Don’t you feel lonely solo traveling long term? – Yes of course you do, you are human, you are away from home for a long period of time, possibly years and you will feel it. However you will not feel lonely because you’re solo traveling and there are many ways to cope with it when you feel lonely solo traveling.
That last sentence might have confused you, but many people automatically think you will feel lonely solo traveling because you’re solo traveling. That is not the case. It happens because you’re human, not because of how you travel.
In this post we will look at the reasons you will feel lonely while solo traveling and how you can cope and deal with it without too much interruption to your traveling life.
We all do research before a trip; some plan more than others but we all know other people solo travel too. Yet something can trigger in our minds to make us think we will be all alone. That something is fear. That fear is trying to convince you not to go through with it because of a lack of understanding. Some people listen to it and give in, others ignore it.
You should ignore it.
You should ignore it because you will not be alone nor feel lonely solo traveling all the time, you are not the only person in the world traveling and no matter where you chose to go, chances are…so are thousands of others. If you are worried about it, rest assure, you will be in contact with or have people around you most of the time weather that’s locals or other travelers. And solo travelers have like a sixth sense, like magnets we are drawn together. By the end of your first couple of days, don’t be surprised to have already made friends.
Be prepared to feel lonely solo traveling
Ok, lets jump into this. We are going to get a true understanding of why you may feel lonely solo traveling by covering and diving into:
- When it can strike
- Reasons you will feel lonely solo traveling
- Why feeling lonely traveling can actually be good for you
- Different levels of travel loneliness you can feel
- How to deal with solo travel loneliness
- Mentally being able to deal with it
- When it gets too much
When it can strike
The best way to cope with loneliness traveling is to be mentally aware it will happen; you can’t stop it from happening, but you can be prepared for it to happen.
Be prepared for:
- It to happen at one point or another
- It can be lurking in the shadows waiting for something to go wrong then pounce
- It can strike no matter if you are alone or surrounded by people
- It to come and go throughout your solo travel journey
- Sometimes you will feel it coming other times it can hit without warning
- It to happen to everyone no matter if you’re confident, shy, emotional sound, an emotional wreck introvert or extravert – Doesn’t matter what type of personality you have it will it hit you in one way or another
For some, you’re going to feel lonely solo traveling quicker than others. It may be a case you just can’t settle when you first arrive in a destination and you feel it instantly.
What’s important to know about feeling lonely is that it is like a storm. In most cases it will be a light fleeting shower that you just ride out as it will pass but there are times you have to batten down the hatches because it can be a torrential downpour.
Reasons you feel lonely solo traveling
There are so many reasons it could strike, sometimes there’s not even an explanation. You could be enjoying yourself without even remotely feeling lonely but then all of a sudden something triggers, and it hits you without explanation.
- A thought or old memory triggers
- You can’t settle into your new surroundings
- The enviroment you isn’t right for you
- Too much culture shock
- Can’t communicate with people around you, potentially have language barriers
- You’re not on the same wavelength as those around you
- You’re feeling emotional, having a downer day and feel lonely for no reason
- You miss people from home (friends and family)
- You don’t get along with people around you
- Running out of money can make you feel very lonely
- Not being able to make friends
- You see others getting along in groups but you can’t seem to fit in (possibly in a hostel, or with a group on an activity or tour)
- You’ve segregated and detached yourself from those around you
- You’re finding it hard to socialise
- Something within, possibly from your past triggers it
- Trying to make friends with people who are already in a tight-knit group
- You’re a different race from others around you and they don’t accept you
- You are totally out of your comfort zone, feel overwhelmed and out of your depth
- Traveling from A to B alone after leaving friends can make you feel lonely
- Arriving in a new destination, having to make the effort to make friends all over again
- Making friends but then leaving them or them leaving you
- The constant goodbyes
- Breakups can make you feel lonely solo traveling (Seen a lot of couples break up over the years.)
- Sometimes it can be daunting and can make you feel lonely solo traveling.
- Becoming homesick/missing out on things from back home – Birthday, Christmas, wedding, funeral.
- Choosing the wrong hostel or accommodation type to suit you.
- Hungover or on a comedown can cause you to feel lonely solo traveling
- Sitting on an overnight bus alone with just your thoughts.
- Having to eat alone when you’re not comfortable to do so alone
- When you want to take a picture but there’s nobody to take it with you and you have to take a selfie.
- Spending time with yourself when you don’t get along with yourself – thoughts and inner demons can eat at you
- Being surrounded by negativity
- Having to go inwards and deal with internal issues
- Your past catching up to you
- Not making any deep connections
- Missing companionship
- Not being able to share an experience or moment with someone
- Coming home – Sounds stupid but I feel most alone when I’m back home in my own town in my own house. I’ve traveled for so long that I feel like a stranger in my own town, and I know other long-term solo travelers who feel the same.
As you can see from this extensive list there are so many reasons you can feel lonely solo traveling. But remember, most of them will be passing light showers. You may feel lonely for a couple of hours or a couple of days but the feeling will pass. Sometimes your brain will try and make a bigger deal out of it than it actually is.
