Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone. – Paul Tillich
I’ve spent the majority of my travels as a solo backpacker, which is how I plan all my trips. There’s a certain freedom and flexibility that comes with solo travel, that you simply cannot have when traveling as a group. However, it goes without saying that solo traveling can be lonely and it’s not always as easy as it seems. Here are seven ways to overcome loneliness while traveling alone.
1. Find A Companion To Travel With
It goes without saying that traveling with a companion is the best way to combat loneliness on the road. As much as I love the solitude of solo travel, sometimes sharing a special moment or experiencing a new thrill is simply better when you have someone by your side. If you’re going it alone and not sure how to find a traveling buddy, stay at hostels which is the best (and my favorite) way to meet cool and interesting people while traveling. There are also many online forums and apps you could use to meet people as well, such as Couchsurfing.
2. Stay In Touch With Family And Friends
When you’re traveling on the road for so long, it’s sometimes a good thing to reconnect with family members and friends back home, especially if you’re feeling down or lonely. Feel free to chat up a friend or loved ones back home and let them know how you’re feeling and doing. Personally, I try not to call too often because I don’t like the feeling of having to miss people back home when the whole point of traveling is to gather new experiences and getting to know a new way of life. Try to stay balanced with your calls home and focusing on forging new friendships with those around you.
3. Start A Conversation With A Stranger
Whether you’re at a café, airport, sitting on a park bench or waiting at a bus stop, you’d be surprised how enriching and fulfilling a simple conversation with a stranger can be. Even if all you did was ask for directions, that simply, yet genuine conversation can be enough to lift your mood and make you feel that much better in a new and unfamiliar place. Moreover, for some reason, traveling solo just endears you to locals and makes you much more likeable in their eyes. I can’t explain it why that is, I just know from personal experience. Strangers are seemingly more open to talk to you as solo traveler than if you were to travel in a group.
4. Explore The City Or Town
Book a tour, go on a day trip with hostel mates, explore the city or town without a map and just get lost! There are so many advantages to traveling solo that many travelers often lose sight on the opportunity that it affords. It can be as a simple as sitting on a park bench to read a book or perhaps sitting at a café to people watch, the very act of being outside and engaging with your new city environment will automatically enrich your worldview with new lasting experiences, thus combating any sense of loneliness you may be feeling. Not many people back home will have the opportunity to explore the way you can, so be sure to cherish the moment and embrace each experience.
5. Be Spontaneous And Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
If the very thought of solo travel conjures up thoughts of fear or hesitation, don’t fret because that’s a completely normal reaction, especially if it’s your first-time traveling alone; I’ve certainly felt that way plenty of times. Use the opportunity of solo traveling to conquer your fears and challenge yourself to do something different, unique, fun and spontaneous. Just remember, no one is going to judge you if you’re salsa dancing for the first time in Cali, Colombia and don’t know what you’re doing (you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn and how many people are willing to teach you!), or canyon swinging in Interlaken, Switzerland (hoping the rope holds tight and you don’t fall to your death), or showing up at Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain and having no idea what to expect (pro tip: start the race AFTER Dead Man’s corner!). This is the beauty of solo traveling, so make sure to embrace it while you can!
6. Read A Book Or Watch Your Favorite Movie
Though traveling is all about embracing and fully immersing yourself in a new culture and learning a new way of life, there are times you simply want to do something familiar or something that reminds you of the comforts of home. And sometimes you just need a break from French lessons or constantly being on the go from city to city. Reading and writing has always been a great source of comfort for me, which is why I always carry at least one book with me whenever I travel (Don Quixote in Europe, Odas Elementales in South America and L’Étranger in Paris). It’s a simple pleasure that works wonders to help offset the loneliness of traveling solo.
7. Travel Slow, Not Fast
This has always been a struggle for me because I like to be active and move from city-to-city, but trust me this is the best way to travel. Traveling is more than a checklist to show off to your friends that you “did it,” it’s about embracing a new way of living, thinking, feeling and broadening your worldview in the process. If I had my druthers and the time to do so, I prefer to spend at least a week in each city and develop friendships with locals and expats than quickly hop from one city to another. It’s never enjoyable to move around quickly, so try to make it habit to travel slow, not fast.