Feeling Lonely Travelling Alone
The process of travel lends itself very well to feeling lonely.
I mean, you literally wave goodbye to friends, family and loved ones at the airport and suddenly it is just you, walking into the unknown.
Even if you plan to travel with other people, it is unlikely you'll avoid it completely- I'm often struck by the paradox that I sometimes feel my loneliest when surrounded by others.
Loneliness is an understandable reaction to travel...and it can also suck.
Remember, you’ll be out of your comfort zone, probably miles and multiple time-zones away from home, in a new culture, surrounded by new faces and doing something you’ve never done before.
Remember the first time you took the stabilisers off your bike as a kid? Immediately you feel a little wobbly, out of control and you fall over- a lot.
Going travelling, especially for the first time, has a similar effect: with such a drastic change to what you’re used to, suddenly everything feels new, different...and wobblier. And yet, like taking the stabilisers off the bike, you’re forced to change and adapt to what’s now happening.
Ultimately you learn to ride on two wheels and travel faster and with less effort- it is a rite of passage.
The same goes with travel: through the challenge you grow as a person and your experience of life is enhanced. When you’re away you’ll be forced to do things and make decisions for yourself without anyone holding your hand.
At first this will be difficult and unnerving, but ultimately it will foster independence and self confidence, enabling personal growth and development.
And so, as much as it is natural to feel lonely, it is important too: that challenge will enable you to develop as a person.
However, it might be good for you, but it isn't exactly pleasant. What can you do to help?
Well, accepting how you feel is a massive step towards moving into a more positive frame of mind.
There is so much pressure these days to feel happy the whole time that it sometimes feels socially unacceptable to show vulnerability in any way. The pressure from social media, pop culture and so on leads to negative judgements of ourselves when we don’t feel this way.
And, while you’re travelling you’re supposed to be having the time of your life, right!? So, we feel bad and then we beat ourselves up about it, which makes us feel even worse.
In the same way that sadness, fear, anger and grief are natural human emotions, loneliness is too.
As we’ve discussed, when you’re travelling, this is an understandable reaction to what can be an isolating experience. Rather than being your own harshest critic, aim to accept how you feel and stop there.
I’m not suggesting you sit and wallow in self-pity- that doesn’t help anyone, but don’t be so quick to hate on what’s happening: recognise the validity of how you feel.
Knowing yourself is also important in making steps to feel better. For instance, I enjoy my own company and my mood often improves by being alone for a while. However, after a point it becomes detrimental and I need to be with people.
This leads to my second point: by doing something we can help ourselves feel better too.
If you’re ever feeling especially lonely during your trip, try taking action: leave the hostel dorm room, cook a meal with someone, go for a walk, exercise, call home, write a journal entry, ask someone out for a drink, go to the cinema, go exploring.
It doesn’t matter what it is, just do something. Everyone is different and I can only speak for myself when it comes to the practical techniques that help to get rid of distressing emotions, such as loneliness, while travelling. Ultimately you’ll find what works best for you.
Honestly, sometimes you’ve just got to ride the wave out.
Try to accept the way you feel and applaud yourself for being brave enough to put yourself in difficult situations; remember that you will be growing and changing positively as a result.
If you feel inclined, know yourself, figure out what works and go do something to improve the situation. Travel (and life) isn’t always easy, but it is always possible to make things better.