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, I’m generally an anxious traveller and 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 after a few days exploring Niagara Falls. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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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114 thoughts on “What To Do When You Feel Lonely Travelling Alone”
What an Amazing article!! Everything you say and describe in just to the point how I sometimes feels during my lonely trips ! I even think it applies to everyday life, when you realise you are actually going to spend Saturday night knitting in front of Friends on Netflix (because that’s what you have been looking forward to the whole week), but part of you is comparing yourself with that other Saturday (ok, maybe it was 10 year ago…) Where you were out drunk with friends.
Your writing is very honest and you dare to show and share your vulnerabilities, which are the same we are all experiencing – thank you !! You made me laugh so much, and made my lonely dinner at a restaurant much more entertaining than the couple next to me seemed to be for each other…
I will keep on reading more of your articles and I deeply wish I will run into you in some of our travels – you sound like a wonderful person !
Kind regards from a fellow solo not always so confident world and inner explorer 🙂
Hi Celine, thanks for taking the time to comment and share your own vulnerabilities. Loneliness is hard and we so rarely talk about it. I’m glad you seized the moment at your solo dinner. Also, knitting in front of friends sounds like a wicked night in to me. FOMO and social media have so much to answer for. I quite enjoy getting into bed at 9pm, just me and a big book. And I’m ok with that until I scroll social and see people out having fun together. Especially since the pandemic, I keep reminding myself to ‘stay in my lane’ i.e. focus on whether I’m enjoying what I’m doing. Me. In my life. Right now. If so, great. If not, think about how to change it. But don’t ever let the pictures of people (even people I know), one lane over, influence how I behave. It’s too exhausting and isn’t likely to make me happy. So, I stay in my lane. Or try to! Your lane sounds great. Enjoy it and thanks for your kind words. Who knows, the world is small and one day we might cross paths. Until then, happy travelling. Continue being brave.
Not sure if anyone would see this but reading this post and other people’s comments made me not feel so alone. I just came back from a short trip in Germany. I originally went there was to meet a guy I have been talking to for months. Thought he was into me (maybe at first), we hung out for 2 days then he cut it short, saying he is attractive to me, but he has another girl in his hometown (Italy). That completely crushed me; especially when you have this fantasy day dream of how this trip would go, but the complete opposite happened. Though I don’t regret my trip…it still felt like a mistake. Spent the next two days crying in my hotel room, even when I went outside I was still crying. Hopefully when I look back at this trip down the road I feel not regret, but proud of myself for putting myself out there. Thank you again for this post!
Hi Diana, I’m so sorry your trip (and romance!) didn’t turn out as you hoped. That can be hard to deal with at home, but especially when you’re away by yourself. Absolutely do congratulate yourself on putting yourself out there. And do keep doing it! And maybe revisit the same place some time in the future, and make some happy memories there.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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? ❤
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.
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
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.
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,
PS: if anyone reading this is currently in Athens give me a shout-out and we can go explore the Acropolis together 😉
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.
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!
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.
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!
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…
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.
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?
will try to explain that to my self.
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
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.