It’s an undeniable fact that as rewarding as travel can be, it can also be very challenging, both physically and emotionally.
One common problem I find among all travelers, both solo and in groups, is coping with the few, but intense moments of loneliness that inevitably arise.
Though not often mentioned, this should not come as a surprise – after all, in a new country, you are away from your culture, your family, your friends and often your own language. If loneliness is born out of an inability to be understood or a lack of company, then travel seems like a shortcut to it.
Speaking as a battle-worn veteran in the field, there are a few things you can do when the blues strike you on your trip. After all, on a short trip, time is of the essence, and nobody wants to look back thinking of how they spent their Mexican vacation on skype.
1. Write to your friends and family at home, but try not to call or talk to them too much directly.
Writing a letter or e-mail about your trip can feel like company, and going over the sights and places you’ve been to can make you appreciate them. It is a double-edged sword, however; hearing news from home can make you feel isolated and disconnected, and of course trigger a severe bout of homesickness.
2. Go questing.
This doesn’t mean attempt to steal the crown jewels if you’re in London, or scale the Pyramids of Giza. Rather, it means go on a photoshoot – deliberately looking for shots. Go hunting for stories, go on a hike for a set number of miles, make a list of two or three sites to see in a day and go do it. A lot of loneliness stems from a lack of distraction, which can happen when you’re in a place with no fixed agenda. Setting goals for yourself to finish by the end of the day gives you something to focus on, and often a visible result to enjoy.
3. Eat chocolate.
I cannot stress the potency or universality of this substance. It works.
4. Don’t think of it as a failure, or a sign of your trip going badly.
Many are pressured by the idea that strong, adventurous travellers do not entertain loneliness, either because they just don’t feel it or because they’re too engrossed by their new surroundings. This myth, taken too seriously, can become a bit of a personal burden. While we would all like to be endlessly cheerful and resilient, we’d all also like to have six-packs and never have bad hair days. It doesn’t happen. As humans, our energy can flag. The important thing is to recognize it and cope with it, rather than miserably refuse to acknowledge feelings out of pride.
5. Be sad if you need to.
If you’re really feeling the blues, sometimes a night out or forcing yourself into an activity you’re not enthusiastic about can make it worse. Doing something enjoyable alone – like a walk through a park, or a visit to a museum – can help you reboot your batteries, and find solace in your own company.
6. But not too sad.
The flipside to this is that it doesn’t mean you should stay in your hotel room and watching youtube. Try to be doing something. While we all enjoy a good pity party, they’re more harmful than helpful in the end.
For those of you looking forward, GGG writer Rebecca offers tips for solo travel and writer Rease talks about the unexpected rewards to be found in building yourself a support system in a foreign country.