What To Do When You Feel Lonely Travelling Alone

I’ve been at this solo travel a while now – in fact, last week marked five years since I quit my job as a lawyer and set off on a one-year adventure that still hasn’t come to an end.

And along with the highs of travelling solo, of which there have been many, there are still times when I’m consumed by an overwhelming sense of loneliness.

Yesterday was a perfect example: it was 9 p.m. in  Montreal and I was wandering the streets looking for something to eat, yet I couldn’t make a decision because everywhere I looked there were couples, families and groups of friends. And then there was me. At that moment in time, I felt like the only person in the world who was on their own. And then the chatter in my head started: “loser”, “look at you, all alone because you have no friends”.

Of course, none of this chatter is true.  I’m going out on a limb and saying anyone who’s strummed up the courage to take a solo trip is by definition not a loser. Also, most of us have someone somewhere who loves us. And, were it not for the thousands of miles we’ve taken ourselves away from them, those people would love to join us for a chat or a hug.

But it’s hard to grasp those logical thoughts when we’re feeling lonely. And it can be even harder to admit out loud that we’re going through a bout of loneliness – because isn’t that the most ungrateful thing in the world when we’re on an epic journey, to feel glum? Plus, loneliness is embarrassing, right? It’s a sign of failure?

So, instead of dealing with your loneliness out in the open, you probably turned to the anonymity of Google and found yourself here. The good news is, I have some insights to share. After 5 years of travelling alone, here’s what’s worked for me when I feel lonely travelling alone.

You might also like my post: 101 Ways Travel Has Changed Me

Tend to your basic needs first

First things first, tend to your basic needs and see if that solves things.

When we’re hungry, thirsty, cold, tired or in pain it’s easy for those basic needs to snowball into something bigger. Last night I was a combination of hungry, thirsty and tired and when I look back at my lonely feelings now, I realise I needed nothing more than a huge bite of something to eat and several hours’ worth of bonding with my bed.

Sit for a minute and listen to your body – what is it asking for? Over the chatter of your brain telling you you’re a loser for feeling lonely (or that you’ll never connect with another human being again), it can be hard to hear our physical needs.

If you’re in so much of a funk that you can’t see straight, try to treat your physical needs anyway – grab a bite, drink a pint of water (or beer), have a nice shower and a lie down.

Feel better? Great – write yourself a note: “I don’t feel lonely, I’m [hungry/tired/etc] and pin it to your forehead for next time.

Still feeling lonely, read on.

Reality Check:

Your loneliness is a figment of your brain (that, apparently, hates you)

Being alone is a physical thing, but feeling lonely is an emotion that comes from your brain.

Think about that for a minute and then revel in the knowledge that you’re able to change both of these states – the physical and the emotional.

Let’s start with the brain first, because that’s something we supposedly have 100% control over (though if you have actually managed to 100% control your brain, click off this article and go write a book – trust me, you’ll sell it for billions and will feel lonely again).

It’s time to step back and have a long, hard, objective stare at the situation.

feel lonely travelling alone

Be rational – look at the bigger picture

If you’re part way through a longer trip, think about your trip so far. The chances are you’ve already met some amazing people and although they’re not with you now and your present state of being alone is taunting you into thinking you’ll never meet anyone else ever again, that’s simply not true. It’s statistics: with over 7 billion people in the world, you’re going to meet someone you connect with eventually… and it most likely going to happen sooner than you think.

If you’re so down in the dumps you can barely remember the good times, get out your photos – they’ll jog your memory and have the benefit of not being able to lie.

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Have a chat with your inner chatter

Most of us are our own worse enemy and when our minds get into a cycle of berating ourselves for being alone, it only makes us feel more lonely. If that’s happening to you, it’s time to have a chat with your inner chatter. If you’ve ever walked into a hostel common room or bar or shopping mall and struck up a conversation with a stranger, you’ve already achieved what your brain is telling you that you can’t currently do.

Regardless of what your mean brain says, I’m telling you objectively that you’re an amazing, brave and adventurous soul who is doing what many people want to do but do not have the courage to do – you’re travelling the world alone. Yes, there will be some lonely times, but above all else, you’re awesome. This is a fact. If your brain refuses to agree, sent it to me (contact form here), I’ll have a chat with it.

Give yourself a break!

If you’re feeling bad (mentally) about being alone (physically), you probably fall into that category of people who are too hard on themselves. (I’m putting my hand up to that one).

Being alone doesn’t have to be something to fear. If you can’t change it (see below for tips on that), why not embrace it. Chances are, a couple of weeks down the road you’ll be surrounded by so many cool people that you’ll look back on this period of loneliness and wish, just for five minutes, that you could have some of that lone time back.

feel lonely travelling alone

Make friends with your loneliness (and yourself)

Introspection isn’t always a fun activity, especially if you brain is already set in criticise mode, but using alone time to think about the bigger things in life (who you are, what your dream are, how you can be a better person) can help you emerge from your loneliness a stronger, better informed and wiser person.

After completing a 10-day Vipasanna retreat in India where I had nothing but silence, vegetarian food and my own thoughts to keep me company, I can tell you that this process is unlikely to be fun, but I felt like I’d travelled 10 spiritual light years in just 10 days.

Indulge yourself

Feeling down in the dumps is the perfect excuse for a bit of indulgence. It doesn’t need to cost a lot – a coffee with a view over a stretch of water; a cupcake and a bit of journaling; a long run or bit of yoga – all those activities you’ve been too busy to indulge in while you’ve been on the road, go indulge in them now. A massage can be a cheap treat in some countries and don’t underestimate the power of a pedicure when you’ve been wearing flip-flops for month (goes for you too, guys).

Whatever your heart desires, go make it happen.

Have a Netflix binge

On the surface, staying in-doors and watching TV is exactly what you shouldn’t be doing when you’re on an amazing trip but, guess what, we can’t be in explore mode all the time. It leads to burn-out – something that might be adding to your sense of loneliness.

When you’re feeling down, finding comfort in favourite tv shows or feel-good movies can be a real mood booster. At least once every couple of months I check myself into a hotel room with no purpose beyond a Netflix binge watching session. Judge away, but sometimes there’s often nothing more restorative.

Read a book

When your brain is in full analyse, criticise and problem-solving mode (must-find-a-friend, must-find-a-friend, must-find-a-friend), it doesn’t realise that it’s probably making things worse. The better solution is distraction and along with a Netflix marathon, there is no better way to tune out of the world and your obsessions than by reading a book.

But it must be a good book or the absorption won’t be complete.

Want some travel books to inspire you out of your funk? Here’s my:

50 Best Travel Books of All Time

Want to know how to read more books – I’ve completed the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge as well as reading 100 books in a year.

Here’s how I did it. 

feel lonely travelling alone

How to be un-lonely

Sometimes it’s more than just our minds telling us how alone we are, sometimes we are just plain lonely. Human contact and connection is something we innately crave, after all. But don’t worry, there are things you can do to fix that, too.

Look at your location

Some places are easier to meet new people than others. Drop me in a small beach town in Mexico and I’ll probably have a handful of new friends within a few hours. Plonk me in London…New York…Paris and I’d probably leave the city a month later with not a single new person known. It’s easier to meet new people in some places compared to others. You’ll know the circumstances and places where you tend to thrive versus wither.

If you can, change location and head to those places where you usually tend to meet friends. If you can’t go just yet (because you don’t want to miss out on seeing the sights in the place where you’re feeling lonely), then put a plan in place for the near future and tell yourself you’ll meet new people very soon. Because you will.

Go somewhere you know (or where you know someone)

There’s no point sticking to a travel plan if it’s making you miserable. If loneliness is consuming you, consider backtracking or sidetracking to a place where you know some people – that might mean going back to a place you know and love and where you left some friends behind or taking a detour to a place where you have existing friends or family.

Just be careful about speeding home. It’s awfully tempting when you’re feeling alone but give it some time. In most cases, the feeling will pass.

Guilt someone into visiting you

It’s not always possible but it’s always worth a try – a message to your Facebook friends or a chat with family, see if any of your loved ones fancy coming out to see you. I’ve been very fortunate to have several people come visit me in various places along the way, though it’s not always about me being fortunate – often those friends and family are looking for an excuse for a trip. It’s doing them a favour, really! Win-Win.

Warning: a fresh bout of loneliness is almost certainly going to set in as soon as your family or friend returns home – make sure you’re in a social place and try hard to make some ‘overlap’ friends (people who will still be around in a few days) while you still have the comfort of your loved ones with you.

feel lonely travelling alone

Join a tour

Spending a day in the company of others is a good way to bond with new people and often pick up a travel friend or dinner invitation. A word of warning: think about the kind of tour you book before you go on it. Try your best to book a tour that is run by a hostel – that way, you’re more likely to spend the day with other solo travellers. Book a tour from a hotel or a big-booth ticket tout and you’ll probably end up spending the day with groups, couples and families – hardly the aim of the find-a-friend plan and more likely to make you feel worse.