Why feeling lonely can actually be good for you
That’s a bit of a crazy notion hey? But sometimes It’s good just to get it out of your system. It’s good to have those days where you just
- Hide under the covers
- Have zero interactions
- Feel sorry for yourself
- Mope around
- Keep yourself to yourself
It’s ok to miss people, It’s good to be honest to yourself about your emotions. As mentioned before we are human and we feel a range of emotions. Have those down days, there is nothing wrong with it but remain in control. It’s ok. Sometimes having days you feel lonely solo traveling it like detoxing your emotions, flushing them out because once you get over it you feel great.
But on the other hand if you try bottling it up, lying or pretending to yourself that you’re fine it could be worse down the road and can hit hard.
Sometimes when you feel lonely solo traveling, It’s an alert from your mind saying, “Hey It’s been cool we’ve been alone for a while, but we miss some physical interaction or contact. Time to talk to others now.”- And that’s a good thing.
This post by Terri Trespicio I read in the Huffington post explains why it’s ok to feel lonely sometimes.
Different levels of loneliness you can feel
The storm analogy describes how you can feel lonely solo traveling perfectly. As you saw there are so many reasons it can happen but not all will be the same strengths.
- Sometimes it will be passing thoughts
- Sometimes it will linger for a few days
- Other times it can hit hard, drag you down and last longer if you’re not pro-active about it
You need to have the right mentality when loneliness does hit you. Let it come, ride it out and move on, there is no need to overthink or over analyse it and definitely don’t start beating yourself up when it happen when Its just a light feeling.
When you feel it lingering a little longer, it feels heavier, let it come, mope around a little, let it flush through your system but be in control of it. Have it in your mind it will pass in a few days and you will feel better for it.
However, when hits you hard, be ready to fight back. You can’t just brush it off, or mope around you will have to face it. Be pro-active and take measures to get rid of it or it will take control and drag you into a dark hole
Over time you will start to recognise the strength of loneliness you feel. You will understand if It’s light, medium or heavy.
How to deal with feeling lonely solo traveling long term
The level of loneliness you feel solo traveling will determine how to go about dealing with it. As touch on before, if It’s a light feeling then there’s nothing to really do but to let it pass over. If it’s a little heavier there’s nothing wrong with going through the motions, feeling sorry a little but keep in control of how much you let it effect you, be safe in the knowledge it will pass if you don’t overthink it or let it get to you too much.
If it does hit you hard, then you do have to do something about it. Everybody is different, how you fight it will be your choice and down to your mentality and the type of person you are but trying to be positive will be a big weapon for you.
Ways you can cope and deal with it when you feel lonely solo traveling:
- When it hits hard the easiest thing is to hide away but this is not the time to do that.
- Force yourself to interact with people around you
- If you are in a hostel put yourself where you are visible to others in communal areas
- Smile and be approachable
- A simple hi can go a long way to breaking the ice
- Even if you don’t wan to be social or talk just put yourself close to where there are people
- Take time out and treat or pamper yourself
- What do you take enjoyment from – whatever it is go do it
- Do something to get the adrenaline pumping and heart racing
- If people offer to help don’t decline the offer
- If there Is a group activity going on, join in you may feel like crap to begin with but you’ll come round to it and it can get rid of the lonely feeling
- If you’ve just arrived in a new place and feel lonely, put yourself out there
- Pre-occupy your mind with an activity, tour, excursion
- Find your happy place weather that’s on the beach, on a cliff, in a forest
- Go for a hike, clear your mind, soak in the moment, scenery, and sights around you
- Think back to a memory from your solo travel trip and try remembering how it felt
- Talk to friends and family back home – they might be able to help
- Write down your thoughts, why are you feeling lonely, what triggered it – it can help getting it out
- Binge watch your favourite comedy, laugh it out
- Get drunk – Sometimes just getting drunk, partying gets it all out your system
- Try and make friends with those around you, weather that’s travelers or locals
- If you see someone who’s the same nationality make friends – sometime you just need familiarity
- Remind yourself why you are solo traveling in the first place – what made you take the leap
- If you’re traveling from A to B and feel lonely try talking to others on the bus/train with you
- If you feel lonely after saying goodbye to someone you got close try and think positive that you’ll meet more people
- If you feel lonely because of the culture, dive in, give it a shot try and get involved in it
- Think positive, you might be feeling lonely right now but something positive will be waiting for you around the corner
- If you feel lonely solo traveling after years of doing it, take a break from it. Recharge until you want to start again
The best thing to do when feeling lonely solo traveling is to talk to people and don’t shut yourself off from others. You may have other ways to cope and deal with it, and if you do that’s great put it to use.
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Your mentality is important when you feel lonely solo traveling
The way you take on, deal with and face loneliness while solo traveling be down to your attitude and mentality. As mentioned before there are times you have to brush it off and other times you have to fight it.
