Traveling alone can be a scary endeavor. In some cases, not one thing will feel familiar. So how do you know you can do it, then? Which comes first- self assurance or experience? In other words, do you build confidence through travel or is it a prerequisite for setting off? I'd argue it's a little bit of both.
I'd also make the case that once you can hone these strategies, they can help you to effectively navigate a career shift, a new project, and literally every other "scary" change in life. Here is how I recommend you take that first step, setting off on your maiden voyage.
1. Bask in small successes
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break your travel tasks down into manageable chunks. You don't have to figure out how to navigate there, how to order an uber with zero service and how to make sure you know where the local hospital is, all in the first five minutes. It is an easy out for us to convince ourselves that we aren't cut out for something, when we don't automatically know the path. Slow down, take a deep breath and jot down everything that is a question mark for you. One at a time, begin to find answers. With each answer, your confidence will move up a notch. Helpful hint: this is the way to tackle a new job, responsibility, master's program- you name it.
2. Let "you" be your fallback
Whether or not you have traveled before, you have certain skill sets that have carried you through life up to this point. Maybe you are good at directions, or are extremely resourceful. Maybe math is your thing and you can therefore map out a travel budget or quickly convert currencies in your head. Or maybe you are a people-person and building relationships comes easy to you. Whatever it is, figure it out now. No matter how new the situation, trust your strengths in the midst of unfamiliarity. They will ring true in any culture. Use them to make the trip a little more familiar.
3. Let go of control- be comfortable in the uncomfortable
Ultimately, you will get lost. You will probably overpay if you can't negotiate in a different language. Despite all of your research, you may end up in accommodations that are less than ideal. You will be too hot, too cold, too tired, too hungry at some point. Just become okay with all of it. Realize that the uncomfortable space is the growth space. In an article published by Inc. com, they mention that comfort and growth cannot coexist. Our knee-jerk tendency is to make comfort the goal. I'd encourage you to do the opposite. In fitness, we train people to "settle in." It will not only allow the space for learning, but will also give the opportunity for you to appreciate a way of living different from your own.
4. Let learning be your mission, not perfection
We enter new experiences with a set of expectations. In number three, I discuss getting uncomfortable, which primarily deals with our expectations of other places. Here, I am talking about the expectations we have of ourselves. Maybe you studied Spanish before heading to Central America, only to learn that you are having trouble keeping up in conversations. Or maybe you mapped out your entire first day, only to feel too jet-lagged to enjoy it. Don't hold yourself to an unfair standard. Take each day (or heck, even each hour) of travel as it comes. Acknowledge and appreciate the struggles along with the excitement, anxiety, fun and fear. The more you can do this, the more that you will start to realize that this IS the entire point. Don't miss the punchline in search of some imaginary climax. Be present.