TripAdvisor also sells tours these days and you can filter through the reviews to find out how tours rate for solo travellers. Just type in your location, graze through the tours your find interesting and then select ‘solo’ in the review filters. Like so…

Lonely Travelling Alone

You can find TripAdvisor’s tours here.

Check into a hostel

Sometimes I feel awkward in hostels (it’s an age thing) and they’re not for everyone but they are by far the most social spaces you’ll find in any town, village or city. These days, most of them have private rooms you can book if don’t want the ‘social’ aspect to extend to your sleeping space and many hostels have bars you can visit even if you slink back to your Omni Hotel at the end of the night. But, above all else, head to a hostel and you’re almost guaranteed to find your tribe.

Sure, some visitors might be out of towners on a weekend break with friends, but there will absolutely be a whole swathe of solo travellers who have, at some point, admit it or not, felt the pain of loneliness on the road.

Note: some hostels are more social than others. If the place you’re staying isn’t well set up for meeting others (it’s too big or the communal spaces aren’t often used), find another place to stay.

Hostelworld is one of, if not the biggest hostel booking website out there with over 33,000 places to stay in 170 countries with over 8 million reviews. They are bound to have something – whether it’s a room, a bar or a tour – to help your out. You can check out hostels and reviews on Hostelworld here. 

You might like my related post: Tips For Your First Time Stay in A Hostel

Have dinner out – but choose wisely

Eating out alone can be one of those activities that makes loneliness feel worse not better but there is still scope for using a solo dinner to your advantage. I’m a big proponent of eating alone – probably because I’m a big foodie and the alternative (packed sandwiches and Pringles scoffed silently in a hotel room) horrifies me more than the idea of being alone. But some restaurants are more intimidating than others.

If you’re looking for the best places to dine solo, here are a few suggestions:

  • any place where you can eat at the bar;
  • ramen shops – quick, cheap eats like ramen shops tend to attract more solo diners;
  • any place within a couple of blocks of a hostel;
  • some hostels have a bar that serves food (hey, we’re on a making friends mission here, not a Michelin-star food search);
  • any place that has solo diners right there and then – use your eyes!
  • use TripAdvisor’s wealth of restaurant reviews with it’s ‘solo’ filter

Before you go solo dining, check out my post: 20 Tips for Eating Out Alone

Connect with friends online

Spending your night online chatting to old friends can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s a great reminder that you’re not all alone in this big wide world. Equally, it can make your currently loneliness and distance from your friends feel all the more acute. Use your discretion on this one and you’ll learn very quickly whether this is a good or bad activity for you in the face of loneliness. For me, I find it makes me feel more lonely…and often leads to me looking at flights home.

Make new friends online

The power of the Internet is immense. So immense that you can have a ready-made group of friends in under 5 minutes if you put your mind to it. There are plenty of ways to make friends online. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Check out Meet Up – I use this to find writing and language groups around the world but there’s all sorts of activities on there – walking, yoga, bands, artists.
  • Facebook groups – there are lots of private Facebook groups for destinations or local interests – join some and see what’s going on.
  • Tinder and Internet Dating – this doesn’t have to be about dating (unless you want it to be), just add a note in your profile that you’re new in town and looking to make friends.
  • Exhaust your own contacts – I bet that someone you know will know someone who knows someone where you are. I’ve done this a couple of times and the power of connections is mind-blowing.
  • Hook into the local Couchsurfing community – they often host meet-ups and, again, you’ll likely meet a whole bunch of travellers to chat to.
  • Message me! As well as talking you down off the ‘loser ledge’ (a place I’ve stood more than once, so I understand the view), I’ve become that person who knows someone who knows someone who’s probably in the place where you are. I’m always happy to chat online so drop me a line by email or find me on Facebook.

Update 2017

I’ve been overwhelmed at the number of solo travellers who’ve reached out to me since I wrote this post – in the comments below, via my Facebook page and in private messages.

I’m so pleased people are starting to talk about this topic and I’m happy to be able to lend support where I can.

In doing some research for one solo traveller, I reminded myself about the Lonely Planet community. Thorntree (the name of the forum) somewhat collapsed several years ago when the BBC, who are behind Lonely Planet – took it offline to make some improvements. And then Facebook got huge and attention shifted from forums to Facebook groups. However, I’ve just checked back and there is a thriving section for solo travellers looking for travel companions. If the best cure for your loneliness is other people – as it often can be, I’d recommend giving this group a go. You can find it here. 

And just to reiterate – you are all amazing. I feel this more strongly now, having heard your stories, than I ever did. Keep being fantastic. And keep messaging me.

feel lonely travelling alone

Stop being so damn anti-social

Ok, that doesn’t exactly fall into the supportive category but, go on, admit it, you could try a little harder to meet people, couldn’t you?

Last night, when I was feeling lonely, the truth was I had a Brazilian friend in the city who I’d met a few years ago in Argentina and she’d already asked me if I wanted to join her and her friends for dinner. Equally, I had another travel friend (from Canada who I met in Hawaii) who was going to a party. I could have called on her, too. Yet, I wandered the streets alone, feeling sorry for myself. When I took a proper look at my situation, I was tired, not lonely (thanks, jet lag) and the second I crawled into my PJs and opened my book I felt better. However, I also could have pushed myself into a more social situation instead of wallowing in self-pity.

If you’re not sure how to pull yourself out of your anti-social state, here are some tips:

  • if you’re in a space where you’re currently alone (hotel room/hiding in a bathroom), get out!
  • set yourself a 10-person challenge – strike up a conversation with at least 10 strangers in a day. I bet one of those conversations leads somewhere beyond the weather;
  • go and speak to that other person in the hostel/hotel lobby who is on their own – you may not become life-long friends, but how do you know if you don’t try;
  • order a beer at a bar and chat to the bar tender;
  • get on a tour… go for dinner in a solo-diner place… go to a book store and get some reading tips…go to a Meet Up…go on a date…go to open mic night…my point: the options are endless.

Homework: Make a list – make it now – of at least 10 ways you could meet someone today and work your way thorough it. Come and report back – tell me how you got on and for every failure or time you’re spurned, you’ve gain a story.

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Conversation starters

And finally, when you’re in the middle of a maelstrom of loneliness, self-consciousness can set in, making it hard to come up with that great conversation starter. So, I’ve got some for you. Some are more anodyne than others but the point is to start!

  • Where are you from – I HATE this question (it the most asked question in the travel world) but sometimes the words come from my lips for want of any other inspiration. It doesn’t matter – it still breaks the ice.
  • Have you been [insert place] long – this is a great prelude to i) can you recommend any places for me to visit (if the person you’re speaking to has been in town for a few days); or ii) do you want to have a look around together (if they’re a new arrival too)?
  • Have you eaten anywhere good here – I’ve been known to ask strangers this question all over the world, loneliness or not. Often my motivation is finding good food but finding a dinner partner can be an added side-effect.
  • Do you know what the nightlife’s like here – code for: wanna get a drink?
  • Are you reading anything good at the moment  – I long for someone to one day say the name of my blog.
  • What’s the weather been like – this is another much hated question of mine because we Brits spend way too long talking about the weather but again, if nothing else pops to mind, it can break the ice.
  • Where have you been/where are you going/how long are you away for – also amongst the most over-asked questions that can feel super tedious if you hear them once a day but, hey, it’s travel and don’t we all love to talk about travel?
  • How’s the wi-fi – this isn’t really a question, it’s a way of breaking someone’s gaze from their laptop/phone/tablet and back into the real world where you can maybe…just maybe…connect.
  • Would you like some pasta/a glass of wine – feed and water people and you’ll find a friend for life. You might feel a bit desperate ‘buying’ friends but I’d bet it’s a nicer feeling than being lonely.

And, if you’re feeling particularly bold:

  • I overheard that you were going out for dinner – I’m new here and on my own, would you mind it I joined you? This can take a bit of bravery but I’ve tried it and I’ve never had anyone refuse me. (Helps if you don’t look crazy/on the edge of despair when you ask).
  • Have you ever felt lonely while you were travelling – you’re really putting yourself out there with this one and all but an idiot would recognise this as an admission of loneliness and adopt you as a friend. If they don’t, they’re probably not the kind of person you want to hang around with. Stuff them. Idiots.
  • I’m doing a survey – what would your last meal be if you were on Death Row – great conversation starter but can lead people to think you’re a little crazy. Use it wisely.
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not very, 10 being very), how embarrassed are you by your last sexual encounter – best used on a group of drunk Aussies.

