Let me start off this post with a short video clip from the movie ‘Team America: World Police’.
Joking aside, loneliness can suck. And solo travel loneliness can suck even more. Why is that?
Well … there you are on your big adventure, ‘braving it’ alone, exploring great new sights, immersing yourself in unfamiliar cultures. You are having the time of your life. Right? Therefore, even admitting to yourself, let alone to others, that you are feeling lonely or blue, can make you feel like a failure.
I doubt that there are few solo travellers out there who have not experienced loneliness at some point of their travels. Has this happened to me? Sure. At some point in most trips, usually on day four or day five, I have felt the travel blues wash over me in waves. Self-doubt rears its ugly head. I look around me at friends and families enjoying the good times together and feel sharp pangs of envy.
However, the loneliest I ever felt in many years of travelling was on a two-week trip around Central America with an unsuitable companion. For much of the time, I felt utterly miserable. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be travelling alone to feel lonely.
So what do you when loneliness hits you when you are travelling alone? Here are the strategies that have worked for me in overcoming the solo travel blues.
Accept that is solo travel loneliness will happen (and that doesn’t mean that you are ‘bad’ at travelling alone)
I am someone who is very comfortable in her own company. Although I have a circle of very good friends, whom I see often, I also love solitary evenings in. So you’d think that I would be less prone to solo travel loneliness. Wrong.
What was key for me was accepting that I would feel lonely at some point whilst away. Then to recognise this when it happened, embrace its normality, minimise its impact and then move on to enjoy the rest of my trip.
Have a plan
Whilst your trip shouldn’t be planned to the nth degree, it is good to have an idea of what you will be doing the next day. When you are feeling sad and lonely it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do and see things. In the absence of a vague plan, there is the risk that you will wander aimlessly, becoming increasingly depressed and anxious.
Therefore, have in your mind a list of things that you would like to do. Or if hopping from sight to sight feels too overwhelming, focus instead on one or two activities. Perhaps mooching around that fantastic gallery or doing a city walking tour.
Be kind to yourself
If there ever was a time to treat yourself this is it. This could mean indulging in a facial or relaxing massage. Or why don’t you push the boat out and have a slap up meal in that fancy restaurant that you have your eye on? For some people, eating alone is challenging. Therefore, go armed with some tips on how to make solo dining easier.
Take time to relax
There can be a tendency amongst travellers to jump from place to place in a quest to cram in as much as possible. I know that I am certainly guilty of this. If you are not in the right frame of mind, this constant motion can be exhausting.
Take time out. Bring yourself and a favourite book to a coffee bar and linger for a while. The caffeine, downtime and being amongst other people will revive your spirit. And you never know … you may strike up a conversation with someone there.
Embrace your inner shutterbug
I love photography and am rarely without some form of camera, be it my brute of a DSLR or sleek iPhone. I find capturing images to be enormously therapeutic, and this creative process distracts me from any negative thoughts I may be having.
Photography also makes you more aware of the finer details of your surroundings, and reviewing your images at the end of the day is a pleasurable distraction.
Come armed with toys
I always travel with my favourite Netflix shows downloaded on my battered old iPad. Not only are these great for long flights, but they are also perfect for wallowing in when you are feeling lonely. So it’s the seventh time you’ve watched that episode of Friends / Fr Ted / The IT Crowd / Bojack Horseman. So what? (and please don’t judge me on my choice of TV shows!)
For similar reasons, I also travel armed with podcasts and favourite music on my phone.
Get in touch with family and friends
Now more than ever, it is so easy to keep in touch whilst you are on the road. Talking to a loved one can be an enormous comfort when you are suffering from solo travel loneliness.
A word of caution here though. Whilst this works for me, I know that for other this can make them feel increasingly homesick. It’s a judgement call that you will need to make.
Diarise your feelings
If you are someone who keeps a personal or travel journal, include how you are felling in that day’s account and what steps you took to make yourself feel better. I have found this to be enormously helpful.
Meet other people
I am slightly reluctantly to include this as this post is about how to beat loneliness once it hits, not a lesson in how not be alone. But, of course, meeting other people, be they fellow travellers or locals means that you do not have to be alone all the time. For example, this could be through staying in hostels, joining a day tour or striking up a conversation in a coffee bar.
I will explore this more deeply in the next blog post in this series.
Accept that solo travel loneliness is a temporary state of mind
Last, but by no means least, accept that your current state of mind is not going to persist throughout your trip. Trust me, it won’t. It’s a blip on your solo travel landscape. You will get through it and be all the stronger for it.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (Friedrich Neitzsche)
In conclusion …
The most important message to take away from this blog post is that solo travel loneliness is completely normal. A fear of the travel blues should not prevent you from reaping all the rewards that travelling alone can bring.
So don’t just dream about flying solo to your bucket-list destination. Take the plunge and book that flight. Even if loneliness strikes – and it most likely will – you will be able to overcome it.
Have you ever had a dose of the solo travel blues? How did you overcome them? It would be great if you could share your tips in the comments section. And if you have found this post helpful, I would be very grateful if you could pin it or share via social media
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