This post may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.
Last Updated on 23/12/2020
Contrary to the glossy world depicted on social media, solo travel (just like anything, really) can have its low and lonely moments. These feelings can strike at any time and anywhere, and it certainly doesn’t care if you’re living out your travelling dreams on the other side of the world.
The thing is, loneliness happens to everyone – even the most seasoned of solo travellers. It’s just one of those annoying human traits.
Halfway through your solo travel adventure, you might start to compare yourself to other travellers and find yourself wondering why you’re not having as much fun as you thought you would – or whether it would be better if you had a companion to share it with.
Of course, it’s a deceptive trick of the mind. Loneliness happens at home too. But once it 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 excitedly planning your trip of a lifetime. That would suck. Big time.
However, spotting the warning signs before those feelings take hold can help you mitigate the damage so you can keep enjoying your solo travel experience. Here are 5 ways to cope with loneliness when travelling solo:
1. Move on to a new place
Photo credit: averie woodard
Low points can happen at any point during your trip, but what I’ve found is that although they’re pretty tough to deal with 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 or move on, whether it’s to the next destination or even new accommodation.
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 off. Not everywhere will suit you and that’s okay.
2. Do things you enjoy
Photo credit: Joshua Earle
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 and 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.
3. Spot potential triggers
Photo credit: Matt Sclarandis
Learn to spot potential triggers. This is an important strategy as it will help you catch those feelings of loneliness before they take control of your trip.
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?
4. Talk to your loved ones at home to reconnect with travel
Photo credit: Edu Grande
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever before to keep up with loved ones on the other side of the world. One of the best ways to prevent loneliness is to talk to your friends and family back home. It’s as simple as that.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed in an unfamiliar place, sometimes the best remedy is a familiar voice on the other end of a phone to make you feel a little bit better. Just catching up on each other’s week can do wonders for your mood.
5. Pass on social media
Photo credit: Nicole Geri
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 when travelling solo.
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 to take a break from it all. Instead, fill your time with activities you love doing. After all, you’re free and travelling the world alone. That’s some achievement, believe me.
Don’t forget the perks of solo travel
Photo credit: Štefan Štefančík
Solo travel is a challenge and yes, it can be lonely at times. But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it had some amazing benefits when it comes to exploring the world.
In no particular order here are some of the best perks I’ve encountered on my solo travels:
- Queues go quicker when you’re on your own. It was a busy weekend for Christchurch’s earthquake museum Quake City in New Zealand 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 at all. You can read all about New Zealand for solo travellers here.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Group tours are also a good option if you want to ease yourself in gently. You can read about the pros and cons here.
- Eating out is a tricky predicament for solo travellers. Some hate it and some love it. Dining at a restaurant by yourself can exacerbate the feelings of loneliness but I’ve learnt to enjoy it. You don’t have to make conversation when you’re trying to chew your food, you can take as long or as little as you want and you get to eat where you want. What’s not to love?
- The world really is your oyster when you’re a solo traveller. I got into the habit of waking up every morning and asking myself “what do I want to do today?” Because, why not? It’s an experience of a lifetime 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 those feelings where to go.