I get it. Talking to people can be scary. To this day I can never get over how hard making phone conversations is. I need to give myself a proper pep talk and then just hit dial while covering my eyes and answering in a panicky voice in order to trick myself not to postpone any longer. So how do I survive to travel by myself? How DID I overcome shyness?
Be All Alone
Well, for one, being by myself is just heavenly. No forced conversations, doing what you want, being wrapped in your own thoughts and just being able to dance on mountain tops where nobody is looking at you funnily. But even a shy introvert needs people sometimes. It gets very lonely otherwise and meeting people while travelling is actually one of the best parts. A place will evoke so many more fond memories if it is attached with people you had a great time with.
Conversations Become Necessary
Since you probably don’t want to become a hermit locked up in a cave, you sooner or later have to talk to people. What if you got lost and needed to ask for the way? What if you forgot the Swedish word for ‘lentils’ and have to ask an assistant who took you around the whole supermarket and while you’re at it, you are asking for even more items (and two years later you repeat the same thing when you happen to see the very same supermarket assistant because why not?).
Practice Small Talk
I am not particularly inclined to small talk, I prefer actual conversations with actual meaning but small talk is a great way to casually start a conversation with a stranger and when you travel it is insanely easy! You already have a shared passion, which is travel. So the following questions will be your daily small talk ritual: ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Where have you last been?’, ‘Where are you going to next?’, ‘Any cool things to do around here?’.
Opening up to Strangers
If all you have is yourself and your (emotional) baggage, phoning to the other end of the world seems just not enough. It’s too far in space and understanding – how could the people at home possibly relate to what you are going through? You might have landed yet another embarrassing hostel incident, have landed an incredibly annoying WWOOFing attempt or are simply exhausted from constant travel. In come fellow travellers. They can relate, you can open up and then they are gone. It’s very freeing to share your worries and anxieties with a strangers and much harder with friends (if you like more ways on how to cope with anxiety, here are my tips).
I have been travelling solo for two years and am still fine. Worried but still fine. This sheep looks doubtful, though. I swear, I’m fine. Now I’m worried again.
Shoot Your Questions
When I travelled to New Zealand I had absolutely no plans and travelled on the advice of fellow travellers. This was a great approach as I saw places I didn’t know about (not just because I didn’t research them) and also was more open to talk to more people for more great advice. Even more than that, I went on day trips with people I just talked to in my hostel and explored Auckland, Tokyo or Fort Lauderdale.
Get a Confidence Boost
The trick to overcoming shyness becoming easier is – you have probably guessed it – practice. Oh, and not overanalysing. And the more you just casually talk to people, the more confident you will become in it (really!) and it will just become a habitual thing. In case you haven’t read it, hearing and answering the questions listed above has basically become a daily ritual in my blogger life. And the more you get lost or just ask people for the way anyway, the easier that gets as well.
Try Daily Challenges
And before you get comfortable and for it to become a normal state, you need to start. Even if it feels uncomfortable. That’s how you overcome shyness. Try to jump into the cold water and just talk to people. Try small and easy by chatting to the people in the hostel kitchen, asking your hotel concierge for tips or joining a city walk and commenting on the sights with fellow travellers. Maybe talk to the old lady sitting next to you on the bus about the weather (it’s practice!) or just ordering the meal you don’t know what it’s made out of.
Learn about yourself
And while you’re at it, you will learn a lot more about yourself – whether you talk to people or not. Especially when you travel solo you will spend a lot of time in your head, trying new things, doing things you love doing and basically finding out more about yourself. It can be tough but a valuable lesson that travel teaches you is that the journey is yours; there is no need to do things just because they are “a must” or “everybody else is doing it. I went to Fraser Island because of all these voices and regretted it. It wasn’t for me and I knew it.
In case you wan to follow my crazy journey, I’m both on twitter and snapchat as travel_brain.
The Lesson of Saying No
You will gain more confidence in what you like and don’t like, push your limits and learn to say no. And that is how it should be, you need to be able to stand up for yourself and that’s what travel teaches you; that’s how you overcome shyness. A great way to learn that is by doing a working holiday in Australia since that allows you to take up temporary work and if it’s not right or people don’t treat you well, you can just leave. Australia was the first place I quit a job. And I did it again and again. It was still hard but it was a valuable lesson to learn.
The Struggle Is You
When you travel you will encounter something new every day. You will struggle, be confused and sometimes feel completely overwhelmed. All that is very normal and add to that a dose of culture shock and you will have an emotional rollercoaster. I found since you are constantly confronted with newness and novelty, it quickly wears you down and at the same time its effect on you does too. You will find it easier to cope with all these impulses and since you have to think quick on your feet and adapt, you won’t spend much time overanalysing. Win win, right?