New Year's Eve, 2012.
A few months prior, I had started planning for what would be the solo trip of my lifetime: two months traveling through Argentina. Plane tickets were bought, hostels were researched.
Fear set in.
The Spanish is so difficult to understand in Argentina! It's going to be so cold down there! In July! What kind of craziness is that? I'll be alllll alonnnnne for two. whole. months.
Not going was, obviously, out of the question. I needed a plan.
Here's what I did, and here's what you can do too, if you're feeling a bit scaredy-pants about heading out on your lonesome for the first time:
Create a Non-Negotiable Pact With Yourself
Every NYE, the tradition is this: name the year with something that I want to bring into my life, work on, or have more of. 2011 was the Year of Gratitude.
This was super awesome because anytime I felt down or a bit mopey I could re-focus my attention on all of the wonderful things in my life.
This totally worked! At the end of the year I felt lighter, happier and way more grateful!
Thus, out of my solo-trip trepidation was born 2012, the Year of Saying Yes!
Want to go out for coffee tomorrow? Yes! Want to drive for three hours on Saturday to go hike to a waterfall? Yes!
Want to travel to Argentina for two months and take advantage of all of the amazing that will surely be offered to you whilst there?
Um... ok. Yes!
Make this year your Year of Yes!
Debate whether to hit "purchase" on those plane tickets, you'll say yes instead!
Get invited out for drinks with potential new travel buds at your hostel, you'll say yes!
Have the option to: stay in and read your book or, go out and take an impromptu walking tour of a new city, you'll say yes yes yes!
Go Shopping, and Tell the Person Helping You All About Your Trip
Stick with me on this one.
I'm absolutely not talking about walking into Target and calling over a lovely soul in a red shirt and khakis to discuss your trip to Paris while picking out travel-size toiletries.
What I am talking about is walking into a specialty store (I love REI! I'm not even getting paid to say that!) and when the lovely soul working there walks up and asks you if you need help, answer yes!
"Why, yes! I'm heading to Argentina this summer for two months on my own, and I'll only be taking a backpack. I need some warm-weather clothes as it is winter down there you know, and I'd love to get your thoughts!"
And then, (true story) the person working at said store gushes that she is the manager and in fact FROM Argentina, and she can't wait to help you and tell you all about her beautiful country.
Now, listen... I can't guarantee this exact amazingness will happen to you.
However, being prepared to do a thing makes that thing way more real. And exciting. And really exciting.
Because I'll tell you what, I certainly did not need long sleeve hiking shirts and a thermal vest that packed into an adorably tiny stuff sack for August in North Carolina.
What I did need those things for? A solo trip to Argentina.
Know That Not Everyone Will Be Over the Moon About Your Trip, And Be Okay With It
If you've traveled before, you have probably heard these words after excitedly sharing your travel news with someone you care about:
"Ohhh, be careful, okay? I hear it's really dangerous over there."
Oh thank god you said something dear friend! I was actually going to do the opposite!
I was thinking of flashing my US passport around in unsavory neighborhoods, or drinking too much and then walking home alone, at night, or even yelling "America First!" in a crowded train station!
People will try and smear their smarmy fear all over your travel dreams, and then they will claim it is because they have your best interests at heart.
And honestly, you can't fault them for this, because they probably wholeheartedly believe that they do.
You must, I repeat, you must politely reject this crap.
"Thank you. So how's your kid/dog/job/sig other?" Quick change of subject and you're back to daydreaming about your travel adventures. Win!
Smile. Then say nothing, but keep eye contact. This one is not for the faint of heart. Quite effective, though.
"Oh, I appreciate your concern. It means a lot to me but I've done a lot of research and feel confident in my abilities to navigate traveling. But thank you so, so much!" Kill em' with kindness.
Find Your Tribe
You are not alone, dear solo traveler.
Thanks to the glories of social media, there are a bevy of Facebook groups, blogs, vlogs, etc. that are geared towards people just like you: adventurers who want more out of life than the norm.
There are people in these groups who live for what you are doing.
Who, when you tell them what you are planning, will support the living daylights out of you. They'll also meet you places when you are feeling down, give you tips and tricks for traveling and just be all around lovely.
If you don't have anyone in your immediate vicinity that supports what you are doing, don't give up doing it.
Still do it. Just do it with like-minded individuals who love what you are about and want to support you in it.
Travel Tribes for the win!