The Deal Mommy

Facing the Fear: Lessons Learned from 20 Years of Solo Travel

Solo?  Yes.  Alone?  Not always!

Solo? Yes. Alone? Not always!

I’m bemused, but no longer surprised, by the reaction to my Mexico City Weekend from the Momosphere. It’s usually some version of “That looks awesome but I could never do it.” Taking out those who are just being polite (IE those for whom it DOESN’T look awesome), the “I could never do it” usually comes down to one of three things: money, time, or fear of traveling alone.

Most of my blog is about the creative things I do to make the finances work and this whole trip was completed in 48 hours, so today I’m going to talk about #3: facing the fear of solo travel and doing it anyway.

Moms, why am I so passionate about you traveling by yourself?  Because Girlfriend’s getaways are great, for what they are. But I don’t want you to be limited by others…and why should you be?  Isn’t there somewhere you’ve always wanted to go that no else has an interest in?  Also, it’s hard enough for YOU to get childcare, budget, and a plan.  If you wait around for a girlfriend, sister, or whoever else, you may never get off the ground!

Now I get it: fear is irrational.  Telling you, for example, that plane travel is statistically safer than driving to the airport does nothing for you if you’re afraid of flying.  And telling you that most hotels have wifi now so your family can skype you (or vice versa) in real time does nothing to calm you if you’re afraid your kids will befall some calamity requiring Mommy at the exact moment you decide to leave the country for the 1st time. But you’re a good parent who chooses good proxies, right?

So now on to some real-life tips to help you rip off the band-aid for that first solo weekend. Readers who have traveled solo, please share your tips in the comments:

    • Overschedule. Sleep when you get home. Go ahead and book two tours in one day.  It may look nuts on paper, but chances are at least one of them will not run (one of my 2 booked tours didn’t run and the other started an hour late). Worse comes to worse, you can cancel on them.  At least then you have the power. (By the way, this is NOT advice I give or take on longer trips, but when it’s an “ambush” type trip, ya gotta do what ya gotta do!)
    • Expect your body to fail you. Happens to me Every. Single. Trip. This time it was a cough and cold that made my laughably border Mexican accent pretty much inaudible.  Just suck it up and take a shot of local medicine: it makes for a better story!
    • Yes, Wine is cheaper than water.  Still stick to 2 glasses.  Same goes for shady cabs, after-clubs, handsome strangers.   Nuff Said.
    • Beware GCS. Gilded Cage Syndrome, the dreaded disease that strikes every five star traveler at one point, will put the kibosh on all of your grand plans to explore unless you nip it in the bud.To fight it on my most recent trip, I bypassed the Hyatt and St. Regis on purpose in favor of a Holiday Inn in a great location. My hotel was safe and had a terrific view, but the room was not SO spectacular that I felt trapped in it. On the other hand, if 48 hours locked in a hotel suite is what you NEED, ignore this advice, cancel the flight, and just drive yourself to the nearest FHR hotel.
    • Checklist: Sunscreen (I missed this one!), ankle wallet, photocopy of passport, ATM Card (withdraw foreign currency at airport, spend what’s left at duty free), carry-on (DO NOT check a bag!), cross-shoulder bag for kindle or i-pad loaded with city map and phrasebook, camera (if not on ipad).

You CAN do this! Where are you going to go first?

3 thoughts on “Facing the Fear: Lessons Learned from 20 Years of Solo Travel

  1. KennyB

    Great post, especially the GCS part. I would approach the schedule a little differently though – learn about what there is to do, schedule nothing, hit the road when you wake up, check off as many as you can and see some cool stuff that isn’t in the guidebooks in the process, and don’t come back to the hotel until you’re exhausted. Now what we need is some sort of process to allow a reasonable amount of liquid on carry-on bags (kevlar bag that must be sealed until at your destination airport?).

    1. The Deal Mommy Post author

      Thanks, Kenny! That’s my strategy on longer trips. On weekends where I’m mentally wiped, especially booked last minute, I’m more inclined to tour it in fear of just collapsing at my destination.

      …and at least they gave us duty free back 🙂

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