It’s very hard to write openly about loneliness. It challenges friendships and calls into question loyalties. It appears selfish – everyone has their own problems, lives and cannot always be worried about yours. It attacks your own sense of self – are you not enough? Boring? Too needy? Self-sabotaging?
And often times we don’t talk enough about loneliness in travel. Solo travel is just that, solo. Sometimes you may meet a great love in a hostel, at a café, on the same bus into the Amazon. You may go stretches of time hopping so fast from place to place, you rarely get a time to connect with others, or you achieve merely a superficial level of connection.
And when things go bad, as they might, your Airbnb host will only have so much shoulder space for you to cry on.
I am finding myself at the end of my wits as I write this. Feeling lost, lonely, unguided. Having suffered major setbacks before this trip even started, I now find myself glued to my computer – trying to support myself financially to make up for previous losses, desperate to connect in my own language, safe within the wide world of the web. This does not help. I miss connecting with friends in a café, watching their facial expressions shine, frown, question as we converse on subjects from governance to Shondaland. “Hey, I’m outside” calls from my SO before a surprise dinner. Using idioms whose wordplay I cherish and the quick wit of a sarcastic comment.
Everyone assumes that when you are traveling you are too busy to talk to them. That can be quite the contrary. Amidst embracing the diverse experiences of the world, a reminder of home, from people who truly know and care, can be incredibly supportive and put those experiences into perspective. You can draw the similarities and differences and gain a better appreciation for your circumstance. Your travel friends may not be willing to join your sinking ship, but friends, family from home asking beyond the “how are you” may be able to approach the situation differently and keep you afloat as you cope and grow.
When things go wrong during travel, our initial response may be to turn inward. Don’t want to explain failure to those who have blindly said, “you’ll have a great time, no matter what”, don’t want to give ammunition to those who doubted you. And your local community may not have the relationships to truly support you as needed.
Above all, self-care is key. And we all embrace it in different ways. Take the first step and reach out to a friend. Don’t sugarcoat the truth, but allow that vulnerability to grow and deepen your relationship. You’ll never know when your presence is divinely timed.