Long-term solo traveling: Feeling lonely

Long-term solo traveling: Feeling lonely

part of the traveling realisms series of posts, long-term solo backpaking, coping with lonliness covers how to cope when that happens to backpackers(Last Updated On: January 8, 2020)

Long-term solo traveling – feeling lonely, is Part 7 of the traveling realism’s series.

Don’t you get lonely long-term solo traveling?

I wonder how many times this age-old question has been put to solo travelers over the years? Speaking for myself, I’ve been asked it more than I can remember.

I also know it’s a topic that’s been covered thousands of times before and there’s a plethora of information through blogs, articles, interviews, and opinions about it. So why am I writing about it?… Because of the confusion of feeling lonely when long-term solo traveling.

As a long-term solo and budget traveler myself (6 Years+), I’ll be honest with you, Yes, of course, there will be times when you will feel lonely. It’s natural to feel lonely and sometimes it’s even good for us (wait, what? Read on and I’ll explain why). However, you’re not going to be lonely just because you’re traveling solo! Confused?

You’re not the only solo traveler in the world!

There seems to be this perception that when you’re long-term solo traveling, there’s nobody else going to around, that you’ll be the only solo traveler and in-turn be lonely. Well as somebody who’s been long-term solo traveling since 2010, let me assure you that’s not true.

Here’s the thing, when you solo travel, you are very rarely alone. Whatever destination you have chosen, no matter how off the beaten track you think it is, there’s more than likely going to be other travelers there too.

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The first time you solo travel, it will surprise you at just how many other solo travelers are around you. Put it this way, if you were to make a heat map of solo travelers around the world right now, most of the globe would be covered.

Solo travelers come together

Something that I learned very quickly about solo travelers is that we might travel to countries alone, but once we’re there we’re like magnets and come together. It’s like a solo traveler can sniff out another solo traveler.

You’ll see and experience this for yourself, especially if you’re staying in a hostel (different types of hostels), or go on excursions or tours with other solo travelers. You might start the day as strangers but by the end of it, you’ll be friends. Trust me there will be times when you’re desperate to have some actual time alone. This post shows you the different types of friends you’ll likely take on your travels. 

Do you feel lonely Long-term solo traveling? It's the question I get asked most as a long-term solo traveler...My answer is...

In saying that, you might come across solo travelers who actually do want to travel alone, they might find it difficult to make friends, have anxiety or are introverts and they do keep to themselves. However, that doesn’t automatically make them lonely.

Loneliness can hit you anytime long-term solo traveling

A number of things can trigger to make you feel lonely, it could even be long-term traveling just grinding you down. You have to bear in mind long-term (I mean months and years not just a couple of weeks) solo and, or budget travel is a whole different ball game to short-term traveling. You have to deal with and cope with a wider range of emotions and feelings, you will get homesick, miss certain things and people from your life. And, you don’t have home comforts or a safety net and that can make you feel lonely.

Do you feel lonely Long-term solo traveling? It's the question I get asked most as a long-term solo traveler...My answer is...

With long-term solo traveling, you’ll have incredible highs but you’ll also have to endure a lot of lows along the way, so be prepared to face some tough and testing times. It’s during these times when you have to deal with situations alone that you will feel loneliest. Sometimes it will not matter how many people are around you, it just doesn’t help. There will be times when you feel so lonely that you just want to pack up and go home but just remember these feelings will pass.

Here are some 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 (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.
  • *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.

When loneliness has hit me

I solo travel because it suits me (Solo traveling – Why it suits me) I love solo traveling and I wouldn’t change it for a second, however, there have been times when I’ve been incredibly lonely. I’ve had to endure some really testing times, things have happened, situations have occurred and I have a somewhat complicated personality and loneliness can hit me at the strangest of times.

Do you feel lonely Long-term solo traveling? It's the question I get asked most as a long-term solo traveler...My answer is...

Sometimes I’ve been happy as can be one minute but the next have this overwhelming feeling of loneliness just hit me out of nowhere. There have been times when I had no reason to feel lonely but I did. For example, I remember a time when I was within a group dynamic having a conversation and be deeply involved with what’s going all but then all of a sudden I  just felt incredibly lonely.

To me it doesn’t matter if I’m alone or not, it just hits me at times. Over the years there have been times when I’ve felt so lonely and low I’ve questioned why I even travel, why do I solo travel solo. But when I get those feelings I know they will pass.

When feeling lonely is good for you

So I mentioned at the top of this post, sometimes feeling lonely is actually good for you. Before you think I’m actually crazy hear me out.

There are different levels of loneliness and sometimes when you’re feeling lonely it’s your mind and body saying “Hey we miss some interaction or even physical contact here” – When you feel lonely it normally forces you to interact with people (unless you’re complicated like me).

Do you feel lonely Long-term solo traveling? It's the question I get asked most as a long-term solo traveler...My answer is...

And, sometimes you just need to get it out your system, it’s alright to stay in bed all day and just feel sorry for yourself and have a downer day. And once it’s out your system you’ll be right as rain again.

This post by Terri Trespicio I read in the Huffington post explains why it’s ok to feel lonely sometimes.

How I combat feeling lonely while long-term solo traveling

However, sometimes the levels can be much deeper than just riding it out and it’s those times it can really get to you and start eating at you. If you let it manifest, the worst thing you can do is shut yourself off from others. I’ve been there, I’ve felt so lonely and although I knew it would pass, I let it eat at me and I let it ruin my trip for a while.

So what do you do to combat it? Well, everybody has their own coping mechanisms here’s what works for me:

  • *Force myself to be social – go hang out in social areas, share a drink, play a game.
  • *Remind myself why I’m there, what inspired me to travel to that country.
  • *Binge watch my favorite movies/TV series/comedy stand-ups.
  • *Talk to friends and family back home (sometimes a simple phone call makes it all better)
  • *Pre-occupy my mind by doing an activity.
  • *Sometimes I just ride it out.

Feelings pass

Remember we all feel lonely at some point during our travels, and it’s ok when you do, normally the feeling will come and pass by. However, if it becomes more deep-rooted and you feel yourself sinking, then force yourself to interact and be sociable, trust me it will help you.

If you’re heading out on your first solo travel trip and have concerns or not sure about things this solo traveling FAQ will come in handy – It answers pretty much every question I’ve been asked about long-term solo traveling over the years.

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Did you find this post on feeling lonely while solo traveling helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know.

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Do you get lonely solo traveling? I get asked this question so much but I also know it's a topic that's been covered thousands of times before and there's a plethora of information through blogs, articles, interviews, and opinions about it. So why am I writing about it?... Because of the confusion of feeling lonely when long-term solo traveling. #travel #solotravel #solo_traveling
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44 Responses

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. Wow! Such an enlightening post and a great read. I loved your sincerity. Feeling lonely is a common feeling for a solo traveler.

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