Travelling solo is something we’ve all yearned for, especially those of us who have read Eat, Pray, Love at least three times. However, the fear of the unknown can prevent us from exploring all this planet has to offer. That’s why the team at Shemazing have teamed up with some of the most inspiring and empowering ladies, who have travelled alone. Their stories will educate you, inspire you and leave you itching to catch the next flight out of your hometown.
In the third instalment of our Travelling Light series, we speak to Emma Palmer about the realities of travelling solo when you have anxiety.
In 2015, Emma and her boyfriend of two years went their separate ways after she discovered he was cheating on her. Before their split, the couple had decided to attend a friend’s wedding in Italy and the plane tickets were already paid for. Emma decided to make the best of a bad situation and travelled to Italy alone.
Broken hearted and anxious, Emma boarded the plane to Italy on her own, because nothing was stopping her from visiting the land of pasta and pizza.
“I decided that I was still going to go on this trip, whether he was on the flight or not! A lot of my friends and family were concerned, and advised against it, but I went ahead with it, and I'm so glad I did.”
Despite her determination, Emma was still incredibly nervous about the journey, especially because she’d be on the same flight as her ex-boyfriend.
“It was absolutely terrifying, especially as at that point I had never been on my own in a different country, and my anxiety was sky high (no pun intended). I did have to encounter my ex on the first leg of the journey, which was not pleasant,” she explained.
It was the journey from Pescara to Rome that really tested her. It was one of those trips where everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.
Not only did Emma get lost on the way to the train station, but she also had the wrong amount of money for her ticket. “I met a priest, encountered angry Italians and a dog randomly dived on the coach from a nearby street. Getting to Rome was terrifying,” Emma said.
The journey there may have been a complete and utter nightmare, especially for someone who suffers from anxiety, but Emma wouldn't change a thing about her travels.
“I discovered different coping mechanisms for my anxiety. I think my anxiety has always been there, but previously I would stay in my comfort zone where I felt 'safe' so it had never been triggered until the trip. There were moments when I felt that my anxiety was taking over, I had to stop and take deep breaths to calm myself down. "
The people Emma met on her travels were a massive comfort to her, especially during the difficult times, "When I first arrived at the hostel, I was crying in the lounge area until I head someone come in. I grabbed the nearest book and pretended to read it, the person who had come in (from Australia) then began talking to me about the book. It broke the ice and we ended up going out that night with another solo traveller. We ended up meeting more solo travellers and stuck by each other.
"I explained a lot of my recent experiences, which can be daunting to do with strangers – especially if you just met them that day! But they shared their experiences and reassured me that I was a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for. That has stayed with me since, and I find myself giving that same advice to a lot of people I work with," Emma shared.
It may be a cliche but Emma genuinely believes she 'found herself' during her trip, "I really do feel that I did find myself. I can look back at those scary moments where my anxiety got the better of me and reaffirm that if I can do those, I can do anything."
Emma has plans to travel solo again. You can read more about where she will visit next here: https://emma-picks.co.uk/my-to
You can also follow her adventures on Instagram.