– A Practical Survival Guide
When Traveling Alone and Feeling Lonely –
A few days ago, I left to go to the beautiful Indonesian island of Bali. I’m here on a solo trip to spend the winter until the warmer weather returns to Belgium. Even though I have been on many solo travels, the truth is, that what happens to many people – and also to me at times, is that upon arriving in a strange new country, with different food, another currency, a different culture, and with no one you know, is what many will refer to as homesickness. What you are in fact experiencing however, at a deeper level, is loneliness. A feeling that arises out of a lack of the right amount of emotional connection from others, from people you feel understand you. It is by far one of the most unpleasant feelings in the spectrum of emotions, one that can cause severe pain, deep down where it hurts the most – the heart. Trust me I know the feeling, in fact, to be in honest with you, I felt it on this trip in Bali. It surprised me and it sucks to feel lonely in a place you’ve been looking forward to going to for days, weeks and months. But do not worry, if you are reading this, traveling alone and feeling lonely like I did, I hope the following practical tips that I have picked up through 6 years of traveling will help you. They always do for me. Do note one thing before reading on: you cannot expect change to just happen if you aren’t willing to take action and do something. Effort on your part is required. Don’t just lock yourself up in your room away from the outside world. There aren’t any magic words that I, or anyone, can say that will remove the actual loneliness. It all comes down to interaction and finding people you can connect with – in person. And for that to happen, you do need to venture outside your room.
Now, let’s dig into it by introducing you to a wilderness survival rule called the rule of three. It goes as follows: 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food, and 3 months without any social interaction. This easy to remember rule isn’t just to be used when you are in the wilds of nature, but also in the wilderness of being in another country. And while they might be acted upon slightly differently when lost in the wilds, the similarities when traveling alone and feeling lonely in a different country are very much the same. Let’s break them down.
3 Minutes Without Air: You can survive for 3 Minutes without air (oxygen) or in icy water. To translate this when you are feeling lost in a new country; simply stop – count to 3, take 3 deep breaths in – and out, whenever any overwhelming emotion is taking hold over you. Yes, this works. When the feeling of loneliness creeps within you, stop, count to 3, and take 3 deep breaths in and out. Give yourself a little pat on the shoulder, and go on with the next rule.
3 Hours Without Shelter: The next most important thing in survival – shelter. Luckily, you don’t need to stress about building one yourself. Just make sure to have your hostel, hotel or Airbnb already arranged before arriving. Allow yourself to rest well for the first few days, especially if you are in a different time zone. Being jetlagged or not receiving enough sleep messes enormously with your body and causes mood changes. This results in the feeling of loneliness being triggered much more easily. Keep this in mind if you are traveling alone and feeling lonely, a lot of it may simply be down to the fact that your body and mind has not had enough rest or adapted to the different time zone. After a good nights’ sleep, or after 3-4 days of allowing your body to adapt, you’ll start to feel a lot more stable inside, and the mood swings should reduce.
3 Days Without Water: Water, along with oxygen, are the only two things in life that if we go without them for just a short period of time, we would die. Always drink enough water! And I specifically mean water. Most liquids such as coffee, tea, soda, alcohol, Gatorade, and sugary fruit drinks do not hydrate like pure water. When you are traveling, because your attention is being grabbed at by so many different things, it can often happen that you forget to drink enough water. Always try to remind yourself to get enough on board. There’s even an app to remind you, so if you are likely to forget, simply get the Water Drink Reminder app on your phone. Please do take this seriously, dehydration affects the body dramatically. The first symptom is a headache and tiredness. You will feel like you don’t want to do anything, you will be lethargic, with no energy. So, if you are feeling down, ask yourself how much water have you drunk so far today. Traveling alone and feeling lonely can be hard enough, so don’t make it any harder on yourself by ignoring this simple tip. Note that in countries with warmer climates drinking 1 liter isn’t enough. You should be aiming more for 3 liters a day.
3 Weeks Without Food: Don’t screw yourself over by eating fast food, or other unhealthy foods. A lot of our well-being is determined by the food we eat. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Your happiness and energy levels will rise or drop down depending on what you consume. So, eat fruits and vegetables and put some vitamins in that body of yours. You’ll notice energy and strength coming back in no time!
