I was once asked if I found travelling solo intimidating. It can certainly come across as such as it’s a form of travel which takes no prisoners. Whether you like it or not, solo travel forces you to come outside of your shell and interact with the world around you. Yes, it may seem intimidating, but in reality, it’s nothing short of a blessing.
But even solo travel has its vices
Contrary to the glossy world depicted on social media, solo travel (just like anything) can have its low points, and the most common cause I’ve found is loneliness. It can strike at anytime and anywhere, and it certainly doesn’t care if you’re living out your travelling dreams on the other side of the world. It happens to anyone, even the most seasoned of solo travellers. It’s just one of those annoying human traits.
You sometimes find yourself comparing yourself to other travellers and wondering why you’re not having as much fun as you thought you would, and whether it would be better if you had a companion to share it with. It’s of course a deceptive trick of the mind. Loneliness happens at home too. But once loneliness hits your travels it can have a lasting impact if you don’t find a way to combat it. The last thing you want is to return home early after spending a year of excitedly planning your trip of a lifetime. That would truly suck. Big time.
Coping with loneliness while traveling solo
There have been a few lows during my trip but what I’ve found is that although pretty tough at times, they don’t tend to last because of the active nature of travel. If you feel down in a certain place, chances are it’s not your vibe and you need to switch it up and move on whether it’s the next destination or even the next hostel. It’s important not to beat yourself up if a bucket list destination doesn’t live up to what you thought it would be or if you feel like you haven’t gelled properly with anyone in your hostel. Pressure only exacerbates that unwanted feeling of alienation until it becomes harder to shake.
Learn to enjoy your own company by filling up your days with activities to look forward to. If you love swimming then find yourself a beach or a pool. If you love museums and culture then take yourself to a city of look up any cool events you could go to in your area. These activities don’t need to cost an arm and a leg and take a huge amount of effort. As long as they fill up your time with happiness that’s all that matters. Your mind has less of a chance to wander when it’s too busy to be idle.
Learn to spot potential triggers. This is important as you will know when you’ll start to feel that familiar loneliness. I’ve learnt that one of my own triggers is saying goodbye to a travel buddy. After spending a few days hanging out and getting to know one another the nature of travel forces you to split up and go your own separate ways. It’s sad, but the worst part for me is the prospect of having to go back to square one and meeting people all over again. You can’t help feeling that you won’t be able to find better friends than the ones you had to leave and you’re just going to spend the rest of the trip alone. Time has proven that thought to be nothing short of daft but when has that stopped anyone from being irrational?
Talk to friends and family back home. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes all you need is a familiar voice on the other end of a phone to make you feel that much better even if it is to catch up on each other’s week. It can do wonders for your mood.
Take a break from social media. This is probably the most challenging tip and even I can’t keep it up for long. But seriously, as a provocateur of FOMO (fear of missing out), social media does well to remind you what all your friends are getting up to back home without you there. It’s the worst culprit for planting the seeds of loneliness on your travels.
Just looking at what your social media friends are up to is enough to question whether travelling solo was a good idea in the first place. In these instances,the best thing you can do for yourself is take a break from it all, and once again, this is where filling your time with activities is key. The last thing you’ll be doing is checking Facebook when you’re busy doing something you love!
And finally, some solo travel perks!
Solo travel is a challenge and yes, it can be intimidating. But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it had some of the best perks when it comes to adventure. So, in no particular order here are some of the best perks I’ve encountered on my travels so far:
1. Queues go quicker when you’re on your own. It was a busy weekend for Christchurch’s earthquake museum Quake City as they were offering two days of free entry. It was a one in one out system so many of the larger groups had to wait if they wanted to go in together. As I was by myself I was able to slip through so much quicker which meant I didn’t have to wait very long.
2. You’re more flexible with your time. I’ve had opportunities to spend longer in places I’ve liked because I’m solo. I have complete freedom to choose how and where I want to travel and it’s a very liberating feeling.
3. I haven’t had a single problem with budgeting because I know exactly how I want to spend my money. Every activity has been something I wanted to do and I haven’t had to make compromises.
4. Although solo travel can be lonely, I have met more people than if I had a companion. Solo travel forces you to interact with the outside world whereas being in a group can cause you to become complacent within your own friendship bubble. I doubt I would have met half the friends I did meet if I hadn’t been on my own and more open to making an effort.
5. The world really is your oyster when you’re a solo traveller. I have got into the habit of waking up every morning and asking myself “what do I want to do today?” Because, why not? It’s a trip of a lifetime and a holiday I’ve worked hard to achieve and waking up with the feeling that you could do anything is pretty satisfying, and to be honest, rare. Loneliness will chase you around the globe without a doubt and it will be just as potent at home. Fill your time with the things you love doing and you’ll soon be telling it where to go.
Thanks for reading,