“All excellent and precious things are lonely.”
My Experiences with Loneliness During Long-Term Travel as a Young Man
The most common issue I have experienced as a Fifty Plus Nomad is loneliness. I am relatively shy and am not comfortable in nightclubs 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 this can cause problems if I spend too much time alone. In the past, mainly when my funds were limited, I found two ways to beat loneliness: staying in youth hostels and renting a room in a local’s home.
In general, the people who stay in hostels love traveling and are friendly. Most hostels have common areas where it is easy to meet other travelers, including kitchens and TV rooms. Some even have special events and low-cost tours available for their guests, making it easy for travelers to meet.
The second option was renting a room (often with meals included because it is easy to connect over dinner) with a “host family” as part of a school (usually language schools).
How I Deal with Loneliness During Long-Term Travel Today
As I have gotten older, I have found that sleeping in the same room in a hostel is no longer comfortable. I am ill at ease with sleeping in the same room with strangers and going down the hall to the bathroom/shower. (Note: many hostels have private rooms with bathrooms down the aisle, which does not help much).
I still enjoy staying with host families, however. Living in these families has helped me learn another language while learning what daily life is like in another country. I have also met some great people during these homestays, including a girlfriend.
After many years as a nomad, I have found that the best hostel replacement is taking escorted 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 Loneliness?
In talking to other Fifty Plus Nomads, many are lonely occasionally, particularly if they travel independently. 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 advice for addressing travel 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 read a book. Doing nothing can recharge your batteries after you’ve filled your days with activities. (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 an excellent time to reflect on your life and do whatever you want. Sometimes being with someone can be worse than being alone.
Make an Effort to Meet People
- Go 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 contacts in the place you are visiting.
- Make new friends online via Meet Up, Facebook groups. Internet Dating, or Couchsurfing.