Worried you’ll feel lonely long term solo traveling is Part 7 of the traveling realism’s series.
Don’t you feel lonely solo traveling long term?
It’s that age old question that’s been posed to solo travelers for years…but it still gets asked because everybody worries about it.
I’m guessing you’ve landed on this post because you’re either starting to feel solo travel loneliness on your trip or you’re worried you might feel lonely solo traveling once your backpacking starts. Or is the thought that you might feel lonely backpacking stopping you from starting your solo trip?
Whatever the reason is, It’s ok, you’ve come to the right place. It’s perfectly natural to feel lonely at times while solo backpacking. I know I’ve felt travel loneliness on multiple occasions since I started solo backpacking in 2010. That age old question has been asked more times than I can remember, and to answer it…
The simple answer is YES, of course anybody who solo travels for a prolonged amount of time will feel lonely backpacking; we’re human. But It’s not because we’re solo backpacking, or traveling by ourselves.
Solo backpacking, traveling by ourselves doesn’t mean lonely travel
It’s ok, in this post I’ll explain what I mean, and we’ll dive into the times you might feel lonely solo traveling, when it could happen, why sometimes It can be good to feel lonely and how to cope with feeling lonely while solo traveling.
You’re not the only solo traveler out there
It’s funny because before any of us make the concrete decision to start solo backing for the first time, we do our research. We read blogs and articles, we watch vlogs on solo travel and see other peoples journeys first. We are full aware other people solo travel, but when we dream up the trips in our heads we imagine it to be just us.
We all have done it, conjured up images in our heads of exploring and discovering something new just by ourselves, we’re on the road, drifting roaming by ourselves, eating exotic foods and drinks by the beach on our own in a complete state of bliss. Yeah I’m sure we all know at some point we’ll cross paths with somebody but by enlarge we think we’ll be going at it alone.
But here’s the kicker, unless you’re solo traveling for a couple of days maybe a week and staying in a hotel by yourself (which I don’t even count as solo travel, It’s just a holiday that) It’s bloody hard to be alone!
Backpackers are everywhere
Years and years ago maybe it would have been the case that solo travelers would be alone while they traveled but with tourism so popular now It’s not the case. Holiday makers, short term travelers, group backpackers, partners, family backpackers and solo backpackers are everywhere. In some destinations around the world solo travelers are like a swarm of bees around honey. There won’t be many places on this earth that you visit where there isn’t more solo backpackers.
Of course there are certain times you will be alone, like when you first arrive in a place, or moving from place to another but by enlarge you’ll be surrounded by other solo backpackers.
Solo backpackers come together
With so many solo backpackers all over the world, and It’s like we have this sixth sense, we’re like magnets and get drawn together. Within minutes of arriving in a new destination we can tell who else is a solo backpacker and we come together.
Because there is so many of us, It’s so easy to meet and make friends with other solo backpackers. Unless you go out of your way and purposely choose not to interact with them you can find a travel buddy instantly.
It might sound weird if you’ve not solo traveled before, but it can actually be harder to make friends and meet other backpackers when you’re traveling in a group as opposed to solo backpacking.
Easier to make friends solo traveling than with those already in a group
When you’re in a group, you already have your friends around you, sometimes you can’t be bothered to make new ones, especially if you’re only going to know them for a short period of time. You’ll find people in groups are sometimes more closed off and less willing to interact with you. However, as a solo traveler, because you arrived alone, you don’t know anybody, you feel more inclined to talk to others. Sometimes you’re forced into the situation to interact and make friends.
You’ll experience this for yourself, especially if you choose to stay in backpackers hostels, and even on excursions and tours. I’m not saying this will always be the case but It’s more likely than not. When you get to your hostel or tour, just observe the dynamics of those solo backpacking and those already in groups.
However do note, like I mentioned there are times It’s bloody hard to be alone as a solo backpacker, you may find some who have segregated themselves, they might be a little closed off, and not willing to talk to you. Maybe they just need some alone time, don’t assume they’re not friendly generally or are feeling lonely.
So, that’s why solo traveling doesn’t mean lonely travel.
