Written by River-Lee Elias.
How does someone with mild anxiety travel thousands of miles from home alone?
I am mostly all of the above, out of my friendship group I’m the most shy around new people. Unless I’m drunk you’ll rarely find me chatting up the person in the corner that I secretly think is cute, (nope I am way too awkward to start up a hey how are you conversation with a handsome stranger).
So when I first thought of traveling it was not only as a means of seeking out sunny pristine beaches or to take enviable Instagram snapshots, but as a means to get out of my comfort-zone and build up confidence with people outside of my family & friendship bubble in London.
I was prepared to jump off into the deep end. No friends no family no familiar creature comforts and to top it off I decided to do this around the New Year’s eve period. I rocked up to a hostel on an Island completely alone not knowing a single person on New Year’s eve. A time when people spend the last hours of the year with loved ones. Meanwhile I was miles away from my loved ones with the risk that I may end up spending the New Year alone.
The first day I arrived in Phuket an island just off of mainland Thailand, I slept for most of my first day after a long 15 hour coach journey. Apart from a few brief hellos with people in my dorm room I had spoken to absolutely no one. I quickly began to feel alone and my anxiety was beginning to kick in.
Running through my head was the questions of why didn’t I just stay in London where I have friends and had been invited to a house party or fly to Berlin to see my close friend who I know would have made entering 2018 a blast.
I had failed at the first hurdle in my objective to being a more socially confident person. Deciding not to dwell in regret I made a plan to buy a bottle of whiskey from the local 7Eleven and get drunk in my dorm whilst listing to my party playlist on Spotify then head to the beach party down the road. If I was to be alone on the biggest night of 2017, I will do it alone in style (drunk and alone feeling like the world’s biggest loner).
After drinking half my bottle and listening to some feel good tunes my vibe picked up, I decided to leave the sanctuary of my empty dorm and head downstairs for a smoke. There was a group of drunk rowdy young backpackers laughing and talking like they had all known each other for years, while I sat in the corner smoking too shy to introduce myself.
Luckily a girl from Brazil who I had said hello to the day before asked me for a cigarette which I gladly gave her (happy for the interaction after 24 hours of barely speaking to another human being). Before I knew it another girl from England came over after hearing I was sat alone from the girl I had given the cigarette to. She dragged me to the table where the rowdy drunk backpackers were drinking a lethal amount of rum. She asked me why I was sitting alone, still feeling shy I blurted out that I didn’t know anyone and felt a bit of a loser, she smiled and said to me that she too was alone and had met everyone just tonight.
Before I knew it I went from speaking to one person, to two then 3 and so on. I found myself bonding with people over everything from pop culture to politics. The group that had seemed too intimidating to approach, suddenly opened up and I found myself too also opening up and loosing myself within good conversation and laughter.
Twenty minutes later I’m dashing upstairs for the rest of my whiskey that I had stashed away when I went for my cigarette. I looked back at my bed, relived that I didn’t have to spend the rest of the night there pre-drinking to Rihanna on my headphones alone.
Midnight strikes and I’m at the biggest beach party on the island in my boxers in the middle of the sea, fireworks and buntings lighting up the sky, surrounded by half a dozen newly made friends. My confidence came back and I was feeling great, all my previous feelings of anxiety and regret had faded away, and the reason why I traveled came back to remind me that just because you have anxiety or you ain’t the most social of your peers that doesn’t mean you will always be that person if you choose not to be.
A week later I had made so many new friends and even went on trips around the other islands with people I had met in my hostel. It was a success I was on my way to being a more confident, and a less anxious and afraid person that I have long wanted to be.
The moral of the story is not to worry about what others may think of you if you put yourself out there, you never know you might make a friend for life or a friend for the moment. Speak to people travel outside of your comfort zone you never know you might actually meet nice people and even enjoy it.