Long-term solo traveling – feeling lonely, is part 7 of my 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, especially long-term 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.
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 learnt 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), 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.
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.
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 breakup 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.
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 will just feel 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).
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 favourite 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.
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 My 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.
Did this post ease any concerns you may have about feeling lonely whilst long-term solo traveling? Is there anything you would like me to write for you in the future regarding solo and, or budget traveling?
Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to join forever roaming the worlds ever-growing community for more posts on long-term solo and budget traveling.
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