I am sitting in the airport, waiting to catch a flight. This scenario plays out at countless airports around the world. Often, there is someone waiting for us on the other end of that plane ride. Other times, there is no one. We are just heading into the unknown, not knowing a soul at our destination. Today I am lucky to have a friendly face, fingers crossed, greeting me on the other end of that short plane ride. However, when I make a much longer and more extensive trip in just 2 months, no one will be waiting for me or expecting my arrival at the other end.
Travel can be a lonely experience. There are many that will tell you it is not, promoting solo travel like it should be the standard. I am a firm believer in traveling alone. You push yourself more. You go places you wouldn’t normally go. You become much more independent traveling alone. The travel episodes I remember most do not come with people I know. They come with new acquaintances, new experiences, and new observations I would have closed myself off to if I were traveling with someone. Regardless, no one can convince me that little hints of loneliness do not creep into those solo itineraries. I know I will settle comfortably into traveling this summer, with or without others, but there will be those moments of loneliness. I will face the nights when the mean, probably green, loneliness monster will invade a stop on my itinerary.
I am still left with this annoying, lingering traveling loneliness. How do you cure it? Head to the corner bar in town and throw a few back to ease the awkwardness of sitting alone? That sounds pretty appealing, but sometimes travelers just need to burrow in their travel loneliness. There may be other cures, but here are mine for all of those travel lonely hearts out there.
1. Pack That Favorite Movie, TV show, or Book
Last summer I had less than a pleasant travel experience abroad. I found myself incredibly alone, at one of those cheesy crossroads moments, not knowing where to go and who would receive me on the other end. I did have a computer and I did pack a few of my favorite movies and TV shows. Those nights when I am incredibly lonely traveling, not in the mood to brave the unknown because I have been braving it all day, popping in a good romantic comedy could always set me straight. My mind would forget my loneliness and I would pour into those favorite characters. Many discourage sticking to these securities. You should go out and meet people. Rather, I clutch these DVDs like a blanket. Some nights socializing is not an option. You don’t have to talk to the TV, unless you really desire unreciprocated conversation.
2. Surround Yourself with Food and Drink
Whether you can head down to a local supermarket, find an appealing restaurant, or discover those jackpot stands selling the town’s specialty, go eat, drink and be merry. Food and drink always help me battle travel loneliness. I have found going out to get a bite to eat also leads to experiences and stories I would have never had if I just stayed in, digging through the apartment refrigerator. Get some fresh air. Pick up a gelato. Chocolate is the root of all happiness.
3. Find a Bench, Sit, and People Watch
People-watching always takes my mind off of being lonely when I travel. I think it has something to do with being distracted by other cultures’ clothes and outfit combinations. It is also fascinating to just observe people interacting, speculating on their relationships and lives. I developed this skill probably from my sister who loves to look around restaurants for those awkward first dates. She comes up with stories about the pairing and how the date is going from their body languages. Perhaps it is just for entertainment, but people watching throughout travel always puts my mind in a different world, separate from my loneliness.
4. Be a Tourist
Sight-see like it’s your job. If you are traveling for pleasure, it is your job. Instead of staying in with a tub of ice cream, get out and peruse museum after museum and every church in Europe. That should keep you busy for a while. I tend to get annoyed when people are those typical tourists, stopping in the middle of the street with an entire line of locals trying to get by. However, these annoying tourists can also be your best friends. The stories that come from going to tourist traps are priceless. Also, accepting that you too are a foreigner wanting to see all of the main attractions can help with feeling lonely. You are not alone, but part of a curious group of people interested in learning about a destination. Standing in a long line for the Sistine Chapel may be worth it to see one of the greatest ceilings in the world, but those characters in line are a part of the whole experience.
Do you have a cure for solo travel loneliness? Please share yours in the comment box below. I’m leaving soon and need more ideas to battle the travel loneliness monster.