Finding language is a barrier, check out my post:

How To Speak To Someone Who Doesn’t Speak Your Language

There are people who live their lives surrounded by people – their families, their partners and their friends and still feel lonely. The fact that you feel a bit alone when you’re thousands of miles from all the people and things that are familiar to you is, I would say, inevitable. The important point is to recognise your loneliness and deal with it – whether that’s by waiting for it to pass (and it will) or doing something to make yourself feel less lonely.

I’ve never had a bout of loneliness that lasted more than a few days. In a world where you’re moving and the world is moving (full spin around the sun every day, apparently), chances are you’ll reconnect with life, the world and it’s people within no time and you’ll forget that ever felt the need to read this article.

Need more inspiration? Check out these tips for fun and easy ways to meet people while travelling alone.

And if all else fails, how about working your way through my list of:

10 Travel Experiences Everyone Should Have At Least Once In Their Lifetime

Happy travels, you brave, lovely, fellow solo travelling people.

Have you ever felt lonely while you were travelling? How did you deal with it? Any other good conversation starters to add? Let me know in the comments below.

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After years of full-time solo travel, I know exactly what it's like to feel lonely travelling alone. Good news: it's not fatal. Here's some tips to help.

110 thoughts on “What To Do When You Feel Lonely Travelling Alone”

  1. Thank for this article. I have been traveling through Scandinavia (sweden mostly) and felt an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and homesickness the other day. I am a very quiet, introverted person and it is difficult for me to make friends. Swedes are known for being antisocial and reserved as well – which I have had in the back of my mind the whole trip. I decided to make myself go to a restaurant, with tables that are arranged close together, and strike up conversation with as many people as I could. Low and behold, another person feeling the same way happened to be one of those people and we got drinks and hung out the rest of the night. I think your tip to ‘strike up conversation with at least 10 people a day’ is what saved me. Thanks so much! I was really feeling in the dumps! And I think the ‘swedes are quiet’ generalization is crazy! The country as a whole was very welcoming and warm, and they were all very interested to hear about what life as an american is like. 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m so happy to read this, Adam! It’s hard to reach out. I had a similar interaction with a girl in Milan once. It’s really quite special and also kind of terrifying to think how many people are probably sitting around us feeling just as isolated. Well done on being bold!

      Reply
  2. Thank you for writing this article and sharing your insight. I had a major loneliness episode on my recent trip and after reading the first tip about taking care of your basic needs I realize that I was actually hungry, tired, HOT, and in pain which clearly just amplified my feelings. It’s crazy that something so basic can be missed in the internal chatter. That tip alone has helped to improve my travel mentality greatly, so thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Jessica, it’s easy to get confused in our own thoughts. Glad you were able to fix yourself. And yes, a bit of a/c can do wonders for your mood 🙂 Hope you had a great rest of your trip!

      Reply
  3. I’m in Paris, and feel unable to get out of my hotel room. After much reassurances from my phone carrier, now that I have arrived in France, I have found that my phone does not work here, even wi a SIM card purchased here. So now I cannot call a cab or Uber, or use my GPS. I’m afraid and lonely. I have a ticket to go to the Louvre, but am now afraid I won’t be able to get a cab back to the hotel, and I’m too intimidated to use the Metro at night. I just feel lost and alone.

    Reply
    • Hi Mary, losing our familiar phone connection can definitely put us on a tilt. I used to travel before phones and data was a big thing and I can reassure you it can be done. Paris has taxis you can hail in the street and your hotel will have a map to help you get places. It takes a bit more effort. You can order a cab from your hotel at night to take you to your destination (restaurant?) and they will call you a cab to get you back – ask your hotel for help! I hope you’re ok to salvage the rest of your trip.

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  4. Thank you for this post. I found it while sitting in my hostel – lonely and lost, a fortnight into a month long trip in Sri Lanka. I am going to follow your advice. I just took a nice shower. Will follow it up by reading Harry potter in bed :p
    Thank you really, I feel better knowing that it’s okay to feel this way.

    Reply
    • Hot shower and a Harry Potter book sounds like a solid option to me 🙂 Also, if it helps, I have always been put off visiting Sri Lanka as I hear it is lots of couples travelling there. So, you’re braving than me! Let me know how you get on and happy travels.

      Reply
  5. I was travelling in Australia (only managed Melbourne and Sydney), I found it so difficult. I just can’t seem to get passed small talk. I always stay in the most populated rooms (cheapest) but can never make friends, I’ve been lonely for months, conversations go dead and I have to awkwardly assult the poor person with another forced question, which doesn’t get me much further either. Every attempt I’ve made to go out with people leads to deflection of the request. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, everything I’ve read says travelling will make me more confident but i’m more unsure than ever. The only thing I achieved leaving home was spending years of savings and crying into my fish and chips because I was so overwelmed having not really connected with anyone for so long.

    Reply
    • Oh no! I’m so sorry you’re having a bad experience. It’s hard enough to make friends when you’re usually confident and outgoing so it can feel nearly impossible if you’re not feeling confident. A couple of suggestions: try finding someone like you. I promise you’re not the only person in a room feeling awkward. Instead of trying to cut into the tight group of ‘we’re cool, don’t talk to us’ kids, try and find someone quiet you can strike up a genuine conversation with – books, shoes they’re wearing, ask where they’ve been. You could also try being honest: ‘I suck at small talk’. Try learning some jokes and when you’ve told yours, ask for a joke in return. Ask about the place you’re in and what to see. Try cooking dinner for people (definitely a bribe but who cares?) And then just try sitting, enjoying your own space. There’s every chance someone will come and approach you. I really wish you luck. We find it harder and harder to connect as we get sucked into our phones. You are not the only person feeling this but you are one of the few brave enough to go and do something about it. Even if it does mean adding some salty tears to your fish and chips along the way. Stick at it!

      Reply
  6. wow, a comment from 2017… “It’s those simultaneous feelings of knowing your privileged and yet somehow feeling a bit sorry for yourself that gnaw at my brain…” really caught my eye. Right now, I’m going to school in the south of France for the month, and am experiencing a sense of privilege and a severe bout of loneliness. While I am out and about exploring the beautiful city of Antibes, I have these heavy feelings of loneliness that I just cannot shake. Like many of you say, the days seem to be fine…. I am distracted, busy, etc… Then the evening sets in and I look around and see families, couples – everyone so happy (I know, I know… the grass is always greener). I am so lucky to be here, but at the same time afraid to be alone and feel this would somehow be a better trip if a had a traveling companion.
    Thanks for writing this Jo.

    Reply
    • Hi Ella, I’m sorry you’ve been feeling lonely. I’ve been spending time recently trying to make friends with my loneliness, trying to just simply acknowledge it and not judge myself for it (inspired by meditation and mindfulness). I’m finding the feelings pass a bit quicker and along with it all the mean things I’m saying inside my head. Is there something nice you can do for yourself in the evenings? A book? Netflix binge? Go to the cinema? I know it’s hard, but try to embrace the time and make the most of it. Good luck!

      Reply
  7. Hi,

    I normally love my own company but I’m at the end of day one of 6 weeks solo travelling in Indonesia writing this. I think theres a beach party going on but I can’t stand that sort of thing without a group of mates. I’m staying in a hostel but in a private room, I’ve only met couples, people who don’t want to chat or a group of older brazilian men who are hanging around playing loud music.

    Nothing sounds better than a Netflix binge right now but I can’t help but feel like that’s me failing on DAY 1 OF BEING SOCIAL. I also only have my phone, no laptop or tv..

    Can you recommend any really, REALLY good books for my kindle? ❤

    Reply
    • Hi Louisa, who said it was Day 1 of being social and not day 1 of ‘I got here so now I’m going to chill’? I’ve got a list of my favourite travel books on the site.

      Reply
  8. Hi there,

    Thanks for your article ☺️ I enjoyed reading it! I’m currently in Brazil and feeling a bit lonely. The thing is I know I can make friends easily as I travelled around Asia for 2 years 4/5 years ago, however it’s always through drinking and partying.

    But now I’m a bit older I don’t want to drink and party as much but I’m finding it harder to meet people as I say no when people ask me to go out.

    Not really sure what to do as my travel style has completely changed and it’s like starting over again. Not sure if I’m making a mountain out of a molehill but any advice would be nice if you have any.

