I’ve Been Rehearsing for this Role my Entire Life

I can step into a crowd of people I don't know without any problem now. This is the Washington Tweet-up.

I can step into a crowd of people I don’t know without any problem now. This is the Washington Tweet-up.

Do you have a fear of travel? Do you hesitate to travel solo?

Are you maybe a bit shy?

Do you wonder whether you have the confidence to travel alone?

Well, just because  you may be shy and a bit hesitant now does not mean that you will always be that way.

I am a case in point.

Travel solo and people will make assumptions.

I’ve heard it so many times:

  • “it’s easy for you”.
  • “You’re an extrovert”
  • “You’re just naturally outgoing.”

Well, the truth is: I’m not.

I was very shy as a teenager. I was fine in small groups but I was a wall-flower in larger ones. I wasn’t exactly timid but I had my fears. I had great anxiety about going through closed doors. It frightened me not knowing what situation I would walk into. Even into my late twenties when I ran a business with my husband, I managed the details behind the scenes and let him be the face of our business.

How I have changed. As solo traveler, I’m now outgoing and I meet people easily. But I’m 54. A life time of practice and growth has made this look easy.

It’s true, I’ve been rehearsing from this role my entire life.

Skiing solo in Utah - still doing it!

Skiing solo in Utah – still doing it!

Learning the ways of the extrovert to overcome a fear of travel.

Fortunately, while I may have been shy, I didn’t have a problem being alone.

  • I’ve always been quite happy with my own company.
  • I skied on my own every Saturday as a kid.
  • I cycled out of the city on my own when I was a teenager.

This experience is probably why I took to solo travel so naturally. But in those times of solitude I was always learning. Quiet in my own company, I read a lot and learned about the world that way. On those weekly family ski outings, I didn’t have a sibling or friend to ski with so I took the singles line, got many more runs in a day than those who went in pairs, and learned to talk to people for the length of a ride up the mountain. On those day bike trips out of the city, I learned how to navigate solo and ask directions.

But preparing to be Solo Traveler involved more than just my times alone. I learned from watching. I watched my father open doors with a smile. I observed how my husband engaged strangers in conversation. I learned that showing interest in others is not only more interesting but deflects attention from oneself and ingratiates one with the world.

Bit by bit, experience by experience, solo trip by solo trip, I have practiced and refined these skills, learning the ways of the extravert.

Yes, I’ve been rehearsing for this role my entire life. And I suspect that you have been to. Even the most shy of us can overcome a fear of travel and grow into our roles as solo travelers.

Still cycling solo.

Still cycling solo.


  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Rafael,

    Have a read of this post: http://solotravelerblog.com/travel-solo-talk-to-strangers/

    It includes “Five Conversation Starters” and how to keep the conversation going.


  • Rafael

    I am an introvert but I have no problem with a large groups of people. My problem is to talk one to one – I have no idea how to start, what to say, I am paralyzed when I have to do it. What is the solution to that, how should I deal with my problem?

  • Alejandra

    Hi Janice,

    In a week I am going to star my firts solo travel, Europe. I cant wait for it.

    Your blog has been soo inspirational.



  • Scott

    Just as ‘the page will teach you to write’, so too will the Road (and taking your first steps on it) teach you to travel. It is not, for all, ‘easy’ or ‘natural’; but the benefits of taking those steps – especially that first step – will infiltrate all other aspects of your life.

  • http://3things2learn.blogspot.com/ Liz

    Very inspiring :) kudos to you- keep going!!

  • solotraveler

    The UK is a great place for your first solo trip. I have written about London, Bath, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Anglesey, Wales, the Lake District… Use the search function on the upper left of the side bar to find posts on the United Kingdom and have a fabulous time.

  • Isabella

    Great post! I’m planning a solo trip to the UK next year, not because I want to go solo but because I can’t find anyone who wants to come with and it’s making a semi-introvert like me a little anxious :) Your blog is seriously helping a lot with soothing my fears and motivating me! I’m determined to go even if I have to go myself and as an only child, I don’t have a problem with a little solitude :) It’ll be my first trip longer than 2 weeks too so I’m reading everything I can get my hands on! Thanks for a great blog!

