One of the concerns we hear from people who travel for long periods of time, or who desire to, is the prospect of loneliness and feeling isolated, especially if you’re planning to travel solo for your sabbatical. So how to deal with feeling lonely while traveling solo?
Many of us are used to being around people, whether that’s at home with our families, in the office with our colleagues, or with friends out and about.
For that reason, solo travel can be equally exciting and terrifying.
For some, it could be the first time they find themselves “alone”. And even if you love your solo time, travel can bring about a feeling of loneliness as we leave our familiarity behind.
But being alone and feeling lonely are two different things. We can feel a sense of connection with more than just other people! Even our day-to-day routine and habits, as well as our own relationship with ourselves, can give us a sense of self and remind us to appreciate the small things.
It’s a matter of finding the right balance between:
- Learning to be comfortable by yourself, getting to know yourself better, slowing down your pace of life, and
- Creating opportunities to make connections and friendships wherever you’re going.
Knowing how to create your own community is a powerful travel skill!
What’s the first step in doing this? It’s knowing that you will most likely have to step out of your comfort zone. How to deal with feeling lonely when traveling solo?
Our top tips when you feel lonely (traveling or not)
Loneliness can affect anyone at any time. Especially after the last couple of years. If you’re experiencing this right now, whether you’re traveling or not, here are some tips that have served us in the past (and continue to do so).
1. Honor how you feel
We can feel like we shouldn’t feel lonely. Especially if there are people physically around us. But it’s normal, and in fact, healthy, to feel this way sometimes. Humans thrive off connections, so when this lessens or if things change suddenly, such as when we travel, it can heighten feelings of isolation, worry, and loneliness.
This feeling can be a sign that you’re really doing it, you’re stepping out of your comfort zone! Sit with the feeling a little bit and think about how you might describe it. Can you put words to it? From there, think about whether there is an intentional way you can create connection with your surroundings and your thoughts. Can you meditate? Take pictures of interesting sights? Spend time journaling?
Or is it just time to get out there and meet some people? The answer will be different for everyone and will shift at different times for each individual. The key is to take that extra moment to honor how you feel and take the opportunity to expand your understanding of what loneliness means and feels like to you.
2. Focus on self-care
Taking care of yourself can be a great way to lessen the effects of loneliness. Spending a little extra time taking a hot shower, eating a nourishing meal, reading a good book, or focusing on doing things that make you feel happy can really help to boost your mood.
What are the things that typically make you feel good? Have you practiced yoga or followed a workout regimen, but haven’t been keeping up with it lately? Consider including it in your calendar again!
Or consider starting a Happiness List on your phone. This is a list of things that bring you joy and can be a good reminder when you’re looking to reset your mindset. We’re not shy to admit that our list (and it’s an actual list) includes reading a magazine, running, taking a nap, doing a puzzle, sipping a nice-smelling tea, cooking, organizing, and watching a feel-good movie. Any of those inspire you to start your own list for self-care?
3. Try something new
While traveling (this works for when you’re at home, too!), sign up for a class or something new. Cooking classes, language classes, dance classes, gym classes, whatever feels exciting!
Even just walking a different route to a familiar place, or going into a cafe or store that you regularly pass by can be enough to feel like you’ve done something new. Sometimes it’s taking the time to notice the smallest details that can bring on a whole new perspective.
These can all be great ways to boost your mood and create a sense of connection. Plus they’re great ways to meet new people!
4. Express your emotions
Expressing your emotions is possibly the most important part, and we often don’t take the time to really do it. Whether you like to journal, call a friend, or sit with your feelings – try to acknowledge them and find a way to capture them as a part of your journey.
Emotions are a powerful part of being human, and what better time to really feel human than while traveling? Learning to appreciate the full range of human emotions is one of the fundamental benefits of taking time away. You may actually have time to recognize what you’re feeling, and have time to process it. Whether it be about your personal situation, what you’re seeing or experiencing while traveling, or just bigger questions about life, taking time to express your emotions can be a space of personal growth and may have a long-lasting impact as you reflect on your adventures.