    Thank you x

    Reply
    • Hi Kimmy, it can be hard if you go from using drinking as you method for socialising and then stop/cut down. Have you considered going and having a soft drink or mocktail? The other option is to make friends with the morning people. I find on most trips people fall into two camps – those who go out all night and those who get up early. Wake up for breakfast at 7 am and you’ll find lots of travellers who are fully rested and ready to face the day. As a night owl, I never knew these people existed until I too reached an age where partying became less appealing. I was honestly staggered by the idea that not everyone was out until the earl hours. Good luck.

      Reply
  9. Hi Jo, hi lonely-reader,

    first of all thanks a lot for your article. I feel like there is somebody who can relate out there now.

    I’m writing this for am lovely Airbnb in Athens, just said goodbye to a really awesome friend this morning, whom I visited in Thessaloniki this and as soon as I had checked-in into my Airbnb and had a moment to myself I just broke out into tears and it just f****ing hit me hard.

    I’ve been very well catered for and didn’t waste a thought on where to go next or where to eat in Thessaloniki and haven’t made any specific plans what I want to do in Athens either. Yet this is how I will use the reminder of the evening to make sure the next 2 days here will be full of adventure and a little less lonely. Taking full advantage of the massive me time I get to experience halfway around the world 🙂 (and probably some Netflix I admit)

    In conclusion, make plans before you arrive and fill the first few days with tourist stuff to do and take any opportunities during that time to just get to know interesting stories people around you have to share 😉

    If your in hustel mode you have less capacity for feeling lonely.

    All the best to everyone reading this, I feel you,
    Liri

    PS: if anyone reading this is currently in Athens give me a shout-out and we can go explore the Acropolis together 😉

    Reply
    • Hi Liri, I messaged you privately at the time. I hope things improved with your loneliness. Yes, I definitely agree that you need to try harder with Airbnb, which is why I use it sparingly. Usually when I do want some alone time. In future, hopping on a tour can be a great idea. Or Netflix. Some TV ‘friends’ (not just the show but other voices) can be a comfort too. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips. Happy future solo travels.

      Reply
  10. I’m in the final stages of an epic 6 month trip that started in Bangkok and went through North Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, new Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and now the south of Thailand. I’d been meeting people pretty easily and it all felt so natural the whole way through the trip and then as I’ve entered the last 2-3, i’ve just found that I’ve possibly been making less effort to meet people and it’s just not happened as easily recently. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m thinking about going home more or whether it’s the nature of the destination? Lots of sitting around on beaches or lots of drinking (which I’ve tried to cut down on?) I’ve met tonnes of interesting people on this trip so it does feel quite strange that I’ve suddenly felt really lonely in my last week of solo travel! This article definitely helped me rationalise it and perhaps after a busy 6 months, the time to relax on beaches might actually be what I needed!

    Reply
    • Hi Matt, I’m glad the article helped. Sounds like you might have been suffering a bit of travel burn out. It happens, especially when you have one eye on heading home. It’s at that point when you start to think ‘what’s the point’ because travel won’t be your life anymore, at least for a while, when you go home. Hope you enjoyed some chill time on a beach.

      Reply
  11. It’s funny how much sense your article makes, agreeing with and recognizing everything you say. At the same time I am still thinking about rebooking my flight. There is just some irrational fear in talking to strangers and I can’t set it aside, which makes everything very lonely.

    As a guy who just turned 30 and and someone who is traveling alone for the first time in his life, for only 10 days and even to Ireland, a country not any different from the Netherlands, it feels like a big, big failure that I am considering rebooking my flight home. One voice says that I have to suck it up and that I shouldn’t feel this sorry for myself; the other voice says that it is no use doing something that you don’t enjoy doing. “You’re just not a solo-traveler, that’s okay.”

    It does feel good getting this of my chest by the way. Thanks Jo, for your outstanding article!

    Reply
    • Hi Arthur, I have the same row happen in my head a lot (I appreciate that makes me sound slightly insane!). How about making a deal with yourself – chat to 5 people over the next few days. If you still feel terrible, then think about that flight home? At least that way you will have tried and if nothing else, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is something you will probably look back on and be pleased about. I hope you find the right answer for you…

      Reply
  12. Indiana, Any suggestions for why do i get emotional when i visit a place alone for the second time, which i visited for the first time with a friend? why do i remember old memories? however, these days of my life are far better than those old days. why do I like to travel alone? however, I have a lot of friends. I am lost.

    Reply
    • Hi Hanif, I think it is normal for old memories to be sparked when you visit a place you have been before. We also have a wonderful skill of being able to romanticise occasions. That is a good thing, in my mind, but might explain why your past memories of a place seem better even if your life is better now. Maybe take some comfort that in time your memories of your return trip will be even better? I also like to travel alone – for the full flexibility – and I have a lot of friends. Maybe instead of questioning yourself you should try to accept that it’s ok to travel alone and enjoy it? I hope that helps?

      Reply
  13. Thank you so much for this.

    3:45AM here at an apartment i tented here in Bar, Montenegro. 5 months into my solo journey. Why did I rent an apartment in a place where barely any English spoken? What if something happens to me, no one will know. Fear fear fear.

    I’m glad there are others out there like me

    Reply
    • Hi Lane, I hope your fear passed. I often feel that way renting apartments on my own. Typically, I’ll stay in a hotel or private room in a hostel then move to an apartment once I’m settled into a location. Hope you’re feeling better.

      Reply
  14. Hey there so im 18 and my best friend and i were on a trip to hawaii only thing is that she left this morning to go back to australia due to potential surgery on her foot! Now im alone and i have no idea how to feel i did a hike today and met some people but feel kinda lonely any tips??

    Reply
    • Hi Vivian, keeping busy is a brilliant way to beat the lonely blues and you’ve already proved it works for you by meeting some people. Hawaii is such a wonderful outdoorsy place, I’d keep doing more of the same and with daily exertion, you’ll most likely want to lie down early for bed!

      Reply
  15. I am on a solo trip in Barcelona right now and found this article when googling how to deal with the loneliness! I needed to read this and love the comments people have left. I find the daytime to be fine as you see what you want when you want. But I have that lonely feeling in the evening it seems so many other readers share of seeing all the families and couples. That and being nervous about being in a strange area at night and not speaking the language. I do think I am trying to see too much and just plain exhaustion is making the loneliness worse! Two days to go and determined not to be lonely! :). Keep sharing!

    Reply
    • Hi LAF, I hope your remaining two days in Barcelona were more relaxed and less pressured. I agree, hearing from other travellers and their experiences can put some of your worries about loneliness to rest.

      Reply
  16. Hi Jo!
    It’s so nice to know that we aren’t alone in our feelings, eh?
    I’m currently on my dream voyage in Italy, writing you from Cinque Terre (arguably the most beautiful place I’ve been!), wallowing in my hotel room because the inner critic has been SUCH an a-hole these last few days. Yes, I’ve encountered some rude Italians; yes, I’m almost positive I’ve gained 10 pounds; yes, I probably look like I’m lost 98% of the time and really AM getting weird looks from most people. But I’m totally letting it get to me and and affect my experience. I’m super mindful and observant that this is happening but that’s almost making it worse, you know? I just want to be distracted from the constant dialogue for a minute (cue Netflix binge).
    Anyway, it makes me feel less crazy to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I mean, I guess it makes sense – going for basically a month without having more interaction than casual dialogue about the weather with the table next to you at breakfast.
    Thanks for putting this out there. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Bria, I’m pleased that my post has given you a bit of perspective. Hope the rest of your trip went better. And returning home with 10 extra pounds is all part of the pleasure of Italy!

      Reply
  17. Hi Jo,

    Your blog really is wonderful.

    I am currently sitting in a bar in Prague, thousands of kilometers from home trying your advice.

    Im 23, and this is my first time out of my home. Ive joined a travel group and most days i feel like im just filling a space. Im just a name on a list, filling the gap for room assignments. I talk to most of the other girls in the group but they all came with friends, siblings or life partners. They arent looking for a new friend, which means im on my own more often than not.

    Also, i dont drink. And we are all in our early 20’s, so naturally thats what they do everynight. I feel like its seperating me further from the group.

    I feel unwanted and alone. I feel like im just making up a space.

    Any advice on how to get through the next few weeks?

    Thanks

    – Amy

    Reply
  18. I’ve never traveled alone, and I’m thinking of doing it next week actually (for 5 days, to a major city in Europe. I have the time and means).

    I have no problem being alone during the day- you wonder about, you visit places, you see sights, you shop, everything is great.

