How to Overcome the Anxiety of Traveling Alone as a Black Woman

by Sojourner

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Understanding how to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone is one of the byproducts of solo travel. I started hyperventilating at the Chicago O’Hare airport on my first solo trip to Mexico. I was terrified.

My fear wasn’t that I couldn’t make the trip. But I did not know anyone in Mexico at the time. Therefore, my worries about traveling alone kept replaying in my mind.

That first solo trip was the first time I traveled somewhere, and no one was waiting for me. I had to figure out how to quickly overcome the anxiety of traveling alone. And since then, I’ve been solo in Panama, Guatemala, Amsterdam, London, and Mexico. Here are some tips I learned that I want to pass on to you as a Black solo woman traveler.

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How to overcome travel anxiety as a solo female traveler

Stop overthinking 

Rebuke those intrusive thoughts! Playing what-ifs of all the things that could go wrong increases your anxiety. I would think about all the possible racist encounters I could have on a solo trip. Or what if somebody robbed me?

While no place is absolved of crime, overthinking will not help you. Focus on the positive and the opportunities for new experiences. It eases a lot of the fear of solo travel too.

Start small 

To reduce your anxiety about solo traveling, consider a closer destination. Instead of booking a solo trip abroad, start by doing activities solo. Those outings include going to the movies, dinner, or even a concert solo.

The more comfortable you are by yourself, the better. Then you can visit new cities in your country before leaping abroad.  So don’t psych yourself out because practicing helps you to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone.

Sleep before your travel day 

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep! And as a solo traveler, it is necessary as you are responsible for yourself once the travel day comes. Being sleepy and anxious is not a good combination, so rest up. You want to be awake to take in your solo trip.

Try stress management techniques 

Understanding how to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone means adding tools to your travel toolbox. Thus, stress management techniques are tools intended to reduce high-intensity emotional situations. Meditation and deep breathing are easy stress management tools to do on the go.

Journal and use the 333 rule 

Journaling is my way of overcoming solo travel anxiety! I love writing and getting my thoughts down to reflect on at the moment and reminisce on later. Travel journaling is very popular and a great way to release any tension in your body.

However, the 333 rule is a journaling strategy specifically for anxiety. To ground yourself when you’re overwhelmed, you look around your environment to identify three objects you can see, hear, and touch. Using your senses to recognize sights and sounds, being in the present moment is meant to prevent those negative thoughts and focus on the world around you.

Record voice notes to process 

If journaling is not working for you, consider recording voice notes! One of the more nontraditional ways to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone is that voice notes allow you to let it all out with no judgment. Share your solo travel fears, highs and lows on your phone. Then when you get home post-solo trip, you can relive the moments as an auditory diary.

Utilize aromatherapy 

We all love good smells, but did you know some smells soothe anxiety? Essential oils such as lavender, sandalwood, peppermint, rosemary, and chamomile can relax anxious solo travelers. Essential oil bottles are also small, so they’re easy to pack.

Lavender is a personal favorite. You can add a few droplets into a TSA-approved bottle and spray it on your pillow at night or as a facial refresher. Or, buy a lavender jelly air freshener to carry with you in your hotel!

Tips for traveling alone as a woman

Carry a portable charger

We rely on our phones for everything. And while getting lost is a rite of passage for a solo traveler, we still need that phone charged. Therefore having a portable charger can prevent that from happening frequently. The Anker is one of my solo travel essentials.

Send your itinerary to loved ones at home

Anything can happen anywhere. Therefore, share your itinerary with loved ones at home to decrease your solo travel anxiety. Whether it is a Google Doc or a Padlet, someone back home should know where you are just in case of an emergency. It also gives you peace of mind as a solo traveler, so you do not feel as alone.

Research the location before you go

Culture shock will probably happen in some regard. However, researching the culture and customs can ease that solo travel anxiety. It helps you prepare and learn a bit about a place before you arrive, which makes it less scary.

Avoid arriving at night

Visiting a new place in the middle of the night can be uncomfortable, leading to anxiety. Arrive during the day so you can easily see your surroundings. Though I have broken this rule, it is good to follow early on in your solo travels.

Be ready to lie

The best skill you can have as a solo traveler is the art of lying. Lying should be at the top of your list when figuring out how to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone. People get curious, and while most people are genuinely kind, you still want to be careful. Little white lies about meeting friends or that they’re waiting for you at your hostel are common to reduce the anxiety of someone figuring out you are solo.

