Traveling alone and loneliness

When I tell people that I enjoy traveling alone, they give me looks. For the majority of people, traveling by yourself means that you do not have any friend to tag along. They imagine that you will be stranded in your loneliness in the middle of an island crying for social interaction. Well, it turns out this is a misconception carried by people who do not travel by themselves. 

In fact, traveling alone is my favorite way to discover the world. I recently realized it while I was traveling with a friend. Don’t get me wrong, I also like traveling with friends but solo travel is something which has its own charm.

Personally, when I travel alone, I feel free. I feel free to do anything I want when I choose to do it. There is no discussion about where to go, what to do, where to eat and so on… I totally go with the flow. Being laid-back on your travel schedule means that you are also more accessible to other people. Indeed, I usually meet more people when I travel solo than when I travel with other people. Maybe I fear the loneliness so I try to bond with fellow travelers. It is quite funny for me to write this, knowing that I used to be extremely shy. Anyway, while traveling, I am more open to the world and I let go my fears.

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Addressing the loneliness issue with a deep introspection while contemplating the view from the Aran island in Ireland? Probably not.


Traveling alone makes you more open

Traveling alone allowed me to meet people and brought me on nice adventures. Of course sometimes you can feel lonely but the feeling does not stay long. Yes, throughout my travels I spent some days and nights completely by myself. I felt lonely. Yes, I admit. But as I have already said, the feeling does not stay long.

Whenever I had the feeling that my trip was miserable because I was alone, which would lead to the loneliness feeling, things turned around. If you are on the right mindset, people will come to you. Even though you are not sure about how to get in touch with people, stay open.  I struck up conversation with plenty of people even though I am not a talkative person. People are curious you know. If they see you, backpack on, alone, waiting for a train / a bus / a plane, they will ask you where you’re going / where you’ve been / where you’re from. The person sitting next to you on the bus can turned into your travel companion for the day. It happened to me plenty of time. When you feel lonely, exchanging a few words with a total strangers makes you feel good.

What to do if I feel lonely and need to meet some people?

Social interactions can be made anywhere: train stations, hostels, walking tours, volunteering, the Internet… I will share with you some of my experiences with meeting people while traveling alone.

Train stations

You know how train can be late sometimes. Have you ever took an Amtrak train? Those are even worse than the French railway system.

Once, I was in Chicago Union Station waiting for my train to Boston. The trip was going to last twenty-three hours. It was in the evening and it turned out that the departure would be late. All passengers were waiting in a room wondering how long the delay would be. I decided to sat down for a while, passport in my hands. The man next to me started to talk to me “This is not an American passport, is it? Where are you from?”. The man was traveling with his wife and his two grand-children. The kids were traveling by train for the first time. He was a sweet grandpa and took a real interests in listening to me and my travel stories. We talked for a while until it was time to board the train. And that’s how you kill time when you feel lonely waiting for your train!

Hostels

I believe hostels are the best place to meet fellow travelers. I recommend to pick wisely the one you want to stay in.  Of course, you will have your own criteria but I suggest you to book one which organizes activities. Some of them plan an activity every single day, so you are sure to be busy and not alone.

When I arrived in Seattle, WA I stayed in a hostel in a sketchy neighborhood. It was the afternoon and I was settling down after a long journey. Then, my roommate arrived in the dorm and introduced herself. We talked for a few minutes and then she asked if I wanted to join her for dinner. I agreed and made myself a friend  that day. It was five years ago and we are still in touch. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start in Seattle. We explored the city and then I joined her for a trip to Vancouver. I hadn’t plan to go to Canada but I was totally down for it! There we met other people with whom we hanged out during our trip.

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Forever alone in a hostel in Budapest, Hungary? Not for so long.



Walking tours

I enjoy walking tours. The main reason is that most of them are free. Then, you get to see the city and its main landmarks. You can also get some nice recommandations on activities to do. The bonus is when the tour guide is charismatic  and entertaining, you are sure to have some fun!