    But the evenings are awful. I can’t go to a restaurant alone. I fill ashamed and embarrassed. I can hardly go to a bar (talking with the bar tender? come on…)

    This is the only thing that keeps me from booking a ticket :/

    Reply
    • Hi Ashton, sorry for not replying sooner – I have been in China. Have you checked out my post about eating out alone? That might help you. What other hobbies do you have? I can spend evenings reading, writing, playing games on my phone, doing yoga, having a soak in the hotel bath. Otherwise, get to a hostel – there are plenty of solo travellers there. Hope that helps?

      Reply
  19. Was wondering how on earth I could feel lonely visiting New Orleans for the first time but I just brought my last child to school and talked to my newly divorced x about our divorce and his new wedding plans.
    I’ve been alone often for the last 5 years and like it but lately I’m feeling lonely.

    So now that I’m writing it makes sense.

    Thank you so much for being so honest about this topic. I’m glad I’m not the only one and it’s a normal human emotion.
    I feel a lot better after reading your post.

    Maybe tomorrow I’ll hit the town after a good night sleep.

    Tomorrow is a brand new day!

    Reply
    • Hi Linda, I also find writing things down gives clarity. Hope you’re feeling less lonely and you got your night on the town after some sleep.

      Reply
  20. Hi Jo thank you for writing this great article. It was just what I was looking for, as I prepare my first solo travel this year. I will keep in mind all of your advice.

    Thank you
    Archie

    Reply
  21. Hey from Montreal. I came here just to know if other people have the same symptoms that I do, I mean, when I returned from a long trip in time and space, like I don’t find my own place or my own time. I don’t find that place where I returned. It’s like the after-the-trip syndrome. Do you think it makes sense what I’m try to say ?

    Reply
    • Hi Omar, it does make sense and I have it every time. I should probably write about it. I find it helpful to try and do touristy things at home, which tends to get me over the worst of it e.g. going out for coffee with a book or exploring local sights and museums. I hope that helps.

      Reply
  22. Good stuff Jo. Experienced digital nomad having a night wandering Budapest alone and let my mind run away from the big picture. Back on track. Thank you ?. Safe travels.

    Reply
    • Glad you’re back on track. It’s easily done when we let the head go off on some travels of its own to darker places!

      Reply
  23. Great article! I have a dilemma, that’s how I ended up here. I am planning on a week-long trip solo to Paris in late November 2018. I enjoy my own company, but my last solo trip to Denver in 2016 I felt very lonely, I discovered something about my significant other that really hurt me a lot a week before my trip, I took the trip since it was already booked anyway. I am afraid I will feel the same way again, but I was hoping I won’t since it’s been a couple of years since our “problem”. Do you think because I was heartbroken I felt lonely? I want to say it was and I am super excited but anxious about traveling alone again. What’s your opinion?

    Reply
    • Hi Jose, it sounds like you were not in the best place emotionally on your last trip and travelling when your mind is occupied with upsetting things can absolutely have an impact on your trip IMO. Hopefully this trip will be different and you’ll enter into it with more excitement than anxiety. Paris is a great city with lots to keep you occupied. Just make sure you reach out to other travellers if you start to feel lonely. I hope you have a better trip this time round. I’m sure (and will cross my fingers) that it was a one off bad experience last time.

      Reply
  24. Thanks for the article, it really hit home.

    What it didn’t cover is my personal situation which may be quite common: I broke up with my girlfriend last year and have really struggled to get over her. I’ve travelled a lot since but when I’m alone, seeing new things, having a drink or eating out I do miss her. I wish she could be here with me as she loves travelling too.

    I know that travelling-broadening one’s horizons- is good for this sort of grief and is certainly superior to wallowing at home but I really want to see the world with someone.

    I’m half through a week’s holiday in Mexico and it’s been great but always tarnished by that empty loneliness. I may try a few ways of meeting people the next couple of nights and I’ve got some weekends in Barcelona and Amsterdam coming up where I will try hostels/solo friendly tours.

    Just wondering if anyone else has become a solo traveller as a result of a break up…

    Reply
    • *puts hand up* I originally left the UK following a break-up. For me, it was a little different because I went on around the world trip rather than a week’s holiday. I started initially with a friend, moved onto a group tour and it wasn’t until weeks later that I travelled alone. By that time I was heavily hooked into the hostel scene and had made travel friends I kept meeting up with as I travelled through South America. I’m not saying that to make you feel bad, but more as a suggestion for how you can cushion yourself from loneliness if you’re dealing with heartbreak at the same time. I actually planned my trip the way I did because I was nervous about being in South America on my own rather than worrying about being lonely but in hindsight I did myself the biggest favour.

      Prior to that, I did go on a one week holiday which was exactly the kind of trip I would have taken with my ex and I found that incredibly painful at the time as I kept torturing myself with thoughts of what we would be doing together. Instead, I was doing those things alone.

      I’d definitely recommend trying to approach your next solo trip differently to how you would have travelled with your ex. Focus on finding travel friends and you will fill some of that loneliness gap, I think. And, who knows… you might find someone special in the process.

      Reply
  25. I’m in Denmark having driven about 1000 miles in an old 1997 van. The temperature just dropped easily below freezing with serious winds, and alone in an isolated BnB, I’m having one of those moments.

    You’re article is completely right, and I really appreciate reading it; I definitely feel rundown (having drunk alcohol to oblivion every stop at major city so far) and I need to balance and give my body some time to get back up to strength.

    It was just so nice (awful, awful word but it works for me right now) to read your article, made things feel manageable and positive again! Scarey how cold it suddenly is (Belgium, NL & Germany were mild), cold enough to seriously make sure you don’t get stuck anywhere.

    Also- not really addressed in your article directly- I went on a very vague sense of knowing I had to leave and search for something, but no idea what. I’m following the inner compass, but at moments like this, one can feel lost and far from home.

    Anyway thank you- and you are right- it takes significant balls to pack the bags and go on an adventure- like any good adventure- you don’t know where it’ll take you, what you’ll learn- you risk it!

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Tom, I hope by now you’re feeling warmer and less lonely. You raise a couple of interesting points. I’ve increasingly found in recent years, perhaps as I get older, that I have a huge mood dip after a period of back to back alcohol consumption. Yes, it feels fun at the time but finding myself on my own in a strange location with low energy and what feels like a lifelong hangover definitely puts me on downer.

      And your other point about travelling to search for something, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that too recently and the idea that many of us travel as an escape from what’s at home (travelling to search for something seeming like the flip side of the same coin to me). Getting to grips with being back in the UK after many years of travel has been a challenge for me and it’s something I’d like to put into words at some point. But, you’re right. When that sense of searching finds you when you’re in a strange country, alone, dealing with a hangover with your innate inner chatter will never help. Often quoted: not all those who wander are lost. But there have certainly been times on my travels and, indeed as a traveller who returns home to try to put down roots, when I’ve felt exactly that. Thanks for taking the time to comment giving me some pause for thought.

      Reply
  26. Hi Jo,

    I love this article and I can relate to your experience. I left the lawyering career even before it started and travelled a lot until I found the career that best suits me – work from anywhere, travel when you want, and work when you can. The entire experience made me write the book Know Your Value: How To Price Your Work.

    I remember sipping coffee awkwardly in Flinders Street in Melbourne. 🙁

    Anyhow, your tips will serve as my stronghold as I begin 2018 with my travel bucket list. Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Mith, sounds like 2018 has some adventures in store for you 🙂 I’m online most of the time if you ever have another awkward coffee moment. Well done on the career change and book! Happy travels.

      Reply
  27. Hi Jo,
    I’m a 21 year old girl who’s just started solo travel in south east Asia for two months ( just after completing 6 weeks of volunteering in Sri Lanka where you pretty much have your friends set from day one!) and have found the first few days in Bangkok a bit up and down. Some times I feel fine but it creeps up on me and suddenly I can’t stop being aware that I am very alone in all my activities all day. I keep trying to remind myself that it isn’t forever and there are many worse things than being alone for a while but it’s hard for the irrational, lonely brain to take in. Your article has made me feel not so bad for feeling this way, as many other solo travel article just brush off this topic and say ‘it’s so easy making friends on the road, you’ll never feel alone’ and I started to think maybe it was my problem that I haven’t been fully satisfied with the small talk I’ve encountered so far. I’m sure I will have to revisit this article several more times in the next few weeks but hopefully the comfort I get from someone simply sharing my loneliness experience will be enough to put me at ease enough to not take every dead end interaction to heart.
    Hope you are well!
    Thanks again!
    Alana

    Reply
    • Hi Alana, sorry for the slow reply. I really hope your trip perked up after you read my article and I’m glad it gave you some comfort. It is a very tricky topic that most travellers don’t want to talk about even when I suspect most of them have experienced the same thing at one point or another. I usually find that speaking to local people is a more engaging experience. Start with the street food sellers – they usually have decent English and you have a ready-made topic in front of you. I hope the rest of your travels go well.

