¨All good and precious things are lonely¨
My Experiences with Travel-Related Loneliness as a Young Man
Probably the most common issue that I have experienced as a Fifty-Plus Nomad is loneliness. I am relatively shy. I am not comfortable at night clubs and bars. Sometimes after a long day of sightseeing, I want nothing more than to go back to my hotel room, watch TV, and talk to no one.
I realize that this can cause me problems if I let myself spend too much time alone. In the past, mainly when my funds were limited, I found two ways to beat loneliness: one was staying in youth hostels.
Most hostels have common areas where it is easy to meet other travelers, including kitchens, tv rooms. Some even have special events and low-cost tours available for their guests that make it easy for travelers to meet one another. In general, the people who stay in hostels love traveling and are easy to get to know.
The second option was renting a room (often with the meals-the best way to meet the family) with a ¨host family¨ as part of a school (usually language schools).
How I Deal with Travel-Related Loneliness Today
As I have gotten older, I have found that sleeping in the same room in a hostel is no longer comfortable for me. I am ill-at-ease with sleeping in the same room with strangers and going down the hall to go to the bathroom/shower. (Note: many hostels have private rooms with bathrooms down the hall. I find this does not help that much).
I still enjoy staying with host families, however. Living in these families has helped me learn another language while finding out what daily life is like in another country. I have also met some great people, including a girlfriend, during these homestays.
After many years as a nomad, I have found that the best replacement for hostels for avoiding loneliness is taking tours. These tours are a great way to meet other travelers and learn about the history and culture of my destination. In some cases, I have come to know the guides reasonably well.
How Can You Overcome Travel-Related Loneliness?
In talking to other Fifty-Plus Nomads, many are lonely occasionally, particularly if they travel independently. I think the best answer to this problem lies in connecting yourself to other people.
However, this is often easier said than done. After scouring the web, I found an excellent post on the Indiana Jo blog that offered some excellent advice for addressing loneliness.
Here are my tips (inspired by Indiana Jo) if you are feeling lonely or depressed:
- Take care of your physical needs. Hunger, thirst, dirtiness, and lack of sleep are even worse on the road;
- Indulge yourself a little. Relax with a good cup of coffee. Try new activities you wouldn’t do at home. Stay in a nice hotel or eat in a fancy restaurant;
- Watch Netflix or TV or read a book. When you fill your days with activities, doing nothing can recharge your batteries. (I always plan for downtime after a long trip in a car, bus, or airplane);
Get the Right Perspective
- Reflect on the good times that you have had on your trip;
- Remind yourself of the benefits of traveling alone. Don’t criticize yourself for being alone. After all, being alone is a great time to both reflect about your life and to do whatever you want to do. Sometimes being with someone can be worse than being alone. (See my comments later on too much togetherness);
Make an Effort to Meet People
- Go to somewhere where you will meet people. It can be harder to meet people in a big city than in a smaller, more relaxed place;
- Go somewhere you know (or where you know someone).
- Encourage friends to visit you and/or ask them for names of contacts in the place you are visiting; and
- Make new friends online via Meet Up, Facebook groups. Internet Dating, or Couchsurfing.