Thursday 31 October 2019

Solo Travel and Anxiety

Shannon shares some tips for managing anxiety and maintaining wellbeing when travelling alone.
- Shannon

I have always loved the idea of travelling the world on my own in between or after my studies. But it can be anxiety-inducing, especially if you experience mental health difficulties. It is easy to be put off by worried family members and/or your own anxieties. To calm these anxieties, I decided to learn more about maintaining wellbeing when travelling alone – after all it can’t be that scary, can it?

After some research and discussions with my friends that have travelled on their own, been through gap years, and achieved great results from their year abroad – I compiled the following list of things that I think could help manage anxiety and benefit your wellbeing whilst travelling alone.

Hostel, hostel, hostel

When you’re travelling alone it’s easy to stay in your own little bubble and not put yourself out there. To overcome this a hostel or other shared accommodation is your best bet. The likelihood is that other people in these places are in the same boat as you. Once you have got over the first hurdle of talking to a stranger, it becomes a lot easier... Plus, you get to share and hear some amazing travel stories, which is a bonus. A hostel doesn’t necessarily mean you have to share a room, often you can pay a bit extra for a single room if you’d prefer a bit of privacy, however, the bonus is that they almost always have social areas with Wi-Fi, where they host events, and this can be a great way to break the ice.

Know your location

Knowing your location can make or break your travel experience and will help ease any anxiety your family might have of you going abroad on your own. Whether you are just passing through or you plan to spend the whole year in your chosen location it is important to keep up-to-date with the goings-on in that area. This includes any newly passed laws and any important announcements before you travel. The best way to do this is by visiting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website and looking up your destination. Plus, don’t forget to share your itinerary with your family and friends before or during your travels. Having a plan of action and clear route if you’re travelling around massively eases anxiety too.

Get involved

This might sound silly (and a little scary) - but get involved with community events and the culture around you. The local communities are more often than not happy to teach you about their culture, and that will help you settle into the area quicker, and you’ll feel less like ‘an outsider’. For example, see if there are one or two group activities or clubs you can get yourself involved with during your time abroad which will help you meet new people and give you something structured to do in your spare time. 

Keep a Journal

Travelling can be the best time of your life where you can make great memories and journaling is not just a good way to look back and reminisce but it is a very good way to express your feelings about your experience. If you have previously written in your journal it is good to read back and see what you have already overcome. Journaling can be a great way to help with mental health and wellbeing too. You can use a paper journal that you keep while you are abroad or you could use Instagram or start up a blog online - this is also a good way to keep friends and family up-to-date with how you are doing!

Plan your trips in advance

Finally, book your trip with lots of time to prepare, I always give myself plenty of time to get to know the area I am going to and what I will need. This gives you lots of time to get any essentials, vaccinations for that area, insurance etc.

So, with plenty of planning (and a little bit of courage) solo travel really can be life-changing. If you can navigate the world on your own, you really can conquer anything!

Student Minds has more tips and tools for looking after your wellbeing on this Resources page

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offers a handy checklist for anyone who wants to travel abroad with a mental health condition. 

Hey, I’m Shannon and I’m 21 - currently in my third year, studying multimedia journalism at Bournemouth. I love to write about international and current affairs – and all things travel! Travelling has always been something that inspired me, from one trip to another. I know travelling (especially solo travel) can be difficult for anyone, especially that that suffer with anxiety - but this shouldn’t have to be a barrier.

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