Loneliness is the first thing people ask me about when I mention that I travel or have travelled alone. It’s a question that I think most people already know the answer to before the words even pass their lips. Of course I get lonely, everybody gets lonely. The thing that many fail to realise is that loneliness doesn’t only arise when you’re away from everybody and everything you know.
Loneliness can occur in a room full of people, it can strike you at the strangest of times – mere moments after being showered in love and affection. Loneliness is a feeling that is inescapable, every single person at some stage will feel like they are all alone no matter how far from the truth that may be.
The irony of modern loneliness is that as humans we are the most connected we have ever been in history. For the most part; all of our friends, loved ones, family, enemies, colleagues and acquaintances are no more than a message, wall post, Snapchat, DM, text, phone call or FaceTime away. In this day and age, loneliness becomes a choice – a choice influenced by the notion that all of our relationships are a “two way street”. Many people think that if nobody is reaching out to them, then obviously nobody cares. But the same thoughts are crossing the mind of the person on the other end.
When I first started travelling and eventually living overseas I found that my loneliness was very rarely helped by simply contacting my friends or family. When you’re seemingly having the time of your life on all of your social media pages, the people that you left behind believe that their lives pale in comparison. Whenever I reached out to people they were always far more interested in what I had been doing than filling me in on what had been going on in their lives. This is where you feel the distance the most – people are unwilling to share the mundane, many believe that you wouldn’t care because you are off doing all of these magical things. Personally when I am feeling down or alone; I often crave my friend’s stories – I want to hear all about the new colleague they don’t like, I want to hear about their latest cooking disaster, I want to hear about their car breaking down on the side of the highway and I want to hear about how the McDonald’s ice cream machine was down once again when it was the only thing they wanted. These day to day ramblings are what I miss the most, I don’t want people to think that I don’t care about their ‘boring’ stories just because I am now filled with a multitude of wild ones.
In the modern day, distance realistically makes very little difference to our relationships. I would say that prior to leaving Brisbane there were only a handful of people I hung out with on a regular basis, maybe 15% of the people that I know and consider friends. So for the other portion of friends our relationship really has no reason to change. Sure, I can’t just drive over and hang out, I can’t come to your birthday party and I can’t be contactable at all times of the day – but everything else is the same. I can still like your posts, wish you good luck on your next endeavour and follow along on your journeys through the wonders of the internet.
The other aspect of loneliness is actual physical distance. Of course I am very far from majority of the people I know and love. One of the major keys to travelling as a whole is being okay with hanging out with yourself! We all know ourselves very well, but there are many people that aren’t content with spending time alone and entertaining themselves. There is such a vast array of things you can do on your own be it at home or in a foreign city somewhere in the world. Music, art, sports, exercise, writing, reading, watching a show or film, photography and various other hobbies are all great escapes from loneliness. Personally, when I have a busy travel schedule I look forward to having some down time alone to relax and spend some time with myself. I very much enjoy going for a hike on my own, taking my camera along with me so that I can share my experience with others if I feel like it. I am a very social person but learning to enjoy my alone time has been crucial to maintaining happiness and positive energy in my life.
They say that life starts at the end of your comfort zone, travelling alone puts you right on the edge of your comfort zone the minute you step off the plane. Travelling alone will open doors that you never even knew you had the key for. You will meet people, share stories, fall in love with cultures, try foods you never knew existed and see things you never thought you’d see. You will do all of this by your own rules and your own schedule, never having to worry about what your travel buddy might think. Someone who has never danced before may find themselves in a nightclub full of strangers killing it on the dance floor, someone who is scared of heights might go skydiving or bungee jumping and someone who can barely swim might end up in a shark cage in crystal clear waters mesmerised by the giants of our ocean. Finding your limit, pushing way past it and doing it over and over again is what makes solo travel so incredible and desirable. It’s not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try.
I guess my intention with this post is to let people know that loneliness overseas is very similar to loneliness at home. If you put in the effort to combat it, you will reap the rewards. I have managed to maintain and even strengthen a vast majority of my relationships since I began travelling. I have made new friends as well, but they don’t replace the old ones – there is plenty of love to go around.
Loneliness should not be a factor you consider when making the decision to travel, be it alone or not. The whole world is at your fingertips at all times, and that same world is out there waiting to be explored.