There are two difficult moments when it comes to hitting the road: when you make the decision, and when you actually leave. Making the decision to leave is difficult, because you will talk to your friends and family, and many will not understand. They will tell you how dangerous it is to travel the world and how much more dangerous it is to go alone.
When I decided to collect air miles to actually fly around the globe, people reacted with either a big smile on their face that said: “How cute! She’ll soon learn that this isn’t how the world works!” or by staring at me open-mouthed. The next reaction was almost always to ask my parents if they were really crazy enough to allow me to go.
In the end, I proved that the world can work like this and that my parents weren’t stupid to let me go. Ultimately, you need to be prepared for these kind of reactions, and not let other people’s opinions change your dreams or goals.
Listen to Your Fears!
Most people are afraid before taking their first trip alone. They think they will feel lonely all the time and be walking targets for thieves, rapists, and murderers!
Even if you’re like me and not really worried about what will happen, people will still tell you bad things about the places you plan to go – obviously without having been there themselves – that might make you feel afraid.
Yes, bad things happen in this world! But, do you live 100% without fear when you’re at home? I grew up in a small city close to Frankfurt that was one of the most dangerous in Germany for some time. I assure you that there are certain areas of my home city’ that I will avoid going to alone.
My advice: Don’t fight your fears, but try to deal with and listen to them. Your fears are not your enemy. They tell you when you need to be careful and aware of your surroundings so that you can react wisely when needed. But don’t let your fears master or control you.
When you start listening to and taking control of your fears, the next step is to build selfconfidence. While traveling this happens automatical. You should often remind yourself of the many situations that you mastered without any problem and that proved you that you can get along very well when you are alone.
I have been traveling alone for two years now, and I still feel fear every now and then. I get through this by reminding myself of situations where I coped well. Sometimes I really need to convince myself that I have proved myself a hundred times, that I am self-confident and that there is no need to be fearful. I guess it’s just natural.
So, whenever you feel fear creeping in, fight it by thinking of the moments where you acted with self-confidence.
My advice: Make a list of those situations. People tend to forget about them in moments when they need to remember them most. With this list (you can save it on your phone as well) you will always have reminders to give you strength when you feel weak.
Don’t be Afraid of Loneliness!
You’ll learn that there is a difference between being alone and loneliness. You probably understand the difference but have never really experienced it, because in our busy lives we aren’t alone very often. Perhaps you even feel lonely although your surrounded by people.
It’s normal to feel lonely sometimes. You might even realize that you want to be alone to feel less lonely. This may sound strange, but, for myself, I realized that it’s worse to meet new people constantly, saying hi and goodbye every two or three days than just being alone for a while. This greatly depends on my mood and how long I’ve been away from my friends and family.
My advice: Listen to your heart and learn what is best for you! There is no need to impress anybody. The only important person is you. So, make yourself happy by understanding what it is that you really need.
Don’t Listen to the Naysayers!
I don’t know if the naysayers are envious or depressed or something else. But I do know that you shouldn’t listen to them. The bad news is that they will always be there waiting for you to make you feel bad. Unfortunately, people are extremely influenced by the media and think they are knowledgeable about places they have never visited. You could try to make them understand that the world is not as scary as they think, but you will have a hard time – especially if you can’t talk from experience.
After giving a talk about my life as a digital nomad and travel blogger in October 2016, I chatted with a guy who kept telling me that I can’t go on like this forever and that someday I would need to settle. I asked him why, and he answered that I could get sick. He refused to see my point that many people are living this travel and freedom lifestyle. There are young and healthy people, yes! But there are sick and old people as well. There are families, pensioners, couples and singles. Why should I think of potential future problems now, rather than just believing that if a problem arises, I will find a solution? That’s the attitude you should do have, too!
But there is also some good news: You are the only person who can control your life and decisions. I know it’s hard to ignore the people that make you feel frustrated and tear you down. But go your own way and show them that you can do it!
My advice: Tell the naysayers that you are fully aware that there is a possibility that these problems might arise, but that you can’t build your life based on what might happen someday, and would rather base it on what makes you happy now.
What About My Life Back Home?
People sometimes think that starting a longterm trip will mess up their CV and that they’ll never ever find employment again. Personally, I never had this fear. I always worked as a freelancer and never had to change that plan. So why should I worry about my CV? I get that other people have other needs, and that’s why I have some advice for their situation, too. This advice is mostly based on the ideas of fellow travelers, some of which is based on other people’s statements when they wanted to tell me how much my knowledge would be worth in a company. So here it is!
There is one thing you need to understand: Traveling is not a blank space in your CV! You will improve many soft skills in a way that you never could at home working a 9-to-5 job. You will learn how to solve problems, how to build self- confidence, how to understand different cultures in a quickly changing globalized world. Additionally, you will have time – on bus rides, flights or evenings that you don’t go out – to read and learn more about your different fields of interest.
During the last two years of traveling, I’ve seen many people returning home and getting even better jobs than they left behind. For example, my blogger friend, Maartje Smit, decided to return to her old job as a project manager after five years of traveling. She earned more money than before, negotiated more holidays than ever and got a company car. This is a perfect example of someone who gained more experience in so many fields from traveling that allowed her to get a better position than before when she returned.
However, I don’t want to hide from you that, like many other travelers, Maartje didn’t feel at ease going back to her old life. She missed traveling, she missed having one adventure after another and, most of all, she missed the freedom and self- determination of traveling. That’s why she quit again after three weeks and started to work in bar to save money for her next trip. She will hit the road again in January 2017.
So, if you really want to return to your “old life” after traveling, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have no problem selling your trip as something that gave you rich experiences and improved your skills. The only question is: Do you really want that? Be aware that traveling will heavily influence how you think about your life and what you want from it.