Travel loneliness can hit you at anytime
However travel loneliness is a thing, and it can hit you at anytime! Therés no set time frame when it happens it just springs on you without warning at times. You can feel lonely solo traveling after a couple of days, months down the road even years but it will happen. Some people feel it quicker than others, it could happen on one of those days you’re surrounded by others, or those days your traveling by yourself.
Although it can hit you at anytime, there are a number of things that can make you feel lonely solo traveling. It could be just long term backpacking grinding you down or homesickness kicks in. It could be one of those days you’re moving from one place to another alone, or it can even hit while you’re sitting around in a group and surrounded by others.
There are times you can feel lonely solo traveling where it flutters in and out, one minute your fine then you feel lonely as fuck but the next minute you’re fine again without any explanation.
With long term solo travel, you’ll have incredible highs have amazing moments and experience the most incredible things but you’ll also have to endure a lot of lows and hardships along the way too. So there are times you have to be prepared for some testing times, and It’s during those times and situations you may feel the most travel loneliness because you have to deal with things on your own.
There will be times you feel lonely solo traveling because you’ve separated from other solo travelers you’ve become good friends with. If you move onto a different destination without them and start to miss them or they move on and you stay behind. Sure there might be a new crowd of people, you might even get along with them but the dynamics are not the same.
Reasons why you may feel lonely solo traveling:
- *You detach and segregate yourself from others.
- *You feel like you don’t fit in (possibly in a hostel, or with a group on an activity or tour.)
- *After you’ve made friends with a person(s) and have to say goodbye to them.
- *Breakups can make you feel lonely solo traveling (Seen a lot of couples break up over the years.)
- *Arriving in a new country/destination/environment – You have to start from scratch to make friends, sometimes it can be daunting and can make you feel lonely solo traveling.
- *Trying to make friends with a tight-knit group.
- *Becoming homesick/missing out on things from back home – Birthday, Christmas, wedding, funeral.
- *Feeling detached from the people you’re with.
- *Sitting in a cafe, seeing others around you in groups can make you miss your friends.
- *Choosing the wrong hostel or accommodation type to suit you.
- *Leaving friends you’ve made behind when you have to go to your next destination.
- *Just having a shit or downer day.
- *Hungover or on a comedown.
- *Sitting on an overnight bus alone with just your thoughts.
- *Having to eat alone.
- *When you want to take a picture but there’s nobody to take it with you and you have to take a selfie.
- *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.
Times I’ve felt lonely solo traveling
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been solo backpacking long term since 2010, I do it because solo travel suits my style of travel best. I wouldn’t change it for a second however there have been times over the years when travel loneliness has hit me hard. Most of the time It’s when I’ve gone through hardships, or been broke as a joke. But other times It’s hit me when there is no need to feel lonely.
Sometimes I’ve been happy as can be one minute but the next have this overwhelming wave of loneliness just hit me out of nowhere and I’ve felt like I’m drowning. There have been times I’ve felt travel loneliness so back that I’ve questioned why I even do the thing I love. And then there have been those times of loneliness where I’ve pictured the other side of the fence; going home and settling down. But apart from once those feelings and emotions of travel loneliness have passed.
Sometimes It’s ok to feel lonely solo traveling
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 interaction, and mope around. You can’t be happy and full of beans every single day.
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.
And those days you want to have those days hiding away and feeling sorry for yourself is good too, they can be just like flushing the lonely feeling out, and the next day or after a few you’ll feel right as rain.
This post by Terri Trespicio I read in the Huffington post explains why it’s ok to feel lonely sometimes.
Ways to cope when you feel lonely solo traveling
Different people have different mechanisms to deal with different emotional states and feelings, I’m sure you have yours.
But those times you feel that travel loneliness getting stronger and start manifesting, where just hiding away and moping for a day isn’t going to get you out the slump you need to force yourself to stop sinking.
The worst thing to do, is to keep hiding away, to keep shutting yourself away from others. Just try and push yourself to talk to another solo backpacker around you, even the person working on the reception at the hostel. Try and grab a drink, or get some food with somebody. By just having some company and interaction it could help massively.
