strangers. Perfect for an introvert with social anxiety. 🙂
Even if you’re on a super low-budget, get yourself a private room occasionally.
I learned this the hard way. Paying double for a private room really doesn’t sit well with me, knowing I’d saved just as hard as any couple. I ended up burning out and my anxiety flared up badly. Now I still sleep in dorms but find an occasional private room in a hostel or homestay for two-three nights when I need to rejuvenate.
Find solace in nature
For me this would be long walks in nature, so I make sure I take time off in nature for a long walk (that doesn’t necessarily turn into a strenuous hike).
In a city, take a walk along the river or a day trip to nearby rice fields or rolling hills. It’ll help add calm.
Take a guide-book or download an informative blog post offline
When exploring a tourist destination alone, I often find I can explore an attraction much, much quicker when than when I go with others. Take some information about the history or culture of the destination, find a bench or cafe on location and take in the information. Not only will you learn something, but you’ll end up feeling more ‘solidified’ in the place (sometimes long-term solo travel can feel like floating!)
Take time for yourself
This sounds odd when you’re already travelling solo! But most of your time on the road is for the place, not *you*. Need to take two days to sit in nice cafes journalling? Do it! Need to find a hotel with a bathtub so you can steam and pamper yourself all morning? Do it! Need a day bingeing sappy movies? Do it! In fact, you’d probably be surprised by how many people will join you for a relaxing movie day, especially during monsoon season.
Tell someone you trust about your anxiety
I’ve made some amazing friends on the road who I’ve travelled in small groups or one-on-one with. If we get on well, I usually tell them I’m an introvert or if I’m feeling panicked – this way they’re sympathetic if I don’t join them on a group outing and I don’t have to worry about seeming rude 🙂
Book on to a low-key tour
Shared experiences are awesome, and there’s nothing like going WOWEWWWWOWW alongside another person. Contrary to popular belief, some introverts want to share their memories just as much as social butterflies, we just find it harder to meet the right people. Tours are a low-maintenance way to get some interaction in; it’s easy to find something to talk about since new experiences are a great conversation starter!
Yasss, tours can be free or budget-friendly too! This could be a half-day tour to a temple or waterfall, a food tour to the night markets organised by a hostel, booking into a ‘shared car’ rather than taking a scooter/taxi or a free city walking tour.
I’ve seen a LOT of DIY posts recently with people advocating to do hikes alone… well, most of these travellers were NOT alone but couples! Booking a sunrise hike with a guide is a lot safer and more fun. Plus if you’re a socially anxious type, you’ll be relieved that half the time people are to warn out to make conversation haha! Whether you consider choosing a private guide or book onto a small group tour or shared car for the day, it can be nice to take the hassle out of planning and enjoy the day!
Don’t book into tours and explore alone!
Solo travel is NOT one size fits all, even for introverts (maybe even in particular for introverts, we are a complex bunch right?) so I am also going to make the case for low-key tours below as well. But there’s nothing like exploring at your own place, slowly observing the world around you.
Don’t be afraid of eating alone!
It’s actually pretty lovely. Take a book or find something to watch on youtube.
Write emails/long WhatsApp messages to your BFF, long Instagram captions or a private journal
Since it usually takes me about six months to get comfortable being myself around a new person hahaha, this means I don’t often get to really USE MY WORDS on the road. My best mates and I sometimes send longgg personal emails which helps me feel myself.
I’ve never been a great journaler but I usually write long Instagram captions (as you know if you follow me!) which have sorta become my personal travel diary.
Another option is to take a sketchbook or camera… find a way to express yourself on the road!
Don’t be afraid to join in! If a group of friends or a couple asks you to go to an attraction with them, go for it! Most long-term travellers are super friendly, laid back and used to meeting new travellers, so when they say they’d like you to hang out with them, they really mean it!
As an introvert, I find small talk exhausting and have likened solo travel to a conveyor belt of hellos and goodbyes before. When I connect with someone beyond small talk and the conversation flows naturally, I feel rejuvenated and refreshed. But otherwise, I can end up feeling exhausted, more anxious and lonelier than ever because my struggles interacting make me feel like an outsider/weirdo.
Taking a break is totally fine and not a failure. Listen to your mind and body. 🙂
Stay somewhere for a few weeks or months, rather a few days.
Slow travel is the best friend of introverts because, well, it gives you a chance to really make best friends! I’m now halfway through a five-month stint in Sydney and this has given me time to meet ‘my’ people without pressure and really get to know them. It’s a pleasure.
Anxiety flaring up on the road?
Think about what soothed your anxiety at home and practise it on the road
I used a relaxing playlist at home to help me sleep, so I downloaded a few alternatives for zoning out in my bunkbed and long travel journeys. My earphones and silk sleep mask are two luxuries you’ll always find in my backpack!
Learn a few simple breathing techniques and yoga stretches
Other people use meditation apps such as Headspace or practise yoga and breathing techniques.
Get a massage…. or some exercise
Exercise is a great way to boost your mood, so take a strenuous hike, rent a bicycle for the day or, heck even find a gym.
Anxiety wiped you out? Find a spa with well-reviewed massages – the soothing motions and essential oils are sure to help you relax.
Speak to your doctor before you go –
Travel is NOT a miracle cure for anxiety
If you’re not able to control panic attacks or are really worried, check with your doctor for advice before you go and make sure you have the right medication that will easily get through customs. Travel is AMAZING but it’s full of ups and downs, exhausting activities and travel days, and you’re far from your normal support network. I’ve read some pretty dangerous advice about how travel is the best ‘cure’ for mental health. Remember these people are speaking anecdotally and are not medical professionals.
Most of all, do what feels right for you and trust your instincts. If you’re solo, you are the only one responsible for keeping your mind healthy on the road so make sure this is your priority. 🙂
You’re going to see so many amazing things… Enjoy it!
It’s a huge leap to travel if you have anxiety or to go solo as an introvert, so be prepared to feel like a total superhero and have an amazing trip.
MY INDEPTH GUIDE FOR TRAVELLING WITH ANXIETY OR DEPRESSION:
What travel advice would you add for solo introverts or those travelling with anxiety?
Hi, I’m Cassie, and I’ve been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I’ve backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside spending a year living in Australia. Currently isolating in New Zealand.