Solo travel is nothing new to me. So then, why am I so anxious about this trip? At a tourism conference, I learn a way to become more innovative. Could asking myself, “What could get worse?” really help?
Solo travel is scary, or not?
“I have to say that I’d be really scared to travel that far alone,” said Donna, a girlfriend who’d just asked where I was going next.
“I understand how you feel,” I replied. “I felt the same way last month when I booked my tickets from Phoenix to Thailand.” But I’ve found that sometimes you have to just do it. Disregard the fear and proceed.
Maybe I should have told her that. But what I did say was,
“I’m scared, too.”
“This will be my third time to Thailand, but the other times were with media trips. I’d meet my host in LA or San Francisco and then travel with them to Southeast Asia. So I’ve never done it solo before,” I confessed.
Ever since I purchased my flight, I’ve had this underlying anxiety. So I’m trying to put my finger on what is frightening me about this trip.
For starters, I’m scared of trying to navigate the Bangkok airport alone. One of the times that I was there, it was so overwhelming that I left my card in the ATM.
(I like to get cash at the airport ATMs rather than pay exchange fees to my bank before I leave home. Fortunately, for my upcoming trip, I have plenty of Thai bhats from my previous trip to get me through the first few days.)
Solo travel in Bangkok
I’m also afraid of the language barrier. I’m scared that I won’t be able to navigate Bangkok’s public transportation system with sins in the Thai language.
To avoid that, I booked my flight from BKK to Phuket with no layover in Bangkok. As a result, I’m much more comfortable finding my way in a smaller city than in metropolises like the Thai capital.
I probably won’t be perusing the 10 Best Rooftop Bars Bangkok Including Sky Bar Bangkok. Like I did when I was traveling with a group of journalists and bloggers.
Further, the thought of me, a solo woman traveling Thailand, is rather terrifying. I booked the TBEX bloggers conference in Phuket, thinking I would meet up with bloggers I met in Spain last summer. But as it turns out, not many are going to Asia. It’s probably that darn high airfare.
Regardless of the reason, if I want to find a travel buddy for after the conference, I’ll have to make new friends. But, hey, that’s what I did at the last meeting in Spain. Can you tell I’m trying to quell my own fears?
Annual DiscoverFlagstaff tourism conference
I was just at the annual DiscoverFlagstaff tourism conference and keynote Bill Stainton talked about releasing the innovation within each of us. (Not a blessed few.) So, to become thinking like an innovator, Bill suggested that we ask ourselves the question, how could this get worse?
What could get worse?
Hmmm, let me put on my thinking cap. I miss my connection in Toyko; that’s how the situation could get worse. I miss my connection, and my bag goes onto Thailand without me. Then I test positive for COVID and put in quarantine in Japan for a week. Oh, heck, make the quarantine 14 days. So then I miss the conference in Phuket, where it turns out one of my articles was awarded “best of TBEX” and earned me a free round-the-world cruise. But I must be present to win.
Let's just imagine what could get worse in this solo travel scenerio
Meanwhile, back in quarantine, my captives—er, healthcare hosts—take my only change of clothes to the laundry. It’s been almost two weeks, after all.
They lose my clothes. I need to get on my flight back home in two days. They bring me clothes from the lost and found. But they’re too small. This is Japan, right?
So I picture myself naked, walking through the airport. That hurts my brain, so I ask my hosts if they would buy me some appropriate clothes. After 24 hours, they return and report that they could find no clothes that would fit me within the budget I allotted them.
I half wonder if I could make it to LAX in the hotel bathrobe and buy clothes there. So I give them more money.
I am finally released from COVID jail in my new Japanese clothes, and my Uber driver is taking me back to the airport. Unfortunately, he can’t understand what I am saying and takes me to the wrong airport. There ARE two airports serving Tokyo.
OK, I am getting stressed out just thinking, “how could this get worse?” So I guess I better stop this exercise while I am ahead.
Travel is a creator of new thoughts, ideas and understanding
Before Bill’s presentation, which included the Trace Ward quote above, I went and introduced myself. Bill asked about my travels and, of course, where I was going next.
It’s the universal question I get when introduced as a travel writer: “Where are you going next?” Even old friends ask this question—remember how this story started?
It makes me wonder why people don’t want to hear about where I just was.
My mind is more filled with my latest experiences than my upcoming travels. Heck, I usually have so many trips on the docket I can’t always remember with certainty where I’m going next.
But, of course, that might have something to do with my brain injury or that I’ve taken Alert Einstein’s advice to “Never memorize something that you can look up.”
Relating to the anxiety that holds people back from solo travel
To get to the point, I told Bill that I was going to Phuket, and although this would be the third time visiting Thailand, I was pretty darn frightened to go.
“I’m very comfortable in Western Europe,” I said. “It’s like my second home. But going to Thailand solo is giving me the heebie-jeebies.
“Now I can better understand how my readers feel when they tell me they’re scared to go to Europe. I can relate better to the anxiety that holds my followers back from solo travel,” I added.
“That’s such a good way to handle your apprehension,” Bill encouraged. “Using your own fears to help others.” I felt the admiration in his kind eyes and took his words to heart.
How can I help others overcome their fear of traveling? Let me think on that. Please leave your comments below:
Hi, I’m Stacey
UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel is a travel blog focused on immersive travel that highlights food, wine and the spirituality of place. I also occasionally write about life as a Camino de Santiago pilgrim. I hope you enjoy what I post here. Feel free to leave comments! Read more…
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