¨All good and precious things are lonely¨
My Experiences with Loneliness During My Long-Term Travels 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 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 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: staying in youth hostels and renting a room in a local’s home.
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, making it easy for travelers to meet. 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 Loneliness 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 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 hostel replacement 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 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.
- Make new friends online via Meet Up, Facebook groups. Internet Dating, or Couchsurfing.
Here are Some of the Big Lessons I Learned After Five Years on the Road
- Fifty Plus Nomad’s Exclusive Traveling and Living Abroad Seminars: Let Me Help You Put Your Dreams Into Flight (Coming Soon)Take one of my two Fifty-Plus Nomad seminars in my home in Merida, Mexico. Benefit from my sixteen years of experience traveling and living around the world. Learn how to travel around the world long-term and live in different countries.
- My Temporary Home Base in Montreal: 10 Reasons I Loved Coming Home During My Five Year Trip Around the WorldDuring my round the world travels,, I was glad to spend tree months every year at a home base in Montreal. Not only did I grow very fond of Quebec and Eastern Canada but it was fun to just do day-to-day activities with friends.
- How To Avoid Loneliness During Your TravelsWhen I was traveling around the world as a young man, I frequently got lonely. When I was able to travel around the world again long term, I deliberately participated in group tours, cruises, volunteering, and learning vacations to avoid loneliness. It worked wonders for me.
- How Too Much Togetherness May Ruin Your Long-Term TravelsWhile too much togetherness hasn’t been a serious problem during my travels. I have met couples who had problems with too much togetherness during their long-term, round the world travels.
- Justifying Your Fifty-Plus Nomad Lifestyle: An Unexpected ChallengeI was surprised how often I had to justify my existence when I traveled around the world. Here are some tips in case you find yourself in the same situation.
- Paying More than Locals As a Foreigner: How to Deal with and Avoid ProblemsWhen I was younger being charged more for things than locals used to piss me off. Now I simply acknowledge it as part of traveling in third-world countries. I find the less it bothers me the less I attract aggressive vendors, too.
- Culture Shock: The Greatest Challenge for Long-Term Travelers and Expats?By far the biggest issue I had while traveling around the world as a younger man was culture shock. It even resulted in me making some major decisions, most of which I regret in retrospect. In my experience, many people suffer from culture shock while traveling around the world or living abroad but most don’t even know they are suffering from culture shock.
- Backpacker Syndrome: Why Travel Burnout is Usually Part of a Nomadic LifestyleI think every long-term traveler regardless of the budget will occasionally suffer from backpacker’s syndrome. I deal with it by slowing down, staying in my hotel for a day or two, or scheduling some new activities.
- Church Overload Syndrome: When You Just Can’t Stand Seeing Another ChurchDuring my five years traveling around the world. I occasionally suffered from mild travel burnout. Only once did I succumb to church overload syndrome because over time I have learned how to appreciate churches. However, church overland syndrome used to bother me frequently and it seems commonplace among other long-term travelers.
- Consider Resorts, Cruises, Festivals, and Amusement Parks in Your Long-Term Travel PlansWhile many travelers pooh-pooh resorts, cruises, festivals, and amusement parks, I enjoy them in small doses. It is fun to see the creativity of the developers and event planners. It is also a nice break from more serious and intellectual activities.
- Learning Vacations and Volunteering: The Most Overlooked Travel OptionsMy favorite type of group travel is volunteering and learning vacations. No aspect of group travel has so influenced who I am as a person and how I view the world.
- Independent Travel: Advantages and DisadvantagesDuring my five years traveling around the world, I spent about half my time traveling independently and the other half on group tours, cruises, volunteering, and learning vacations. I love the freedom to explore things in depth that comes with independent travel. However, I find exclusively traveling independently to get exhausting and lonely if done for months at a time. I also love the diversity of experiences.when I mix group and independent travel.
- Don’t Avoid Group Tours and Cruises During Your Round-the-World TravelOne of my biggest surprises in traveling around the world for five years was how much I enjoyed group tours and cruises. It is nice to have other people deal with arrangements. Many of the tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. My fellow travelers were usually kind and interested in learning.
- Traveling in Developed Countries: Why it is a Myth that Traveling to Western Europe and Other Developed Countries is Boring and ExpensiveOne of my biggest surprises when I traveled around the world for five years was how much I loved traveling in the developed world (USA/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, Western Europe, Singapore, Japan, the UAE, etc). Until I began to travel around the world for a long term, I always thought the developed world was less interesting than in the third world. Now I find both equally interesting and enjoyable.
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Third World TravelI believe that everyone who has the opportunity to travel round the world should visit countries in both the developing, third world and the developed world (Western Europe, USA/Canada, Australia/New Zealand, etc.). This post outlines the advantages and disadvantages of third-world, emerging country travels.
- Round the World Travel: My Top 4 LessonsI learned four lessons from my five-year journey around the world: 1) Mix group and independent travel; 2) Travel to varied parts of the world; 3) Avoid travel burnout, and 4) Have a home base.