I’m trying to settle an internal debate right now. Is it freeing and thrilling to travel solo? Or lonely? I’d ask someone else but there’s no one else around at the moment that speaks my language.
And, does having constant access with my phone (now even turned ON most of the time now that I can “roam like home” and not just when I’m reliant on decent wifi) make the potential loneliness less, or more?
Frankly none of this makes any sense at all, as by all accounts I am living a charmed life that would be the envy of many. But I still find myself sitting in my room in a country eight time zones away from my own and I realize this is a question that’s been niggling at me for a while.
Again to be frank, I don’t really know what I’m even trying to get at, or get out, with this particular post, so maybe what I’ll do is just list a few methods I use to keep the blues at bay until I figure out the core of this feeling. And for those of you out there, please feel free to comment – let me know if you’ve done any of these things or if you have other better ways to stay grounded and connected while still flying away.
Anti-reclusiveness tactics, told as they come to mind and no other particular order:
Do not obsessively scroll through your regular social media feeds. This comes with a caveat, as I think that un-obsessively socializing this way is very much a helpful tool. But what I mean here is that fine line difference; like when I’ve stopped being curious about what’s going on with everyone else, and when I don’t have anything new to add or say or check on specifically, but am instead clicking open my feed for the hundredth time to see if there was something for me and then feeling dumb because of course there’s not anything of interest since the last moment I checked. Like opening the refrigerator door a hundred times wanting something but not wanting anything in there.
Create content. Seems obvious, right – if there’s nothing catching my eye then maybe I should upload something that I like, something that would make me smile myself the next time I see it. Again, though, this is a delicate balance because I absolutely try to be genuine with everything I put out there, but I don’t want to be overly negative too often nor falsely effusive.
Go for a walk. Explore even a little just around the next corner. More often than not its the simple one-foot-in-front-of-the-other that take me to a literal place where I figuratively notice something to feel better about.
And on the flip side again (Because I always seem to be about balance and contrasts); know when it’s time to just lean in and curl up with a book. There are times when I know I’d like to see more, but the Travel FOMO* sometimes is overpowered by the need to just be still and rest, and to let my mind switch off with an escapist novel along the way. Even an extrovert needs some time to decompress without others around, but be careful not to let this continue past what feels healthy and helpful.
Find someone else to be nice to. This could be as simple as a moment of eye contact and small smile to someone passing by, giving up a seat on a crowded bus, or offering to share your meal with another traveller at the hostel. Obviously chose something that suits your situation and personality, but the point is to push yourself just a little to stop thinking of your own feelings and focus on others’ instead.
Be a little silly. It’s hard to be mopey if you’re giggling. The other day I posted this to my Instagram story, knowing full well I was being a giant dweeb but really quite having fun laughing at myself.
Or, if you prefer not to draw faces in your ice cream, you could just simply savour it and enjoy the treat of eating something delicious. That works too!
Remind yourself out loud that life like this is a privilege and travelling alone can be one of the most marvellous things to experience. There’s no one else to wait for or to appease, no other person’s travel style to adapt to.
Reach out to someone at home and call/text/meme/message for a little while. Intentionally connect and recharge with someone that knows you.
Remember that more than likely, there’s another solo traveller who’s felt this same feeling at one time or another who will be happy to connect. Say hi and see what happens!
*Travel FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out on that one great experience that’s been all over instagram and everyone else’s blogs. We travellers can get really overly caught up in trying to see everything and do everything that everyone else is talking about, while still also trying to be the one person to find something new in these same places. It can be EXHAUSTING.
Well. I guess I have one more item I should add to the list: Making a list of how not to wallow in loneliness has been a good tactic for me. I feel better already and ready to tackle another tour! I’d love to hear about what you would do when these feelings set in
It’s early on a Tuesday morning at the moment, and I’m wedged into a tiny economy seat somewhere above the Alps. I’m pretending I’m a giant right now, with my long long legs folded up (gracefully, of course) nearly knees to nose and my elbows tucked in tight to my rib cage to avoid accidentally bashing any of the posse of passengers around me. In a way I have to be thankful for modern air travel – because the reality is I’ve got rather short legs and in a strange silly way I’m quite enjoying this moment of make-believe that I’m suddenly in possession of long lovely limbs! Who would’ve ever expected to be happy for airlines condensing the seats for increased capacity?!
Not long from now I’ll be touching down and disembarking at Dubrovnik, Croatia. And I realized just now that I have absolutely no idea what I’ll do or where I’ll go when I arrive! This trip has come about quickly and I haven’t spent any time yet looking up or making any plans. Typically I’ll book a room for my first night before I arrive… but I forgot to do that this time!
Honestly this is how I love to travel. I have no timeline or itinerary, no work to think about, and all my decisions can be entirely in the moment if I want. Look at me embracing the mindfulness movement!
Several hours later now and I’m settled into my bunk bed at a hostel in the city. It’s been a while since I’ve stayed in a dorm room-style hostel, but I’ve got a privacy curtain around my bed, a light and and outlet to charge my phone, and wifi so that’s all I need! I know I’m about a million years older than the rest of my roommates, but it doesn’t matter. I feel like since I’m in the same stage of life – unencumbered and trying to figure out what to do now with the rest of my life – that it gives me a pass to be here too!
I spent the afternoon walking around Dubrovnik, not the famous walled Old City yet, I’ll save that for later, but along the pier and around the central city. It’s beautiful here. The sea and the rolling mountains clamouring for space, white stone buildings with red tile roofs wedged in with a wild array of trees everywhere. A light rain started to fall while I was still out, the kind that doesn’t seem to soak but is just enough to add a sheen of sparkle to the world.
As I was walking this evening, I chatted with someone who said that Mostar is a great place to go on an easy day trip from Dubrovnik. The weather here is supposed to be rainy again tomorrow so I decided I’d take up that suggestion and go! Bosnia and Herzegovina here I come!!
“Two things to remember in life: Take care of your thoughts when you are alone; and, Take care of your words when you are with people” Author unknown
I have had this quote scribbled on a note page for a long time but it was one of those things that I would always forget about until each time I happened to see it again. Do you ever do that – collect little things or thoughts because you have a hunch that one day they’ll mean more to you? That’s what this was.
I’ve been alone a lot lately, and for an extrovert like myself it’s difficult to spend so much time only in my own company. Don’t get me wrong, I like my own company, but I have a brain that is wired to get energy and ideas from external sources. I come to life after being surrounded by conversation. That’s why the first part of this quote struck me tonight, because I don’t want to risk ruining this time by wallowing in the fear that I might fade away into nothing if I don’t connect with someone soon. They say travelling alone is the best way to find yourself – well I have and I know I need groups of friends around me!
Our thoughts steer us so much more than we realize, just like our words can have a bigger impact on people than we know. I admit to being careless with this sometimes, too. Is it narcissistic to sometimes forget that others think differently than I do? I’ve hurt people with comments I’ve said before the thought was fully formed, or not seeing that it might come across other than I had intended. I’m sorry, and I’m working on it!
I haven’t met any new buddies this past week while I’ve been travelling, and for me it gets harder to do so the longer it goes on this way. There have been friendly conversations at dinner and with people sharing my hostel room, but no one that I’ve connected with enough to make us want to hang out more. And I miss that. Thankfully I have a couple lifelines at home, and a good conversation with my best friend is all I needed to feel better again.
If you like this quote too, feel free to use the image I made. (The background picture is from my walk on the Charles Bridge in Prague yesterday morning, in case you were wondering… ) Oh, and if you know where this quote originally came from please tell me!