If you’re staying in a hostel, a simple hi to a roommate or somebody in the social area can go a long way to breaking the ice. And if somebody offers you a metaphoric hand don’t shut them down. Somebody might offer if you want to join them on an activity, or join in on a card game, to get a drink or food. No matter how shitty you feel, try your hardest to say yes and it will help for that travel loneliness to pass.
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If you feel lonely while moving from one place to the other, have a look around are there other backpackers around you, is there one sitting next to you, try strike up a small conversation, even if it doesn’t go anywhere at least you’ve had some interaction and it might help you feel better.
If you are all by yourself, and you do feel lonely solo traveling there are other things you can do to try perk yourself up.
- *Force yourself to be social – try a local bar, cafe, in the park.
- *Remind yourself why you’re there, what inspired you to travel to that country in the first place.
- *Binge watch your favorite movies/TV series/comedy stand-ups, try and get something to make you laugh.
- *Talk to friends and family back home (sometimes a simple phone call makes it all better)
- *Pre-occupy your mind, force yourself to do that tour, activity or excursion
- *Sometimes just ride it out
- Remember a good memory from your trip so far, remensise, try feeling that moment again.
- If your by the coast, head out to a view point, on the beach or cliff side. Waves have such a powerful ability to make things feel better
- If you’re traveling from one point to another, enjoy the scenery outside, try not to dwell so much.
- Keep a journal, sometimes just getting your thoughts out there help
- Think positive, you might be feeling lonely right now but something positive will be waiting for you around the corner.
In most cases feelings will pass when you feel lonely solo traveling
The most important thing to remember when you feel lonely solo traveling is that like with every other emotion it will pass. It might sound harsh, but if nothing works in trying to get out the slump, you just have to take the emotional travel loneliness beating. Once you come out the situation, you may find it easier to cope the next time it happens, it’s part of backpacking life and you will have learnt and evolved from it.
I’ve met people over the years, who at the first sign of travel loneliness have just given up solo backpacking. They did nothing to fight it, they convinced themselves they would always feel lonely solo traveling and just packed their bags and returned home. They gave up on their journeys and possibly dreams before they got started. At the end of the day it was their choice but they didn’t even give it a chance.
When you get into those states, when you feel lonely solo traveling just remember the best thing to do is to try and stay positive, think positive, make some friends let them help cheer you up and It will get easier.
What if the travel loneliness get too much?
But what happens if nothing works right? What if you just feel lonely solo traveling all the time, no matter how much you try to get out the slump.
On rare occasions that can happen too, and It’s horrible. When nothing else works, as each day passes you feel like you’re sinking further down, you don’t want to but you feel even more detached from those around you, you stop talking to everybody. And, worst of all it’s ruining your dream solo backpacking trip, you’re just not enjoying it.
At that point you’re left with two options. Just stop traveling in terms of moving from one place to another, or to move to a place and do nothing for a while, try and get some normality in your life. Or the other choice, is to pack up and go home but this is when you’ve exhausted all avenues, tried to persevere but you just feel worse.
When travel loneliness hit me so hard there was no other option
It happened to me once, after 6 and half years of roaming around the world, the travel loneliness hit me so hard. I tried to persevere with it for months, I did stop traveling for a while and stayed in one spot but I was drowning. I would feel lonely solo traveling when I wasn’t traveling.
It got to a point where I started fantasizing about going back home to England, settling down, getting my own place having a normal life. I felt so alone at the point I just hated traveling. I stopped talking to people, I had no desire to socialise or interest in seeing and doing anything. For the first time in my life all I wanted to do was go home.
I quit solo backpacking!
And I did. It was a harder decision to go home than it was to start solo backpacking in the first place. For a while it felt great being at home, around familiarity, real home comforts. But then I felt more alone at home than I ever did on the road. My friends, life had moved on in the 6 and half years I was gone and I missed solo backpacking.
Just needed a break
It turned out, I just needed a prolonged rest from backpacking, and after a year out, I was back on the road in 2017 and still going to this day, back doing what I love. Yes there are times I feel lonely solo traveling but I can deal with those times much easier.
And the more experience you have, the more times you feel lonely solo traveling and get over it, the easier it will be for you to deal with it and carry on long term solo backpacking.
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