Loneliness When Traveling Alone
The thought of solo traveling sounds amazing, right? You can be whoever you want to be, you can do whatever you want…whenever you want. It’s thrilling too – you can meet some amazing people, you can strike up conversation, you can flirt with the cute barista. But, what if you don’t? What if you’re in a country where you don’t know a single soul and there’s really no one to talk to? What happens when you start to feel alone? Well, that is bound to happen.
Since solo traveling, I’ve experienced all the aforementioned and more. However, each occurrence, feeling, or fear of the unknown taught me lessons. One prime example was Portugal. I booked it last minute and was super excited and while still in London, it hit me. Well shit, I don’t know anyone in Portugal. Who do I call if something goes bad or if I need help? All these thoughts began to surface, without rhyme or reason. But for me, solo traveling has been the biggest lesson so far:
There is always something to be taught. When you travel with others, you learn a lot about yourself and your travel partners. Actually, you REALLY learn who your friends are at the core when you travel with them. Are they organized or are they spontaneous? Are they willing to meet locals or are they interested in going to the touristy spots? You start to understand your relationship better and whether or not it’s someone you’d like to spend your time with or book your next trip with.
But when you travel alone, there’s no learning about others, it’s learning entirely about yourself…by yourself. So what happens when you freak out and you get the feelings of “omg what am I doing, I don’t want to do this anymore?”
Again, go inward. Let's dive deeper...
When you solo travel, you are 100% dependent on yourself. Which in reality, you should be, whether you’re traveling or not (but that’s another subject). For me, I was scared shitless of public transportation in London because I thought it was confusing and I had this FEAR that I would get lost. So what did I do? I tackled it head on. I jumped right into my fear and did I get lost? Nope. (Okay, once I took the wrong tram but never actually got lost). So why did I have this fear? Because I conditioned my mind to believe this ‘fear’ was real. It’s funny how we come up with these fake scenarios that, nine out of ten times, NEVER happen. So my first point is:
1.) TRUST and BELIEVE that you can handle anything on your own. Face the fear head on and look back at how silly the fear was. By diving inward, you are trusting yourself, which I believe is a form of self-love. Because the most important relationship you’ll have, is the one you have with yourself.
2.) JOURNAL and REFLECT. The moment you start to feel anxious about being alone or you start to panic, just stop and write. Writing has been extremely therapeutic for me. It allows you to get everything off your mind and chest and allows you to reflect on whatever you’re feeling. When you write, sometimes the answers just come. For me, solo traveling has brought me closer to God. Whatever you believe in, whether you call it God, Light, Source, Alien… writing will allow you to connect at a deeper level to your Creator. Why do I say that? Because that’s exactly what I experienced. As I sat in the tube in London, I whipped out my digital note pad and started typing away (because no one talks to one another on the tube). As I started asking questions, I started receiving answers. As if God was connecting to me through writing. For those of you who are non-believers, it may sound crazy. However, I can only speak of my experience and it was beautiful. I received the reassurance that in fact, I wasn’t alone. You never really are…which brings me to point number 3.
3.) You’re never really ALONE. Since we’ve be conditioned to constantly be around people (work, family and friends) it feels weird to spend so much time alone. No one wants to look like a “loner” (loser). You’re always just one conversation away from human connection. Which is the beauty of travel; most travelers want to connect with others who appear to be different from them. Why? Because it expands their beliefs, viewpoints and understanding of the world. If at any moment you feel alone, I do encourage you to go to a coffee shop or restaurant and chat up the waitress or bartender. You will immediately feel a sense of connection.
That’s exactly what happened to me in Lisbon. I arrived at my hotel and thought, okay, I’m alone and don’t know anyone. So what did I do? I went to the common area near the reception and started working from my laptop. I noticed a girl doing the same so I asked her how long she’d be in Portugal. Before I knew it, she told me how she quit her corporate job in Chicago to travel for an entire year. She told me about her pilgrimage journey (she walked for an entire month) and how she would sleep in random places along the way. It was a fascinating story to say the least. But aspects of her story really reminded me…of me, and I felt less alone. It was like my soul sighed, “ah, this feels familiar – you’re good”.
Another point is, don’t be afraid to reach out to your networks. If you have friends that travel, they may know people in that country. Fortunately, I was able to leverage my social network while visiting Portugal. For example, I instantly thought of my friend, Jordan. I met Jordan at Forbes 30 Under 30 in Boston, he’s someone who is well-connected so I figured, what the hell, I’ll see if he knows anyone in Lisbon. Not surprisingly, he did. Within minutes, I was connected with his friends and we ended up exploring Lisbon and had a blast doing so. If it wasn’t for them, I would have never dined at an illegal Chinese restaurant. It’s illegal because well, it’s an Asian’s family home/kitchen and technically not a restaurant. Nonetheless, it was the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. If you believe in synchronicity and serendipity, magical things can happen.
So what if none of your friends have friends in the city you’re in?
Leverage the digital world. By that, I mean try searching for local meet ups or experiences. One that I highly recommend is Airbnb Experiences. You can peruse through all the different hosts/experiences that are available in that city. For instance, you can go on a city walk, food tour or fashion immersion by local hosts. This will connect you with a local, as well as other travelers who are joining the experience as well.
Also, podcasts are a good idea when you're feeling alone. You can learn something as well as feel like you're listening to a friend talk. And don't forget the power of FaceTime. If you feel really lonely, pick up the phone and FaceTime your best friend. You will feel at home.
So yes, solo traveling CAN feel lonely at times. But you have the power to change that. You have the power to reflect during that time. It will feel painful and uncomfortable, but that is because you’re experiencing something new, which is causing you to grow and evolve. If anything, you may realize just how disconnected you are from yourself and how digitally connected you are to everyone around you.
Losing my damn phone in the Uber happened for a reason. It was a reminder to stay present in the moment and that your phone is NOT needed for every little moment. Also, it’s a great reminder to always use Uber (when you can) in a foreign city because it’s much easier to find your phone when lost in an Uber, opposed to a taxi. Had I not lost my phone, I would have never approached all the random people I approached LOL. Shout out to the family from France who offered to give me money, God bless your kind souls. Or the Polish girl who tirelessly attempted to log into her Uber account so I could log into mine. Or the Porteguese taxi driver who gave me a ride to my hostel and kept telling me “calma, calma”. He would talk into his phone and hit translate so I could understand what he’s saying. He didn’t have to do that. But he gave me reassurance that I wasn’t alone and people genuinely want to help others. He made me feel "calm" because when you worry, you distance yourself from God. God gave me that reminder that human connection and relationships are important and no matter how alone you feel, you never really are.
So my question for you is: would you solo travel? What fears do you have? Is there something holding you back? Would love to hear from you.
Also, thank you to Alyonka for nudging me to write this :)
love & light –