I’m off to Australia soon, and in the midst of all the planning and organising and researching, I had a wave of nostalgia for the first time I ever planned my own trip.
South America was the first place I went it alone, and it was bloody terrifying. The nights before I went I would wake up and be overcome with the fear that I just couldn’t do it. Why had I chosen to travel to a place where I couldn’t speak the language? Why had I picked a place with a bad reputation for crime? Why had I picked a place that nobody I knew had ever been to before?
But I did it. I did it, and so can you. Not that it’s easy, when you have no idea what to expect. But there are definitely ways to manage and to overcome your fear, and hopefully a few of the following tips will help you along the way!
The best way to fight off the nerves before your trip is to take practical action against them. Seasoned travellers might not feel the need to minutely plan out their route in advance, or to book every night’s accommodation, but that doesn’t make it an invalid approach. If you’re nervous it can be invaluable to have a tangible idea of what you’re doing, and when. Make sure you’ve also made copies of all of your important documents, and write down the contact information of relevant embassies and emergency services for your destination. Having all of this stuff sorted, and being able to visualise exactly how your trip is going to pan out before you go can be a real comfort blanket when you’re stressing out. For more info on the things you should get sorted before your trip, check out this gap year guide.
Break it down into manageable tasks
The most helpful bit of advice I ever received when in a bit of a fluster was to calm down and take things step by step. Don’t see your trip as a huge, overwhelming mountain to climb, or it’ll tower over and engulf you. See it as a series of small actions. Get to the airport (easy). Board a flight (simple). Find your way to your pre-booked hostel on the other side (very doable). Each individual task is never that difficult. And once you’ve got into the swing of things, you’ll be enjoying yourself before you know it!
Know Your Stuff
The more you know, the less there is to wonder and worry about. Of course it’s going to seem scary if you’re plunging into the unknown and you don’t know what to expect, but luckily there’s this magical invention called the Internet which can very much serve to alleviate this. There’s no need for you to flounder: look up some useful phrases in the local language, check out the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice for the area, and make sure that you have an idea of what the local climate is like. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to deal with the challenges of going somewhere new.
What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
If you find that you still can’t quite calm yourself, one final way that you can address your fear is actually just to let it reign. Allow yourself to think about the worst thing that might happen, and then come up with a solution to it. Come up with back up plans, make doubly sure that your travel insurance guards against the scenarios you are worried about, and finally just remind yourself that bad things can happen anywhere. As long as you’re safe and sensible there should be no more reason for a particular scenario to arise when you are away than when you are in your home town. And more often than not, the worst thing that could happen really isn’t all that bad when you think about it properly. One of the main things I was worried about before I set off backpacking for the first time solo was that I would get lonely – but I soon discovered that it’s pretty much impossible to when you’re travelling!
To end on a happy note, one of the best ways to fight back the nerves is actually just allow your excitement to outweigh them! Google some pictures of sandy beaches or ancient temples; head over to Instagram and spend a few minutes scrolling through (albeit heavily edited) beautiful pictures of your chosen destination; read some blogs about other people’s experience doing the same route that you are about to take. I guarantee that this will take your mind away from fretting!