a guide written by a fellow shy solo traveller

Going up to a counter and asking to buy a train ticket would have absolutely terrified me once upon a time.

I spent my entire childhood and teenage years being painfully shy. To the point where I’d avoid doing things that involved having to communicate with someone I didn’t know.

Despite my tendancy to keep to myself or avoid social situations, I always had this deep desire to explore the world — a seemingly wild aspiration for someone who would feel anxious at the prospect of purchasing a train ticket from a manned counter.

I pushed past my fear and anxieties in 2012 when I made a decision to move to the USA for four months through a university exchange program. BUT, it wasn’t like everything changed as soon as I moved aboard. In fact, I spent the first two weeks feeling isolated and incredibly homesick – spending many hours a day crying on the phone to my mum about how I just wanted to go home.

After struggling through the transition, the exchange student coordinator posed a thought that changed my perspective: “You can go home if you want to. But, do you feel you’ve give it enough time and, truly, your best shot?” My short answer was “no”. Over the following weeks, I accepted any invitations that came my way and began trying to contribute more in class. The more I put myself in uncomfortable situations, the more comfortable I became with being uncomfortable. 

Having the courage to push yourself outside of your comfort zone – and embrace discomfort – is truly the first step to personal growth. It’s certainly not always going to be easy, fun or happen overnight, in fact it’s usually extremely hard, pushes you to your limits and is a journey. But does true growth happen without working for it?

Now this is just my experience because shyness can stem from a variety of unique factors – BUT if you’re shy too, this is your reminder that you don’t have to be outgoing or the most confident person to start travelling solo! Instead it’s just about learning how to travel solo while being shy  – it might even help bring you out of your shell.

Now, you know what's not helpful for a shy person? Being told not to be shy!

it's funny how often strangers feel the need to tell other people how they should be - "don't be shy" or "you need to talk more". These words are so unhelpful to me - and often make me feel more uncomfortable. What is helpful would be giving that person tools or resources how to manage certain situations as a shy person. And, dare I say, a little compassion?

I'm not a psychologist or mindset coach, but I am a shy person who's gone from being too shy to approach a ticket counter by myself to proactively starting and engaging in conversations with new people. I'm just here to pass on some of the steps and tips that helped me overcome being bound by my shyness to confidently solo travel. Hopefully, some of this will help you.