Solo travel is an exciting and rewarding experience for many people. The personal freedom to do what you want on your own terms and schedule is something everyone should experience in one form or another, even if not through travel.
However, flying solo comes with its own caveats and challenges -- caveats and challenges you will grow to navigate and enjoy in time, but will find to be an adjustment initially, if you're not used to being in command of your leisure time.
For those of us with jobs, families, pets, friend circles and other established "roots", much of the day and night are mapped out by existing structures, routines and habits. Unfortunately, many have also succumbed to workaholism and don't actually remember how to relax or have fun.
Obviously, traveling on your own is going to challenge some of these established frameworks. Even if you're used to managing others, managing your own time and taking responsibility for your own fun may be a new ballgame. You may know how to overwork yourself to death for your boss, but do you know how to balance yourself to life for yourself?
I Call It "Inner Funding"
As a writer, I'm a sucker for wordplay and sometimes use online adverb-noun generators just to see what silliness comes out. In addition to gems like "drunk literacy", "turbulent tomato", and "excessive correspondent", the net once spat out a word combination that was instantly relatable to me -- as an academic, as a freelancer and as a solo traveler: "inner funding".
We all need "funding" to go on, but sometimes there just isn't any coming. What do you do? You find it inside yourself: it can't be money but it can be energy and willpower.
Physical/mental energy is a certain kind of currency. Like money, you need energy to get through the day and get anything done. If you're heavily unmotivated, depressed or freaked out, money won't be the thing that gets you out of the house -- inner-strength, personal discipline and self-love are a much better bet.
The trick is to generate all that wealth from within. And you'd think that introverts would have the upper hand over extraverts on this, but nah! As an introvert, you may be so good at being alone and entertaining yourself that it can be extra hard to force yourself to engage with the big wild world "out there" beyond the hotel doors -- precisely because you're so comfortable in your little self-sustained cocoon!
But humans are self-generating machines for all sorts of goodies. We replenish our own blood when we lose some, our bodies self-heal from scrapes and bruises and we are capable of reaching into ourselves for motivation, drive and hope, when no one is around to provide us with a needed "push" to action.
Try To See and Do As Much As You Can On Your Trip -- But Don't Turn It Into A Punishing Marathon And Go Easy On Yourself Too!
As someone who loves travel but also suffers from depression, anxiety and bouts of laziness and sluggishness, I can say that my best solution to keep myself motivated and generally "putting myself out there" when I travel is a balance between being firm with myself but also flexible and empathetic.
When I get to a travel destination, I make sure to identify points of interest, keep track of the operating hours of the landmarks/activities I want to check out and, occasionally, unceremoniously boot my own ass out the door for an impromptu picturesque walk, impromptu coffee, overdue meal, etc. At the same time, I make it a point to keep my itinerary loose and flexible enough that if I have to skip something, or make room for something totally new, I won't be shattering some sort of a sacred unbreakable commitment set in stone.
Mind you, while I definitely try to explore new destinations to the fullest, when I feel like taking time off from sightseeing and socializing -- or deviating from the itinerary and lingering somewhere longer -- just because I'm chilling and don't feel like moving, I let myself do that too. No rush, no guilt, no FOMO, just vibing.
Here's a video in which I talk more about how I try to "gently power through" (seems like a contradiction, but it's not!) depression, anxiety and low energy when on the road.
Breathe Your Way Through Intense Or "Foggy" Travel Moments
If I didn't stress something enough in my video on the topic of experiencing anxiety when traveling, it's the value of creating a habit of mindfully catching one's breath. This is a useful practice in general, but it's especially transformative in moments of feeling paralyzed by indecision or internal conflict, which can happen when you travel solo.
Cliché but true: breathing is life. Refocusing attention and effort on this vital thing without which any of us would drop dead in a matter of minutes is healthy and practical.
When we get flustered, our breathing gets all mucked up, and this altered flow of oxygen messes even further with our mental and emotional clarity. Pausing to take a few calm, intentional, meaningful, stabilizing breaths can actually do wonders for not blowing one's gasket on the spot and, with any luck, fully regaining composure / rechanneling one's energy upward.
It's hardest to remember to breathe evenly in the state of panic, despair or other mental discomfort -- which is when you need it most! And when you're traveling, the unfamiliarity of the surroundings can make one feel even more "lost" and, hence, draw even more mental blanks. But once you make it a priority and start paying attention to it, it becomes easier and more automatic in time. Not that I would claim to be an expert on "breathwork" of any sort, but I have come to see its great value in bolstering my mental, emotional, intellectual and physical fitness levels -- in travel and in life
* * *
Anyway, enjoy your solo travels and don't hesitate to tap into your "inner funding" for some self-motivation, inspiration and momentum when you feel like you're dragging your feet.
And, of course, don't forget to draw on your social resources to give you a little pep talk when you can use one. Ring up your best friend, your mentor, your "fun aunt" -- whoever has been a supportive ally to you in the past and will listen and provide guidance, rather than just tell you to pack it up and come "home" where it's safe and familiar.
Solo travel is not some survivalist aloneness challenge (unless you want it to be). You must be self-sufficient, yes, but you can maintain contact with any number of people to keep you "grounded" and motivated during your travels. There really are no exact rules to it and, after a while, every traveler develops their own tools for coping with physical and mental sluggishness.
The key is to know that getting a grip is doable: the rest you'll pick up and refine as you go!