  • solotraveler

    I am so glad to help and honoured that you took the time to let me know that I did.

  • http://www.picturebritain.com Abigail Rogers

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post! I have dreamed of visiting England for so long, but recently have begun to question whether I’ll be capable of going solo. Will I be lonely? Homesick? Tired of too many castles and gardens? Confused? Lost? I’m a welter of fear and insecurities as I’ve never done this before.

    You’ve given me some courage, though! From one shy girl to another, thank you :)

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Patty, for those who don’t understand, send them a copy of Glad You’re Not Here: a solo traveler’s manifesto. http://solotravelerblog.com/solo-travel-free-ebook/ It explains all the reasons to go solo and all the benefits. Many have shared this free little ebook as way of explanation. If that doesn’t work, well, I guess you’ll just have to ignore them. :)

  • Patty

    I just wanted to say thank you for having this site and posting. I have only solo traveled once-just a few hours from home but it gave  me a sense of freedom and confidence I haven’t felt in a long time. I’m planning for my next solo trip further away. I figure that each time I go  it will just make me stronger to go further.  My family and friends will never understand it. Several occasions, I have heard “you must not have a life”. I’m always saddened by those comments but believe they say that because they are insecure in some way. I have been fortunate to do a lot of travel with family over the years, but at this point in my life, I am ready for new experiences and to see the world with or without someone!
    Thanks again for such an inspiring site!

  • orangejuice8268

    Thanks for sharing. Nice post. 

  • http://www.habitationofjustice.com/ Lincoln Adams

    I’m an introvert as well, and tend to get along well with other introverts partly because unlike extroverts, they aren’t expending the bulk of their time being life of the party attention whores.  You know the type too, they’re the ones that have 5,000 Facebook friends but don’t actually know any of them.  😉

    I think introverts tend to shy away from a social crowd that often evokes shallow relationships a mile wide but an inch deep, which is why the relationships we DO have are more meaningful.  We focus more on quality rather the quantity of the people we know (and keep close to us.)

  • http://valunboxed.blogspot.com/ Valerie

    Very well expressed.  I can relate, as I was a shy child/teenager.  I couldn’t even show up at a party by myself.  But honestly, I’ve discovered so much on my own – from the first time I moved overseas when I was 24 to now, 21 years later, where I have no problem walking into a venue and talking with anyone.  It’s always surprising when people ask, “Who’s taking you to Italy/France/wherever?”  Who’s TAKING me??? I’m taking myself.  It’s become my preferred method of travel, in fact. Brava!

  • Amer

    great article Janice. I’m too a very introvert person and thought solo travel was going to be hard too. It turned out I had tons of fun. Solo travel gives me a great confidence boost on my own personal abilities and I’ve learnt a lot about myself.

  • solotraveler

    Stretching ourselves is so good for us and does tend to provide wonderful anecdotes if not great stories! Thanks Lee.

  • Lee

    lovely Janice.   i love and dread getting off the plane in Italy each year, but i also feel like I am going home.
    during the trans atlantic crossings it is interesting, you can be ANYONE you want because no one knows you!!!     i remember the reaction from 2 28yr old women i became friends with during my sabbatical.  I am no young back packer,   they  told me i was very unusual, that NO Italian woman would go off by themselves to live in another country for 3 months!   

  • Mari Campos


  • Anonymous

    Perfect. Thank you.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    It may take us some time but we do eventually learn what we learned from those embarrassing moments with parents. And yes, people love to talk about themselves.

  • Teri

    Great article Janice! I’m an introvert by nature, and was terribly shy growing up. I too learned from watching others, and I’m happy to be on my own. As much as my mother’s random conversations with total strangers always embarrassed me when I was growing up, I learned how to do it from her. I practice at home base, so it doesn’t bother me when I’m travelling solo. No matter where I travel, people love to talk about themselves, so I ask lots of questions.