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Wannabe female solo traveller seeking reassurance

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Hi all
I first posted this on travel tips and ideas, but realised it was better to post it to the Destination forum.

After lurking around this forum for many months now, I find it almost embarrassing to write this post. I have read numerous trip reports on here and hopefully one day I can contribute one of my own.

But before I can do that, I need to overcome this reluctance (more like fear, tbh) to travel solo. I have previously traveled 'alone' in my mid to late 20s, but not the kind you would put in the solo travel basket. I lived in Dubai with a family member for six months where I had to go out on my own and meet people. I did a study abroad program for 9 months in the UK and I spent a month in the US - 5 days alone in NY and a tour group for the rest of the time. The common elements to all these trips were that I spoke the local language and felt a sense of security for some reason. And they were all quite successful.

But now I want to really want to do the solo thing, and I have a strong desire to visit SEA (Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia), India and Sri Lanka. But I constantly find myself worrying about taking such a trip.

My concerns:

Living in a hostel: 2015/16 will be my year for travel. However, I'm in my (early-ish) 30s now and have never stayed in a hostel which I imagine is filled with young, loud, extroverted people. I am shy and introverted and struggle to initiate conversation with strangers so I imagine it would all be very overwhelming. I guess I am looking to hear stories from people like me and how they coped. Are there any other budget options in these countries where I would meet people who are not into just drinking and partying and who are traveling to learn about the culture (apologies for sounding like a snob, or an introvert, whichever way you want to look at it)?

Security: I guess this stems from the fact that I would not know the local language, but I worry about safety for female solo travelers, particularly in India (sorry if I am jumping on the fear-mongering bandwagon).

Using public transport: I guess I'm not referring to short trips but more about the long term/over night journeys as I would love to explore, especially going off the beaten track. Is it safe to go off the beaten track if traveling solo? How do i stay safe if i do?

Like i said, writing this is a bit embarrassing because it seems like for many of the regulars here, traveling solo is like second nature. Where would you recommend I start to get over the initial nerves? Apologies for rambling on. Any advice would be appreciated :)

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