The idea of travelling solo is often laced with thoughts of loneliness, and fairly so; we humans thrive in company and travel is no exception. Stings of loneliness strike at the most unlikely moments on the road – the nostalgia of a familiar song, a face that reminds you of someone you know, a thought that would’ve sounded better aloud.
There are no definite remedies to the ailment, but here are some things that have helped me wriggle my way out of that sinking feeling of being alone:
In a world that’s always connected virtually, it’s near impossible to feel lonely. I always enable some form of Internet on my phone or choose to stay at a place with free WiFi, and each time I discover something amazing or encounter boredom or loneliness on my travels, I log on to Twitter or Facebook and connect with my world, share my thoughts, and stay in touch with life as I knew it.
Call family or friends.
Chances are, a few minutes into the conversation you’ll realize why you set out on your own in the first place! Make small talk about your day and their day, but not about the real reason for calling. The more you talk about feeling lonely, the more lonely you’ll feel.
Talk to the locals.
I often travel in search of lesser-known destinations, and there have been times I haven’t seen fellow travellers for days. My general curiosity about the lifestyle of the local people in a place always has me striking conversations with anyone I can find, and sometimes those conversations mature into friendships, dissolving any elements of loneliness into thin air. A smile or an easy topic like the weather is a sure-shot way to break the ice.
Listen to upbeat music.
Music can be unbelievably therapeutic on the road, but it’s best to avoid familiar music that you already associate with another time & place. I try to upload new music on my phone before I set out on a solo holiday, and before I know it, I’m building new associations between places I haven’t seen before and songs I haven’t heard before. It’s a magical feeling when you get home and listen to your ‘solo travel’ music again.
Go for a run.
This is rooted more in science than in experience. Running, or any other form of physical activity, releases endorphins into the body, a scientific way of putting your mind at ease with happier feelings. Plus, as you build your own running trail in an unknown place, you are sure to discover something unexpected.
Try something you’ve never done before.
You know that high you get from doing something for the first time? It’s an essential ingredient to make any trip memorable, and much more so when you travel solo. The first time I hitchhiked up in the Himalayas of Spiti all by myself (it’s a feat surviving that in India), my spirits soared so high that I thought I could do just about anything; dealing with solitude was the least of these.
Someone could may as well have said, words are a (wo)man’s best friends. You don’t have to be a writer or poet to express yourself in words. Cheesy as it may sound, keep an online or offline journal of your travels, and focus as much as possible on the positives. Write about the things that have amazed you, the people you have met, and the joy of travelling somewhere that no one knows you. By the time you get home, you’ll have memories that will literally last a lifetime.
Plan your next trip.
If there’s something that feeds my wanderlust as much as travelling itself, it is planning a trip to a place unheard. When I start to get weary of where I am, I go all out to find an escape to a place whose legends have only been passed down verbally among the locals, and about which even Google knows little. That might not be everyone’s idea of travel, but whatever yours is, indulge it till it excites you and makes you forget the woes of a solo traveller.
Have you mastered the art of travelling solo? How do you deal with loneliness when you travel alone?