There are many who can’t distinguish between the levels and attack it in the wrong way. I’ve witnessed it many times over my decade of traveling, and that’s because they don’t know how to deal with it.
There are those who at the first sign of loneliness even if it’s a light shower passing through can’t cope, they pack their bags and head straight home without giving it a change. There are those who over think it and wallow in self pity instead of fighting it or just letting it pass.
You have to understand the different levels, you need to know long term solo travel is not just a long holiday and things will affect you mentally and emotionally. And in turn you have to learn to deal with it in the right way. Find a balance, don’t over-panic but at the right time face, overcome and deal with it when you feel lonely solo traveling.
- Take advice off people
- Seek out help from those around you if you need to
- Don’t shut yourself off when it’s the wrong time to
- Understand that it is part of your long term traveling life and it happens
- Have or develop mental toughness to get through it and you will be fine
- Keep a positive mind frame
- Don’t let the smallest things get to you
When it gets too much
If there comes a point, and this normally happens years into your travel life that you just can’t fight it anymore then you need to re-evaluate. If you’ve exasperated all your options, nothing is working, the storm doesn’t pass if It’s turned into a full blow Tsunami and you can’t find a way out then it might be time to think if you want to continue with long term solo traveling or if you’ve had your fill of this life.
At that point you’re left with two options.
Option 1: Stop traveling for a while. You don’t have to go home if you don’t want to, just stop where you are, make a nest for yourself. Maybe you just need some routine and normality back in your life. You might be feeling lonely at this point because there haven’t been many meaningful connections or relationships built up.
By stopping, you can become a familiar face in local community, you can make friends, and in turn start building real, deep, and meaningful relationships. Or you might just be tired and need to recharge.
Option 2: You’ve exhausted all options, nothing is working for you, you’ve tried to stop traveling for a while and find routine but still nothing. Then maybe It’s time to go home, you might just be missing friends and family too much and need to be back around them. The grass might be greener on the other side. If you’ve given long term solo traveling a good go then there is no shame in going home for a while or even permanently.
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My personal experience
On a personal note this happened to me after 6 and half years of traveling. I was fed up with it, I felt alone all the time traveling through south America, but I was with people all the time. It was just that I hadn’t made any real deep connections and traveling had just got on top of me and nothing worked to get me out the slump. I made a decision while in the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia did the unthinkable, I went home to England thinking I was done with my solo traveling life.
But it turned out I just needed a prolonged rest and needed to get perspective back. It turned out I felt lonelier at home than I ever did traveling around the world. Once I was recharged, I packed my bags and left to roam the world again. Only Covid to a pause to my travels not loneliness.
You will feel lonely solo traveling but how long for will depend on you
As you have read through this post you will feel lonely solo traveling. When it does hit you, it will be down to your mentality and the way you approach loneliness that will determine how you deal with it.
I hope this post has helped in giving you more of an understanding about it, and what you can do when you feel lonely solo traveling for your future Post-Covid travels. It is a traveling reality and It’s part of your long term solo travel life. But only you can deal with it and move on.
BEFORE YOU GO
Weather you would like to get informed on long-term solo travel or love reading travel stories of adventure, discovery & despair Amit has you covered. Check out his latest books
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Swat Valley · August 6, 2020 at 8:53 pm
Very informative, Thank you for sharing.
Pravin Malik · April 25, 2020 at 6:28 am
“Wow! I could relate to each and every thing you mentioned here.
Can’t agree more with you on the importance of travelling solo, how it transforms you and also how lonely you feel at time. Have personally felt it over the years of travelling solo.
Very curious to know what was your comeback trip. Was it any different or like just another solo travel?
foreverroamingtheworld · April 25, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Hi Pravin, thanks for your comments.
My comeback trip was initially a short one to Morocco, just to dip my toes in the water. It actually felt very refreshing like everything was new again and not just another solo travel trip. However it was trip after that, where things changed once more. This post might be of interest to you, it explains more what I mean about things being different now a solo traveler https://www.foreverroamingtheworld.com/backpacking-life-never-goes-to-plan/
Yeshira Sewdayal · December 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm
I think the biggest challenge for me starting out in another country was going out alone, be it eating out alone or going to a movie by myself. It was daunting at first – felt like everyone was watching me – and that’s when I felt loneliest! Also, when you experience something unbelievable and all you want to do is share what you saw, what you did, and how you felt, only to realize there’s nobody to share it with!
Your advice on how to combat the loneliness is spot on – that’s how I made most of my friends! Forced myself into (sometimes awkward) situations! Reading this makes me feel less lonely – even though I like my solitude.
Angela @ Dang Travelers · December 20, 2017 at 10:34 pm
Great perspective on solo travel! I travel with my husband so loneliness doesn’t necessarily apply but we do deal with isolation in a way since we travel together so some of your tips like get social or join an activity still apply. Thanks for sharing!
Agness of a Tuk Tuk · December 20, 2017 at 2:56 pm
Wow! Such an enlightening post and a great read. I loved your sincerity. Feeling lonely is a common feeling for a solo traveler.