sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Don’t Let the “What If’s” of Traveling Solo Hold You Back!

By Mary Lou Harris November 16, 2023 Travel

Traveling solo can be an enriching and affirming experience. It can also be filled with worry and anxiety if we let self-doubt cloud our journey.

Take on the “what if’s” by planning ahead and putting yourself in charge of the resolutions to possible problems. Consider worst case scenarios and mentally problem-solve in advance.

Those nagging worries, from the silly to the serious, can be addressed. Think ahead to what you would do if that worry becomes a reality, then let that worry rest.

Here are a few worries I have heard from fellow travelers and some I have experienced myself.

What If I Get Lost and Can’t Find My Way Back to My Hotel, Apartment or Cruise Ship?

When heading out the door for a walk or run, a bite for breakfast or a day of sightseeing, getting disoriented can happen.

Possible Resolution: First, if you are staying at a hotel, pick up their business card at the reception desk so you have their phone number and address.

Next, whether you are at a hotel or a homestay, along with mentally making note of your twists and turns, use your smartphone to take photos of landmarks or street signs at strategic turns or at the metro stop where you emerge to help you backtrack.

This strategy worked well for me, except that one time in Helsinki when my landmark, a Ferris wheel, was dismantled during the day. These things happen.

If you are comfortable with smart phone GPS apps, there are some that can be used offline. Also, hand-held GPS devices can now be rented for reasonable day rates. Having said all that, a single-page paper map of your neighborhood, stuffed in your back pocket, is a great stand-by when all else fails.

What If I Lose My Keys and Can’t Get Back in My Room or Apartment?

If you are in a large hotel, this is a pretty easy fix. You may have a short delay in getting to your room, but a desk clerk will likely ask for identification and then provide a rekeyed entry card.

If you have rented a homestay, this can be a serious concern as the property manager or owner may not be immediately available. I’ve also noticed that some small boutique hotels in Europe do not have a 24-hour desk.

If you have nightmares about standing keyless outside your door, in the dark and cold of a strange city, consider ahead of time what your options would be.

As you acquaint yourself with your neighborhood, check on where your closest help might be. Is there a nearby neighborhood police station? Is there a hotel or two in reasonable walking distance?

You may be spending money you didn’t intend to spend, but you have identified options for a safe and comfortable night until morning comes and you can make contact with the management of your temporary home.

What If I Get Lonely Traveling Alone?

Traveling solo is a great way to get to know yourself better. Although you will likely benefit from the challenges and introspection solo travel brings with it, there are times it is more enjoyable to do activities with a group.

Do some research in advance of your trip. What activities might you want to do with a group? Check for local organizations or clubs that share your interests. Reach out to them and they may welcome you.

During an extended stay in Paris, I contacted a hiking group and was welcomed to hike with them through the Versailles Forest. It gave me an opportunity to get in a good hike and share that activity with Paris locals who knew the trails and could point out interesting aspects of the forest. is one of a number of online sites that can give you access to a myriad of activities and likeminded people in locations around the globe.


Let’s Have a Conversation:

Does working through potential travel pitfalls in advance relax your travel? Have you experienced any of the above “what ifs” and how did you meet the challenge? What are the “what if” worries on your solo travel list? Please share in the comments below.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I always join a free walking tour on the first or second day. Not only does this give you a good overview of the city but it is company for a few hours and many times I have ended up having a meal or doing another activity with people I met on the tour.

Mary Lou Harris

Great suggestion.

Carol Aleksiuk

I’m 72. Travel solo. 95% of the time. All over the world. Did my challenging international hikes in my mid to late 60’s. I do not book with tour groups but when in a country sure I do a day tour. If you get sick and I have, you stay put, do same as at home, sleep, relax. Being an older woman makes travel less stressing. Guys sure aren’t interested. People are kinder to older tourists. Start slow, go first to English speaking countries, short trips and expand. The world out there is amazing!

Allison Shutts

A real concern is becoming ill or injured while traveling . A good insurance policy can help relieve that stress, but not fully

Mary Lou Harris

So true. I fortunately have not needed to use it, but keep a standing policy that will get me where I need to be if the worst happens.


Thanks for this article. But…if those are the major concerns about solo travel, I’m happy for you! There are larger, much more serious concerns about traveling solo when older, and they not so easy to fix.

Mary Lou Harris

Pamela, I agree and everyone has their own health, social and family issues to consider before flying or sailing off. Its important to think what your fallback will be if the unexpected happens.

Patricia Mc

Pamela, can you please tell us what you mean by that very general statement? It would be interesting to know what experiences you have had that led you to the opinion, and if you found any fixes for whatever problems you had while traveling solo. Thanks.

The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

You Might Also Like