How to overcome loneliness as a solo traveller remains the most fundamental and challenging question!
I woke up confused, almost in Haze, questioning myself, “How the hell did I crack my iPhone’s screen?”
“Did I break it while I was sleeping?”
Then a closer look, still half asleep, and I realized that it wasn’t broken.
It was the new wallpaper that I’d installed a few days ago. It made the screen look as if it was cracked.
I was simply being groggy.
I couldn’t see clearly. Negative thoughts had held sway over my thinking process.
It had been a few long weeks since I was travelling alone, and having no one to speak with, I had become a lone, grumpy traveller!
This is how the gloominess of solo travelling first hit me. And as I remember, it hit me hard.
When I’d initially left for my first ever solo trip, I expected a fictional reality – based on my imagination and popular culture. I thought crazy things are going to happen to me every day. I will make a friend everywhere. Locals will invite me to dinners. It is just going to be one of those travel movies I saw. One adventure after the other.
But as I plunged on the journey, I got so busy with myself that the idea of socializing with others seemed irrelevant. At first, it was exciting. I could go where I wanted, and do what I wanted. But as the days wore on, and I started to forget what speech sounded like, I hated every moment of solo travelling.
In only a few days, I was feeling hopelessly alone. The excited traveller in me was almost dead!
As an introvert, it was not natural for me to just walk up to strangers and start a conversation. Though after a few years of solo travelling (as I’m writing this blog now) I have pretty much mastered that art, back then, the fear of speaking with strangers was very much alive. I had no idea how to start a conversation with strangers, let alone make friends.
How To Break The Ice
While initiating a conversation, a lot of people wonder what other people would think, and I think it’s a valid concern. It takes a lot of courage to start a random conversation with those we don’t know. But remember, there are other travellers out there too who want to meet new people and extend their travel circle. Just say ‘Hello’ and everything will fall into place. While travelling, even the grumpiest creature on earth transforms into an amiable, socializing person, and that’s the beauty of it.
If not, you can always speak to the locals. The caretaker in your guesthouse or, the person who served you at the restaurant. Start by asking about places you can visit in the town and you’ll see the conversation will go forward on its own.
What I generally do now is Smile and tell the stranger how much I loved this town (even if I hated it). And it works every time. On many occasions, other travellers came up to me and said ‘Hello’. Why? Because they were looking to make friends too.
Travellers are a friendly bunch. We want to meet new people and make new friends. And one of those friends is you.
Still, if you find it too tough to start a conversation, and waiting for others to come to you takes too much time, I will suggest you use websites like Couchsurfing, or Workaway.info, which allows travellers to stay with locals and befriend them before they even start their journey. For example, I had a lovely time volunteering in Rome and in Germany, where I even learned horse riding while staying with a local family.
But I am sure, after a few solo trips, you will realise that travelling alone doesn’t mean being alone all the time. Still, if you end up being in a place where there aren’t many tourists or English is almost an alien language to the locals, there are always other things to get help.
Other Tips For Not Feeling Lonely While Travelling Solo
In the world of ever-connected devices, it’s impossible to feel lonely.
Additionally, while booking a guest house, book a place that has wifi. From the tech-savvy alleys of Tokyo to the Himalayan mountains like Everest – you find wifi-enabled guest houses and restaurants almost everywhere. Just find some connectivity and log on to Twitter or Facebook to connect with the world and the life you always knew better.
Other than this, it is always a good idea to carry something you like. A camera, a guitar, or a couple of books. You can also maintain a journal – full of memories and moments that have amazed you. Though unlike me, writing is not something that many people enjoy, if you have nothing to do for the moment, there is no harm in giving your thoughts some wings. A regularly maintained journal also gives you memories from your travels that last a lifetime.
But I’m sure you don’t need many travel hacks to avoid getting lonely. This world is full of friendly and awesome people who will be constantly talking to you and inviting you out. After a few solo journeys, you yourself will realize that there was never a reason to worry about getting lonely in the first place. You will meet more people than you’ll know what to do with.
So take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the ride! Solo travelling is great!
And for some further motivation: Read Why I Travel Solo