Practice before leaving
If you’re not someone who is used to spending time alone, you may want to give it a try before you leave.
Go on a solo date to your favorite coffee shop, take walks in your city by yourself, go see that movie you’ve been wanting to go to alone, or go to a concert without inviting any friends.
You could also organize a solo camping trip or rent an Airbnb for the weekend just for yourself!
Notice how you feel. Many people who have done it say it feels really strange at first but then they get used to it and end up really cherishing this quality “me-time”.
How to build a community while traveling
Getting uncomfortable can be a catalyst for personal growth and connection
Building a community abroad requires active participation, people won’t just flock to you. Depending on where you’re going, you’ll have to put in the energy and time to nurture new relationships.
Whether it’s going to a yoga class a few times and chatting to people there, making friends in coffee shops, or going on day trips and connecting with other participants, it can take some effort. One great thing is that many people may be in a similar situation!
Solo travelers can make the best friends on your trip because there is a shared desire for connection. In fact, most people solo travel for this specific purpose, to ensure they take time to connect with new people, cultures, and ways of being.
The positive benefits of traveling solo are countless, and making lots of friends is part of it! It may feel a bit scary, but it’s worth it!
Where to meet people
Picture this: you’ve arrived at your first destination, and you wake up feeling a little jet-lagged but filled with happiness that you’re here – you did it! Then a little doubt creeps in, you begin to realize that you’re in a brand new country and culture and you have no idea what to do next.
Our top tips on where to meet people:
1. Find a breakfast cafe and challenge yourself to talk to as many people as you can! Call it a ‘connection breakfast’. Cafes all around the world are great places to meet like-minded people.
2. Join Facebook/forum groups before and during your travels. There is an abundance of groups with the sole purpose of connecting solo travelers. You can join one, share your destination list, and see who else will be there at the same time! You never know, you may even find a travel buddy!
3. Check out local MeetUp activities. This website is made for people to meet each other, after all!
4. Join a gym, yoga studio, etc. Instead of taking classes online or going on a run by yourself, check out the local gyms and other organized activities. You’ll likely meet other people with similar interests.
5. Look for group tours. Check out organizations that match your values and travel preferences to meet like-minded travelers. These types of activities are often full of solo travelers, just like you! They can include things like jungle treks, walking city tours, skydives, and even overnight camping trips!
Once we are willing to step outside of our own bubbles, we discover that the world is full of people to connect with.
Conversation Starters with strangers
Now that you know where to find people… what are you going to say to these strangers?
It can feel scary and daunting connecting with new people. Maybe you consider yourself a people person and find it easy to strike up conversations, or maybe you feel a little more reserved. Either way, here are some great conversation starters for anyone who’s unsure of where to start.
Our top five questions that you can ask people:
- Are you here on vacation or more long-term?
Ask people what their ‘why’ is for travel, This can be a great way to start conversations and connect with people who are traveling long-term like you.
- What are you hoping to see while you’re here?
This is a great way to connect with people who are hoping to have a similar experience as you! Maybe you can suggest buddying up for a day trip!
- Which country do you currently call “home”? Where did you grow up?
You’ll be meeting people from all over the world! Some people traveling long-term don’t define home the same way as most people. Why not find out a little bit about their country and their lifestyle? You never know what new place it might inspire you to visit.
- What’s been the highlight of your trip so far?
This is a great way to get inspired by the country you’re in. Oftentimes you may meet people who have been there for a while and who can recommend the best spots!
- Would you be up for coming to XYZ with me?
If you find the conversation flowing, why not invite someone to join you for a day trip, gym class, walking tour, or networking opportunity? This is the perfect way to begin creating your very own community.
The great thing about creating a community abroad is that you’ll have friends and connections everywhere! Getting in the practice of connecting with new people often will help you not just while you’re on sabbatical but when you return, you’ll be filled with confidence. This is a great asset when you return to work!
If you’re ready to stop dreaming about your sabbatical and begin the actual preparation – from getting ready financially with smart financial planning to getting ready mentally – we would love to support you! Click here to learn more.
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