How to Deal With Loneliness While Traveling (Even as Introvert)
Sometimes it hits right at the beginning of their trip, sometimes later on. But feeling lonely while traveling is such a common occurrence that you can’t really run away from it. Only learn how to deal with it.
As a long-term traveler, I have gotten used to living a life of goodbyes. In general, I don’t find it hard to detach and I appreciate the short time I have with people more and more. But even so, loneliness is something I know well, especially as an introverted traveler who does not always connect to people easily. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away completely. And I am okay with that.
Loneliness makes us feel isolated from the rest of the world – ironically, it is also what connects us. We all go through phases of loneliness and understanding this is already some comfort.
Let me tell you what I learned about loneliness in many years of traveling.
Are you alone or lonely?
Between alone and lonely, there are worlds of difference. Many times, I have felt lonely amongst a crowd full of caring, kind people. And some of my happiest moments I have experienced completely on my own. Alone and free.
Loneliness is an internal feeling and it depends little on your outer circumstances. It comes from within. Being alone does not mean that you are lonely. Just as much as having company is not a cure for loneliness.
Some paths in life need to be walked alone. And traveling can be such an experience. Not everyone will understand what you are doing, not always will you have guidance.
Loneliness can be transformative. It can scar people, but if you let it, it can be the spark for personal growth.
Dealing with loneliness while traveling
The strategies for dealing with loneliness fall into two categories. Your mindset and inner attitude towards what you are experiencing play a big role. The other part is reaching out to people, seeking out the connection you are missing. Let’s start with how you can develop your mindset to deal with loneliness better.
Mindset tips to deal with loneliness
Nothing is permanent
The most important thing to remember is that nothing is ever permanent. Life is flowing, everything is changing. And your feelings of loneliness shall pass, too.
They may feel unbearable as you experience them, but knowing that they will not last forever can be a hand to hold onto.
Sometimes, life is not about changing your situation. It is just about accepting and making it through. By simply accepting that you are feeling this way, things often already start looking brighter.
Loneliness is a feeling, and feelings pass.
Do some soul-searching
If you feel lonely while traveling, ask yourself why you feel that way. What lies underneath?
Often, being lonely and isolated is not the reality of a situation, only your perception. If you frequently feel this way, explore if there is maybe some inner wound being triggered.
Are you really as lonely as you think? What is it that you actually desire? Do you wish to be heard, to be acknowledged, to belong?
Doing some soul-searching to understand the deeper reasons behind your loneliness can help to guide your next steps and address your actual needs.
Be your own best friend
As a solo traveler, you are the only person you take wherever you go. Learn how to be your own best friend and you will always be in good company.
If you cannot enjoy being alone, why is that? Is it so hard to accept yourself for who you are?
Even though I always naturally enjoyed being on my own – typical introvert -, I had to learn a lot about self-love. I had to learn how to talk to myself kindly, just as I would talk to a friend. I had to accept my natural inclination towards being a lone wolf, letting go of the fear of judgment.
You are the one constant in your life, the one person you will literally spend all your life with. So get comfortable with spending time with yourself. If you do not appreciate yourself, how can you expect to be appreciated by others?
Take time for yourself
As an introverted traveler, I need my alone time. Being in hostels surrounded by people can be very overwhelming to me. If I do not honor my need for solitude, I easily start feeling lonely, despite being among others.
Maybe this time of loneliness is a good moment to recharge your social batteries? You may feel lost, but maybe this time is exactly what you need.
Taking time for yourself is essential for being able to show up in full force again. Only if you are connected to yourself you can connect to others authentically. Take time to rest and recharge when you need it.
Tips for reaching out to people
If you feel lonely while traveling and you think connecting with others is what you are missing, start reaching out. Trust me, even introverts can do it, I did and survived (multiple times).
Don’t expect others to make the first step
This tip against loneliness comes from the first-hand experience. Especially in the past, I always waited for other people to approach me. I was shy, after all, and usually, there was some extrovert willing to adopt me. But… in moments when that did not happen, I started feeling like a very lonely traveler.
How much do you contribute to your loneliness? Yes, uncomfortable question, but we have to hold ourselves accountable.
The thing is, you can’t always wait for others to make the first step. When we feel lonely, we tend to feel like nobody likes us or nobody wants to be around us. But that is an assumption, not reality. Maybe the people around you think you are awesome, but just also didn’t gather the courage to talk to you.
Or maybe you feel like the conversations you are having are shallow. Then why don’t you ask questions that go deeper than that? Be brave enough to connect. Maybe it is what your counterpart is craving, too.
If you do not reach out to others, you are possibly keeping yourself lonelier than you need to be.
What works for me, especially when I’m in a group that I already know a little bit, is honestly sharing how I feel. There is no shame in admitting that you are feeling lonely. Pretty much every human soul will understand you – and react with compassion.
Sometimes we need to be the ones sharing first to receive what we are looking for.
Travel with someone for a while
Do you miss having a steady friend by your side? Then maybe you could quit solo traveling – for a while – and get together with someone going in a similar direction.
When you can’t find anyone in your surroundings who has similar plans, look online. There are many Facebook groups and other communities to help you find travel buddies. Even Workaway has a page for that.
Or maybe even a friend from home would like to join your adventure for a while? They can’t stay forever, of course, but if you are only looking to share what you are experiencing, traveling with a friend can be a great way to combat loneliness.
Get involved in a community
One of my favorite ways to combat travel loneliness is to get involved in a community. I sometimes miss having a steady circle of people around me, where you don’t have to answer the same questions every single day during a lot of fleeting interactions.
Volunteering is a great way to stay for a while in a place, lower your expenses, and get to know an area and group of people better than you usually do while traveling.
You have more in common with people than you think
One last piece of advice against loneliness. Remember you are not alone in this world. While loneliness may have us feeling isolated and misunderstood, in reality, you have a lot more in common with people than you think.
Even if you feel like you can’t connect with the people around you, try finding something you have in common. And the more you move towards viewing others from a basic perspective of humanity, the more shared things you will find.
We all want to be loved, happy, safe. We all have experienced sadness, loss, isolation. Be willing to drop the differences that keep us separate. Instead of focusing on how others do not understand you, look for how you can understand them.
To me, the biggest inspiration when it comes to dealing with loneliness is the Dalai Lama. He truly embodies compassion and kindness towards all human beings. And, as can be read in chapter 5 of ‘The Art of Happiness,’ he says of himself that he never gets lonely (even though he does experience feelings of loneliness).
“If you wish to overcome that feeling of isolation and loneliness, I think that your underlying attitude makes a tremendous difference. And approaching others with the thought of compassion in your mind is the best way to do this.”– Dalai Lama
If you meet other people at eye level, you will find they are just like you. And different, too, but in magnificent ways. The world is one, and you are never alone.