3 Months Without Social Interaction: Alright, this part is probably the one you were looking to read in the first place. It was important however to point out the other “rules” too though, as they, just as much as this one, are important when you want to take care of your own well-being. Be sure to take them just as seriously as this one. Now, the biggest reason most people don’t dare to go solo traveling is that they are scared to end up alone. Which is an understandable concern to have. No one wants to be alone. In general, however, finding fellow travelers is by far the least thing to fear. And while this is true, it does slightly depend on which country you go to, how open you are in starting a chat with anyone, and the way you travel. I mostly recommend to others to stay at hostels as they are an easy way to directly meet travelers as you’ll be sleeping with 4,6,8,12, or even 35 people in the same room. Of course, if you would rather sleep alone, you can also choose to have a private room. Many hostels also organize fun events and other activities. By far, hostels are awesome, and truly THE hub for travelers. Now, I do not expect everyone to stay at hostels. Some like to have their own place. Which is in fact, how I travel these days. While I used to travel from hostel to hostel around a country, which is a fun way of traveling, today, my style of traveling has changed slightly due to work, and personal preference. I now rent a place for a fixed time, like here in Bali where I am staying for a month in an apartment in Ubud. This gives me a place to call home, while doing day trips, or multi-day trips from that location. When you travel this way, meeting people goes a little bit differently as they aren’t just going to be in your room, like in a hostel (at least you hope not!). The good news though is that there are many other ways to connect with not just fellow travelers, but also with locals.
Here they are:
Facebook Groups: Most of us have a Facebook profile but are only using it to go through our feed or check out other people their profiles and to see what awesome lives’ they are living… Why not use it next time for the actual potential it has to connect with other people in person. How? Through joining Groups and Events. Every time I travel, I search for any interesting groups to join or any events that may be happening when I am there. How does it work? Just go to search and enter the place you’re going to. For example, with Bali, I simply searched for Bali and joined all the groups that looked interesting. What I did next was I searched more specifically for the town/city I was staying in, which was Ubud. There too I joined all the groups that looked the most interesting to me, and then, I wrote a post in those groups, as shown in the photo below, asking if anyone wanted to meet. And guess what, I received quite a few replies. I easily met some new friends just by posting that simple post. Yep, it’s that simple folks! For events, just have a look what is happening near you, and go along. You can even reach out beforehand by sending a message to some of the people who are going, so you could go together.
Meetup: So, what if you do not have a Facebook profile? Or if you want to search other platforms but don’t know which ones there are. Not a problem, try Meetup. It’s an incredible platform that I used a ton when I was living in Barcelona. I’ve met some lifelong friends and loads of interesting people through it. If you’ve never heard about Meetup, in a quick summary, it’s a platform where you can join “Meetups” from all sorts of categories such as Business, Tech, Health & Wellness, Sports & Fitness, Learning, Music, etc. It’s used in many big cities all around the world. It’s a great way to find like-minded people as it allows you to search for very specific categories. I can only recommend you give it a try. It’s an awesome platform with tons of awesome people on it.
Couchsurfing Hangouts: Initially Couchsurfing was a website meant solely to find a couch to crash on when traveling. Through the years though, there have been some neat functions added to enabling you to meet fellow travelers. One of them is Hangouts and could be one of the easiest solutions if you are traveling alone and feeling lonely. This rather new function is a nice way to find people who are also looking to hang out. If you download the Couchsurfing app, fill in your profile and click on “Hangouts”. Here you can let people in your area know what you are up to. For example, grab beers, drink tea or coffee, explore the area, go hiking, etc. Others who also have their hangout active can find you, or you can get in touch with them. It’s used quite broadly around the world, so is definitely worth a look.
Call Home: The last one that I want to share, call home. When you are traveling alone and feeling lonely, this might be exactly what is needed. It might sound like an obvious thing to do, but sometimes the obvious can be forgotten. Don’t feel like you need to keep this mix of emotions all to yourself. Call up your family, or your friends and have a chat. The comfort from hearing a familiar voice and some advice when you are traveling alone and feeling lonely can get you right back on your feet again. Here on this trip in Bali, it was exactly that which helped me. I called up my sister, shared how I was feeling, heard some of her advice (yes sometimes I need some too) and felt way much better afterwards. Thanks for that, sis!
Question about this article: In which country are you currently feeling lonely? And what are your thoughts on why?
Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
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