Once I was in Prague, CZ. It was the afternoon and I decided to go on this extravaganza walking tour recommended by the hostel. When I arrived, we were only a small group of people compared to the other walking tours (I don’t know if you have ever been to Prague, but you’ll see herd of tourists there). It was nice to have a guide just for six people.

At the end of the tour, the guide recommended us some other sights. One of the girl asked if anyone would be interested to check out the John Lennon’s wall with her. I said yes. The girl was traveling alone and was in Prague for a couple of days. After checking out the wall we decided to have dinner together. Then, we were looking for some night activities and we were approached by a pub crawl guy. We agreed to take part in the pub crawl and we partied all night long!

Volunteering

Volunteering is one of my favorite way of traveling. I always tend to volunteer somewhere while traveling alone. This way you are sure to meet people and you will also share their daily lives. This is an incredible way to discover a culture / a country / a part of the world. I met incredible people while volunteering.

The first time I traveled alone I actually volunteered at the Riverview vineyard in Wisconsin. I didn’t know what to expect before going there but I actually met a wonderful couple who made me feel like I was family!

The Internet

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I admit, I used the Internet to meet people while traveling alone. Alright, I was not desperate. And using the Internet is not a desperate measure. I just want to share with you my experience with meeting people over the Internet while traveling alone.

Five years ago, I wrote a post on the travel companion section of the Helpx website. I was roughly explaining that I would be on the US west coast over the summer and looking for people to tag along. I got an answer from a guy who was settled in Portland, OR and that we should meet when I’d arrived there. Naive girl that I was at that time, I met him. He decided to bring me to a park at the other side of the city and acted weird, like if we were on a date or something. I was feeling uncomfortable and decided I could not stay any longer with him. Cause, hey, you shouldn’t trust people from the Internet. Off I ran away pretending a thing to attend at the hostel. And the guy never heard of me after that.

I don’t recommend meeting people from the Internet even though I also had nice experiences like meeting a girl from the Interpals website, meeting her in San Francisco and driving to LA with her and her boyfriend. I wonder if people traveling alone get in touch with people from the Internet, especially since Tinder and whatnot exist (I could write an experimental article on this one next time I travel solo, it could be fun).

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Feeling lonely together with a stray dog of Vama Veche, Romania warms your heart.

When you feel lonely while traveling alone

Just act like Jim Carrey in Yes Man and say yes to everything people offer you. If they strike up a conversation, answer them, see how it goes. Even though it is is just a few words, small talks will do. It will help you get out of the loneliness mood and you’ll open yourself again, ready for new adventures!

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5 comments on “Traveling alone and loneliness”

  1. Anisa says:

    Depending on the situation, I enjoy traveling alone too. I always feel like I meet more people when I am by myself. When I travel with friends, I am usually not as social.

  2. Maydi says:

    I completely agree with this! As much as I love my friends, I can’t stand waiting around for people. I love the feeling of leaving that hostel and not knowing exactly how my day is going to go. The best moments are usually those that were unexpected.

  3. Nicki says:

    I love traveling alone! One thing I learned traveling solo was to be ok with my company. If I couldn’t entertain myself and be ok with myself, then I wasn’t meant to be a solo traveler.

    I’ve learned so much about myself during my travels and how I handle situations. Learning to be patient and using my brain to figure out tricky situations rather than relying on other people.

    I wouldn’t trade it for anything

  4. runawaybrit says:

    I haven’t travelled alone longer than a few days and I must admit it’s not really my thing (I haven’t overcome my shyness yet!), but it is true that as soon as you are travelling with another person it is harder to get talking to other travellers as they mostly assume that you don’t need company. It can be quite difficult to start conversations in hostels as travellers do tend to stock with their dorm-mates. That must be great for solo travellers!

  5. Good on you! Do you have any particular spots that you can recommend (as either being awesome or places to avoid) for solo women?

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