Buy a door alarm

Your anxiety is often linked to your safety. As a Black solo female traveler, I usually look for tools to make me feel safer traveling. And a portable door lock is a must because it will alert you if someone tries to enter your hostel or hotel room. My favorite is the one you slide under your door as a door alarm

How I overcame solo travel anxiety as a Black woman

I surrounded myself with supportive people

In the Black community, there was always this stigma around traveling. Due to our experiences in the US as Black Americans, many older Black people feared their children traveling the world. However, my family was very supportive, which made me more confident that I could do it too.

I researched what I could expect

To prepare myself for solo trips, I did my research. In some cases, researching can add to your solo travel anxiety. But I read blogs, watched videos, and consumed content from other Black solo female travelers to get inspiration. While everyone’s experience differs, knowing how others have experienced certain cities and countries was good. 

I avoided making assumptions 

Sometimes, figuring out how to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone means facing our flaws. We are often given indirect and direct messages about specific cities and countries. Therefore, we tend to make assumptions about those places as if we already know what to expect.

While researching can help or hurt this, I avoid making assumptions and generalizations. There are a lot of things that we are told to fear because they are not “normal” to us. I find this leads to ethnocentrism, and I want to avoid that superiority complex to enjoy the journey of a solo trip.

I did not allow racism to stop me

As a Black person, I know the world is anti-Black. I am not in denial that racism and anti-Blackness are everywhere. But at the end of the day, I still want to travel the world! And I believe all Black women should travel solo because it’s such an enriching experience. We shouldn’t have to stop chasing our bucket list dreams due to ignorance.

Preventing the fear of traveling alone

Do not ask for others’ opinions

Sometimes the people we love most give us the most anxiety. People love to project their fears onto you when it comes to solo travel. So, only ask for a few external opinions to ease your stress about traveling alone. It can cloud your judgment.

Minimize media consumption

Like others’ opinions, the media is also a source of anxiety. They tend to show a one-sided perspective of many locations. In the U.S., the most common place for negative propaganda is Mexico. Ironically, I felt safe there on my first solo trip.

Now, this doesn’t mean the news and media are always wrong! But they tend to dramatize a lot of cities and countries due to movies, TV shows, and more. And as a Black woman, it’s even worse to see how Black people are depicted globally. Just be strategic in your consumption of social media and news before you go.

Embrace the fear

If you struggle to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone, you must start with fear. The nervousness and anxiousness fuel all the overthinking. But instead of ignoring it, feel it and all the ups and downs. Sometimes you need to embrace what you fear…literally! 

Create a hot girl playlist

Nothing will gas you up more than your favorite songs. A hot girl playlist is that list of songs that make you feel invincible – like you can do anything! Think of those songs that make you want to dance, feel alive, and increase your confidence.

Put together a calming playlist

To balance the hot girl playlist, create a calming playlist! Sometimes your anxiety may require a more relaxing playlist instead. Think of Lofi, R&B, smooth jazz, type of music – or whatever calms your concern. You never know what mood you will be in, so having both playlists is an ideal way to prepare for it all.

Mindset shifts if you’re scared to travel alone

Remember, everyone is not out to get you 

One of the things you learn when traveling solo is that no one is paying attention to you. I know it may feel like it, but they’re not. Most people are going about their lives and ignoring you. Stay alert, but don’t overwhelm yourself by looking over your shoulder every five minutes.

“Taken” scenarios are rare 

The movie “Taken” has changed how people view solo travel. For those who don’t know, a young woman and her friend are kidnapped in the film while her father has to save them in Europe. He, of course, happens to be this super, excellent, crime-fighting agent, too.

However, I’m here to tell you that this is very uncommon. While things can happen anywhere, anytime, this is highly unlikely. Do not let movies and media cloud your perspective on traveling. Most movies are extreme, not the norm.

You do have the skills to travel solo

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy! One of the solo travelers’ most significant mindset shifts is convincing ourselves we can do it. Navigating a place solo, planning an itinerary from start to finish, and being bold enough even to book a solo trip are all skills you already possess. Don’t be afraid to lean into them and use them.

Gaining the confidence to travel alone takes time

Solo travel is an acquired taste! Some people love it, some people hate it, and traveling alone has pros and cons. You may try solo travel and decide it’s not for you, and there is nothing wrong with that, either.

However, if struggling to overcome the anxiety of traveling alone stops you, don’t let it! Stress is manageable and stems from the fear of the unknown. But with these tips, you’ll be the solo travel queen in no time. Good luck!

Ready to plan this solo trip? Check out how to plan your solo adventure like a pro here.

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