      Reply
  28. Hi Jo,

    Talk about good timing! The last two days I have been feeling very lonely. Today I walked around Brick Lane in London hearing the same thoughts you wrote about. I was so deep in to those mean messages I forgot all the techniques I have used to handle those suckers!

    Tonight while out celebrating the fifth month of solo travel I plugged in, lonely traveling solo and up you popped. What a well written, wise, empathetic article. Thank you.

    Your thoughts on big city’s was appreciated too. Though I love London I have seen how different it is in friendliness. Barcelona was much easier as have been the smaller towns.

    The loneliness was telling me to just go home….except, I sold my home!

    When you talked about burnout I realized, yup, that’s for me.

    As I read your article I wanted to cry thinking how wonderful it is that you took the time to write such helpful, encouraging thoughts that I would need to hear and how it would lift my heart.

    With great thanks Jo.

    Karen

    Reply
    • Hi Karen, London can be a tough one, especially if you’re in a phase of burnout. I used to live and work in the city and have many friends there and still sometimes find myself feeling lost at sea. I’m so pleased that my article helped and came at just the right time. You sound like a normally upbeat person and I hope that you had a stern word with your inner critic and you’re back on top form. I also sold my house to travel so I know that particular panic of “I have no home to go back to” very well. I found the change of town can be a decent enough alternative. Happy travels!

      Reply
  29. I traveled for over ten years for work (and had moments of loneliness that were severe and got used to them) but now I am back in my home city in the US and don’t know anyone anymore. I tried to keep in touch but people are very involved with their work and don’t really socialize due to the smartphone (not a lot of face time) and the size of the city (people live far away from each other and are tired coming home from work so are not socializing like they used to). I read your article and agree that in a big city it is very difficult to make genuine connections with people – I think people are more suspicious of each other and tired because of high rents and overwork. I feel very displaced in the world. How do you overcome the feeling of being alone and completely rootless no matter where you go? I was thinking of joining an expat group like internations. Is that a good idea in your opinion?

    Reply
    • Hi Suzy, it’s a really good point you raise and you’re not the first person whose approached me about this. In fact, I probably need to email myself about this. Last year I settled down in city that is hundreds of miles away from my friends. As much as I pledged to get out and meet new people, I’ve always found excuses – travel, inviting existing friends to come and visit and losing myself in my work. I also use my knee injury as a good excuse. I do need to do more and completely understand the challenge in today’s modern smartphone society. I definitely think a group like Internations is an excellent start. I also intend to go to some of those Meet Ups I ago earmarked as interesting. Yoga classes are another option for me – I don’t know if you have any sports interests? I guess adding all of these to my to do list will also help me make things happen – having a go at weaving social commitments into your life might help? It’s unfortunate that the people you have met haven’t been very engaged. If you focus on finding groups of people who are new to the area or interested in something you’re interested in, hopefully might find people who are more likely to stick as new friends. Do come back and let me know how you get on.

      Reply
  30. Hi, just read your article and am inspired but turned off by other people’s experiences that I’m reading about. I’m considering a solo trip across Europe when I turn 18 but I’m afraid that all the money I’ve saved will be wasted on an unfulfilling experience. Also, on a side note I’m having a lot of trouble convincing my mom that I could stay safe on this trip.

    Reply
    • I read something today, the sentiment of which really inspired me – I’ll paraphrase but it was ‘be afraid of failure and not following your dreams. Don’t be afraid of being lonely’. Yes, there are a lot of comments here from people who have been lonely but the numbers are less than 0.000000001% (guestimate) of people travelling. I’d say go and, yes, you might feel lonely and if you do, you’ll deal with it. But what if you have an amazing time – wouldn’t that be fantastic? As for your mom, I was 33 when I took my first solo trip and even then she told me I couldn’t – yes, she forbade me to – go. Mom’s worry every time you leave the house, get in a car, board a plane. I wrote a pretty indepth article for another website about how to speak to your parents about travel – I think you’ll find it really useful: http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/12-05/telling-parents-about-your-rtw-trip.html

      Let me know if you need any more advice…or to Skype with your parents 🙂 Now, get that map out and start planning. Happy travels!

      Reply
  31. i travelled to perth alone 3 months ago. And it’s the best thing I’ve done in many years. What you wrote is true.

    Reply
  32. Thanks for this article, there’s a lot of kindness in it! I’m currently in Rome for a month solo and loneliness struck this morning. This is not my first solo trip so dealing with it is a work in progress. I appreciate your tips and humour, and not feeling like the only lonely solo in town 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Madeline, Sorry for the slow reply – I had some illness in the family and I’ve been offline for a while. Urgh, loneliness sucks. In fact, I’m sat at the airport in Mexico fighting off a little bit of the same thing myself so I might have a re-read of what I’ve written! I hope Rome got a lot better for you since you posted. Do message me if you want to chat.

      Reply
  33. This article was a life-saver! I came back to Mumbai a few days ago to continue studying tabla with my teacher, but I decided to stay somewhere new in a different part of the city (this is my third time here). I am trying out an airbnb, and while it is really nice, it’s new and doesn’t have the same comforts my usual place has. Jetlag wreaked HAVOC on my emotions, and I couldn’t stop getting upset and feeling awful and terribly alone! Read through this a few times, got some sleep, and feel much better. Embracing the alone time, practicing, and enjoying this special moment where I can just be me. 🙂 Still hoping to find some friends, but also working on exploring on my own, relaxing, and enjoying the ride! Thank you so much for this article!

    Reply
    • Hey Krissy, I’m so happy my article helped with some perspective. And isn’t sleep a powerful thing? We so infrequently get alone time in our everyday world that it can really freak us out and I’m so pleased to read that you’re going to make the most of it. Hope the rest of your trip goes well and that you meet some nice people and, if you don’t, that you really enjoy your you-time!

      Reply
  34. Let me start with saying that I needed this- currently doing 2 weeks around Europe and although I tried to learn some basic French (which is difficult because Spanish wants to come out…), I’ve only heard Dutch and German so far. What do you do when you’re not hearing English any where around you and you don’t want to sound like an ignorant American and assume everyone else speaks your language?? I’m having trouble with ice breakers because of that…
    I’ve been staying in Airbnb’s that host multiple people in different rooms, but I haven’t seen any other housemates yet. I feel like I’ve taken a 14 day oath of silence aside from ordering food, and a couple of conversations with bartenders, a tour guide, and my hosts.
    Bruges was awesome because it was a quaint little town with hardly any traffic, but now I’m in Lucerne which is huge in comparison, there’s so much traffic and cars and buses and people, and I’m struggling. This makes me really nervous for Paris which I’m imagining is ginormous compared to Lucerne!

    Reply
    • Hey Miranda, sorry for the slow reply – I’ve been caught up in the UK election stuff. Ahhh, the language barrier challenge. As a mono-linguist, I feel your pain and there’s a range of solutions. The easiest, is stick to English at first. Most people have a few words, which is a better exchange than none. Sure, you’ll feel like the ignorant American (Brit for me) but start with that. A “I’m really sorry. I don’t speak any French or German – do you speak any English?” Is an honest opener. To make yourself feel better, you can quickly transition the conversation to, “Would you mind teaching me a few words in [insert language]” I’m usually pretty bold and want to know the rude or swear words – this can be a real ice-breaker if you and the people you’re chatting to are reasonably liberal.

      You’re actually doing really well IMO, striking up conversations with people outside your accommodation. Have a look at local Meetups on the meetup website. Language get togethers are usually informal and a great environment where there are likely to be other English speakers you can connect with. Otherwise, hostel bars, I always maintain, are perfect for meeting people even if you’re not a hostel person. Do a search for hotels in your area on hostelword and look at the description to see if they have a bar. Make sure you pick a place that has lots of reviews as this indicates it will be a busy hostel and therefore bar.

      I’ve not been to Lucerne but I’ve visited Paris many times and I think (without knowing you) that the sights of Paris will be enough to distract you from how big it is. If Paris does feel too intense, escape to Ile St Louis, one of the islands in the middle of the Seine. It’s like a different world with chilled cafes, few cars and fewer people. Also, the bonus on the language front is that unless you are native Parisienne, the locals won’t let you try to speak French ;p

      I hope your trip gets better but message me if you need any more tips.

      Reply
  35. I’m lonely. I have been on the road one month. I can’t put my finger on why I feel this way. I’m on my dream bucket list trip. I loved this article.
    I’m In Bath, Maine.

    Reply
    • Hey Angela, thanks for reaching out. If you haven’t already, read the comments above: it might reassure you to know that being lonely travelling alone is more common that you think – we just don’t seem to talk about it. And these comments are a fraction of what I get in private messages and via my Facebook page. Although I haven’t been to Bath, I’ve travelled up in that area of the USA and I didn’t meet a whole heap of other solo travellers. Just one couple after another which sucked after a while. And if loneliness has taken hold, it can be hard to shake that critter off. I’d start by doing two things – first, write a list of the reasons why you’re in Maine. This is your bucket list trip so there was something that really inspired you to go there. If that doesn’t get you revved up enough to go explore (and in doing so, forget some of that loneliness), the second thing is to heavily indulge in a little something that you love at home. For me, that would be a whole day in a cafe with a book, coffee (a gallon of it) and a cake bigger than my head. For you? Give that a try and if neither work, have a look at MeetUps in the area: https://www.meetup.com/cities/us/me/bath/ And if none of that works, come back to me and we can think up some more plans… But do know this: in the same way that the good times sadly always come to an end (that fantastic party can’t go on forever), so too do the bad and lonely times. This will pass. We’re just trying to help speed that along!

      Reply
  36. Thanks. I’m in Paris for the first, and in Europe for the first time and travelling my myself for the first time! I’m 1 week in to a 4 week trip and went out for dinner and while dinner was yummy, on my way back to my apartment it was all I could do to not sit in the middle of the footpath and sob because I was feeling so lonely in amongst all the couples and the families enjoying the late spring evening.

    I went to a Meet Up thing last night and that didn’t help much, so now I’m taking the advice to do a Netflix Binge. I don’t have Netflix access here coz my account is Australian but I am binge watching YouTube videos and drinking tea. A wee bit of self care. Quite needed.

    Thanks for this article!

    Reply
    • Tanyasha, You Tube and tea sounds like a good way to spend a night for me! You’ll see from just a quick scan of the comments that feeling lonely while you’re travelling alone is not uncommon – and this isn’t to mention all the people who contact me through Facebook for a bit of support. What I’m impressed about is that you’re working through different options to try and cheer yourself up, which is great and destined to help. I felt exactly the same when I landed in Madrid – week one of a 52 week trip and I just wanted to go home (except I’d sold my home). I really do know how this feels and I also can promise that it will get better. Do message me on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/indianajoblogs if you want to chat more or privately. I’m full of great ideas for helping OTHER people feel better 🙂 Hope things have perked up.

      Reply
  37. Hi there,
    Your post is just about what I needed. I am currently a master student based in Milan, Italy. Because I love Italy so much, I decided that I would travel all around the country even if I have to do it on my own. And here I am- currently in florence, in a hostel. What was supposed to be one of my dreams come true is proving to be a bit painful for my self esteem. I spent today walking all around this beautiful town and all I could think about was why I don’t have someone with me as I observed groups of friends or couples. I even did something I feared, I had lunch alone (I even got myself some wine!) at a restaurant. The worst moment came when a man started commenting in Italian (i happen to know the language) how strange it was that I was on my own. The waitress looked like she was feeling sorry for me. I am so disappointed in me, I wanted this to be a life changing experience. I wanted to be able to meet people and create memories. I haven’t managed to meet anyone at the hostel yet, which makes me feel like a loser. The only people that do engage in conversations with me are older men who have somewhat associated a young woman being on her own as a sign to hit on her. I just, I don’t know. I really want to appreciate this for what it is, but my inner disturbing criticism won’t let me do it.

    Reply
    • Hi Greta, I’m so sorry your dream trip didn’t pan out as planned. Often, those people who are the most offensive about solo travellers are simply projecting their own mindset – they couldn’t find it in themselves to be brave enough to eat out alone or visit somewhere by themselves and in a way that makes them want you not to do it because it makes them feel uncomfortable or, more likely, inadequate because of their own limitations. If I were you, I’d focus on enjoying yourself alone first and foremost because that you have some control over – I’ve had many great experiences when I barely spoke to a soul all day (trip to the Statue of Liberty and up the Empire State Building come to mind). Then, if you do make some new friends, that’s a bonus. It’s hard to stop the inner chatter. I read once (and have since used the technique) that if you pretend the inner criticism is coming from someone else, think about how you’d defend yourself. So, if someone came up to you in a bar and called you a lonely loser, what would you say? I bet you wouldn’t just sit there anre take it! You’d tell that person all about how brave and amazing you are. That’s the thing we solo travellers forget from time to time. We have huge strength – you already took yourself to Italy and then Florence on your own. That strength ebbs and flows but it’s always there and you can tap into it any time with the right mindset (and, for me, often with a glass of wine!). Hope the rest of your trip went better and if not, well, there’s nothing wrong with going back for another go!

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  38. Excellent article, just what I needed to read. I am currently traveling in New Zealand, and while I have a terrific time during day time, I feel very lonely on most nights. I guess there’s another thing that factors in which is my ethnicity. I am from Saudi Arabia, and I seriously hate it when people ask me where I’m from. While I would have nice conversations with strangers, whenever I tell them where I’m from, most of them react like “oh…” and they give me weird looks, which don’t go until I prove to them that I’m a normal guy and not some woman-hating, halal-eating conservative. Of course not everyone is like that, but that’s the default reaction. Sometimes I go to bars at night to try to meet people, but it feels weird sometimes, like I don’t belong there because of how people react when they know where I’m from. A guy once introduced me to his friend by saying “he’s from Saudi Arabia, but he’s cool and educated”. I wish people would take me for who I am and not for where I come from.
    Of course that’s not always the case. I did meet cool people and made great friends throughout my travels, but I’ve come to accept that feeling lonely and getting into awkward situations is part of the solo travel experience.
    Thanks Jo!

    Reply
    • Hi Yousif, I’m really frustrated that you’re having that experience just because of where you’re from 🙁 People can be ignorant and insensitive. Generally, I’ve found that fellow travellers are a bit more open minded. Have you tried hooking into the local travel community when you visit places – couchsurfing has a pretty strong group around the world and even if you’re not a hostel fan, they often have bars that will be filled with other travellers who might be more open minded (and care less about asking you where you’re from). Evenings can be a challenge when you’re feeling lonely. Often I take a book with me to a bar. It’s a very passive “no” to pick up a book when someone says something you don’t like. Good luck and big high five for not letting it get to you!

      Reply
  39. Jo,
    Great article! I agree that everyone feels lonely at times even when we’re on an an epic adventure. It’s those simultaneous feelings of knowing your privileged and yet somehow feeling a bit sorry for yourself that gnaw at my brain.I too have found that distraction such as reading a book and/or indulging in something delicious can go a long way to getting me back on track. It takes courage to travel alone and most people I know admit that they wish they could do what I’m doing. So, as the saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
    Thanks again for the tips/reminders.
    Ron

    Reply
    • Ron, if you don’t mind me saying, it’s nice to have input from a guy on this article. And your advice is spot on – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Also, cake and a good book. Best distraction for all scenarios 🙂

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  40. Thank you so much for this post. You’ve described exactly how I am feeling. I’ve been round the world with friends in the past, but i’m currently lying in bed in a hostel, on day four of a 12 day solo trip to California. I thought i’d be fine. I mean its only 12 days. I was 100% unprepared for how I currently feel. Its hit me out of the blue and I feel i’m never too far from bursting into tears. I’m in a city I love, but i’m alone and I’m not coping well. I have a list of fun things to do. However I find myself on skyscanner looking for a flight home in a few days, cutting my trip short. I know that is insane.

    I find I dont really want to talk to my friends or family on the telephone as i’ll just weep (pathetic I know). So i’m sticking to whatsapp.

    I wish i could rid myself of this absolute most awful feeling. If anything its made me feel how much I would love to be settled or on this trip with a partner. But hey, the grass is always greener aint it 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Elle, I replied personally by email. I hope things improved after you posted this. Travel loneliness can be a real trip killer but if you’re able to tough it out (getting lost in a good book or Netflix binge might help the moment pass and give you strength to carry on your trip) I’m sure you’ll be glad you stayed. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help…

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  41. Just came across this while looking for blog posts in solo travelling. Currently travelling through Australia and arrived in Sydney today. Had one of those lonely day but this made me feel heaps better 🙂 you have a new follower !

    Reply
    • Ah, thanks Valerie and I’m so happy to help. It’s one of those topics people don’t talk about enough. Hope you’re feeling brighter about your trip. Feel free to message me on Facebook if you’re ever feeling fed up or alone. I have a wealth of stories about my travels going wrong that will instantly make you feel like your life isn’t so bad ;p https://www.facebook.com/indianajoblogs

      Reply
  42. I love this. I just came across it while eating alone in a remote village in Bali after having a “what am I doing” day. Thank you! I’m 10 days in, I’m sure I’ll get better at it! I’d already made friends in different places but we’ve all moved on. I’ll read this again tomorrow to help ?

    Reply
    • Hi Melanie, I hope things picked up and you’re feeling better about being on your own (or have met some cool people). If you need any contacts in Bali, let me know and I can do a shout out and see if any fellow, fun travellers are around…

      Reply
  43. I just found this and it has saved my bacon! I am on a safari in Masai Mara, supposed to be in a group, but is just a German couple and me! And they are staying elsewhere so am eating on my own. They leave tomorrow and is just be and the guide. I booked with Bamba and they told me 7 people were going. Was about to call it off and go home early but will stick it out. Has come at the end of a tirng solo work trip so I was super excited being with people – think that’s why it has been difficult. Thanks for the tips! Xxx

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah, so happy to help! That’s such a horrible thing to have happen when you book onto a group tour – I know this because it happened to me once and it turns what I thought was going to be an amazing adventure into a trip where I felt lonely the entire time. That’s not great from Bamba. Perhaps they had last-minute cancellations they couldn’t control? So pleased you stuck it out. Hope it ended up being a great trip.

      Reply
  44. Thank you so much for this helpful information/tips. I’m on my first trip alone, day 3, and started to feel lonely. As it turned out, I was just hungry. I’ll get better at this, I hope.

    Reply
    • Robin, I hope you aren’t offended if I say that this actually made me laugh out loud. Also happy to help you triage a way through your perceived loneliness. That first trip can be tough and I guarantee you’ll get better at it – it requires practice, right? PS: sorry for the slow reply. I get a lot of comments and I do answer then all…it just sometimes takes time.

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  45. I have always, 20 years, traveled for work and disliked it. It is the nature of my career and my degree that drives it and changing employers never helped. The last few years I feel lonely and bitter about traveling again the moment I step out of my home. On the road at my company’s sites I either constantIy feel in misery or seethe with anger at being away from home again. Keeping busy with the job at hand that brought me there does not push away the bitterness any more; I regret ever getting into my field even though it is something I do very well, and love. Unfortunately it takes me away 60-80% of the time.(Though I was lured to this current job with a promise of just 20-30% travel.) Worse, my pain and toxic mood seep out to the point that others know it. Though I remain functionality excellent in the work I get feedback through my boss that people immediately dislike me, or feel like they need to walk on eggshells around me when I am on the road.

    Reply
    • Earl, I’m so sorry to hear that travel has become such an emotionally painful experience for you. Is there any way you can change your circumstances? I know a change of job or role can be daunting and even seem impossible, but compared to the misery your current job is causing, it seems like a necessary step for you to get some peace and happiness? I’ve chosen this year to spend more time in one place – a recent knee injury has forced the issue and I realise I’m relieved to sit down for a while. You don’t have to make any big decisions in one go, but maybe do a bit of daydreaming and research and see where it goes. Otherwise, is there anything you can do to make your travels more enjoyable? Book a nice dinner out alone or go see a particular attraction or set yourself a fun personal challenge when you’re away? I really hope you can get some resolution. If you want to email me to talk more, drop me a line by the contact form. Wishing you a happy new year.

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  46. Great post! Just what I needed to read today. I’m currently travelling by myself in Thailand and haven’t spoken to anyone in days! I am normally ok travelling alone, although seeing happy couples always gets me a little, this trip though I’m really struggling with the loneliness. I would love to meet some people to hang around with but I’m just terrible at striking up a conversation and I always feel like people look at you strangely when you are travelling alone.

    Reply
    • Hey Sally, I’m glad you found this article at the right time! I completely get what you mean about striking up conversations but it gets harder the longer you leave it and the more you worry about it. How about picking three people who will be your practice runs, move cafe/bar and then try again ;p As for people looking at you strangely, the truth is most people are so self absorbed that they don’t even see the other people around them, let alone register them long enough to pass judgment. Go find some of the less self-absorbed people, who won’t be judging you -promise, and simply say, “Hi, how’s you’re day going?” Then come back and tell me how you get on…and now you’re on an official reporting mission, so you’re no longer just a lone traveler, if that helps!

      Reply
      • Thanks Jo!
        I took up my mission and tried to talk to the 3 other people on my day trip on Sunday. Unfortunately they were not exactly chatty types but I made the effort! I’ve just come off a 2 day trip down the Mekong and that was much more conducive to chatting with people as your all in the same boat (literally ) !
        Feeling much better now so it has definitely opened my eyes about the need for me to make more of an effort!

        Reply
        • Hey Sally – well done! And even if the people you spoke to at first were not too chatty, you’ve upped your approaching strangers skill. So glad you met some nice folk on the Mekong and I hope you continue to meet people for the rest of your travels. Yes, it is hard to force yourself to make the effort – I have to have this chat with myself a lot – but it does work. Happy rest of your trip!

          Reply
  47. Beer. Bring beer. You always make friends with beer. I haven’t had it end up in a fun night with random people yet. 🙂

    Reply
  48. Good to see some reflections on the theme that travelling is not always the best of times. So many people say that it’s ‘living the dream’ but there are certainly challenges too, especially missing family and friends. Whilst my wife and I have each other to share and remember things with, we find that a lot of other travellers assume that we don’t want to be disturbed and so don’t try to engage us in discussion as much as they would individuals. Of course, it doesn’t help now being in our mid-40s, especially in those hostels where most young people are there to do things that young people do. Strange that being in a couple can also be isolating. Would be a good idea to try interrupting some of the couples too sometimes….

    Reply
    • Nic, you’re so right. I spoke to a couple in Bolivia who were gushing with thanks – I was the first person to speak to them in weeks. I hear this complaint from couples a lot. It’s tricky trying to figure out the couples who are quite happy to live in their couple bubble and those who want to chat. And yes, being older in hostels doesn’t help. Next time I see a couple, I’m going to strike up a conversation!

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  49. My most awkward experience traveling solo like this was being in a very cheap (like a soup kitchen cheap) Chinese eating place (somewhere in Malaysia) & already feeling awkward & alone an old Chinese man came & sat at the table with me, I quickly realised he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in communicating in any way. It wasn’t until much later I learnt it is Chinese custom/superstition that briefly brought us together to share a table. The number one is very bad luck for many Chinese including seem being the only one at a table. This old man simply sat with me for his own benefit as well as mine. He did seem rather p***ed off when I tried to communicate, even a little, with him, stupid foreigner (me) 🙂

    Reply
  50. Great post!!
    Exactely what I experienced the last 8 month in Asia. For me its not difficult to talk to a stranger, but I really!! suck in groups. Going over and starting a conversation with a group….not yet found out hoe it goes.
    Bud being lonley was not sooo often an issue, and I don’t mind eating alone in restaurants and all that stuff.
    THX so much for the story! Keep it up
    Cristina

    Reply
    • Cristina, I always struggle to meet people in Asia for exactly the same reasons. I don’t know why but Asia seems to attract more groups than in other countries. For me it also doesn’t help that most of those groups are made up of people in their early 20s (something I’m definitely not). Suggestion: you might want to try a different region if you’re able. I find Mexico and Latin America very easy for meeting people. Also the USA and Europe. In fact, anywhere apart from Asia. Good luck and I hope you meet some more people soon.

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  51. I like being by myself way too much for feeling lonely when I travel solo. I have done it for months and never really felt like that. I like eating by myself when a restaurant is packed with families and couples, even 🙂 But I am weird, I know… When I go get lonely on the road, all it takes to feel better is calling my mom, dad and sister and chat with them. Or log on into facebook and find my friends, send them a whatsapp message. 🙂 thanks for this lovely post!

    Reply
  52. Can’t evEn imagine being lonely. All those couples with kids have crappy expensive lives and wish they were you.

    It’s easy to confuse the need for sex, food, water or other physical needs for loneliness. Lots harder to be lonely at breakfast with some fellow traveller who spent the night helping you scratch an itch..

    Reply
    • Rob, that’s one way of feeling less lonely! 🙂 And yes, there are plenty of people who have familiar people around them all the time and still feel lonely, it can be a sad world.

      Reply
  53. The worst for me is eating at a restaurant by myself.. I always feel so awkward! But we can only change our loneliness and meet people if we put ourselves out there. Nice job, Jo, thanks for the tips 😉

    Reply
    • Mary, eating alone can take a lot of practice but you need to push through the pain barrier to get there. Often, I find I’m given nicer treatment than when I’m with people. Just last night I went out for dinner alone and was given the best seat in the house, a corner table with double aspect window view. Glad you liked the article and agree, it’s a case of making the brave move.

      Reply

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