It’s official, it’s no longer crazy to quit your job to travel full time, it’s now a trend! And, it’s increasingly popular for solo travelers. If you plan to become one of them, you may be concerned about getting lonely. This is one of the top questions I’m asked about by people considering full time travel on their own. In this post, I’m going to talk about the risk of loneliness and how to work around it. it’s important to point out that loneliness impacts all genders, and I’ve been touched by this fact when it’s come up in my Facebook group for full time travelers. Let’s start out with some of the difficulties you may face as a solo traveler.
From my perspective, we are never alone. Sure, you might be alone in your room at night (if you’re not sharing it with others in a hostel) or alone at a café table, but, if you look around you at any point (except hopefully the bathroom) you’ll notice that you are, in fact, never alone. There are always people nearby. The trick is, they may not know you, and you may not know them. So, in essence, your challenge is getting to know people, more than it is about being alone.
Doing Everything Yourself
Another challenge the solo traveler faces is that most activities that are a pain in the neck are things you’ll have to do yourself. The packing, the planning, the carrying your bags up a staircase, the getting from your place to the bus or train station by metro…this can get a bit tiring. I’ve noticed, however, that once I’m settled in, this inconvenience is nothing of importance because I now get to explore a whole new world.
Clearly, if you’re solo traveling, you’re also paying all the bills on your own, so you, more than couples and groups, need to use a myriad of smart strategies to cut down your travel costs.
OK, enough of the downsides, let’s focus on how you can start getting to know more strangers. As a female solo traveler, I do advocate intuition above all else and be safe in your choices. Here are a few suggestions that often work well, and tend to be safe:
1. Make Connections Before You Arrive
When you plan to go to a new country, reach out to friends, family, and your Facebook crew to see if you can make new connections before you arrive. If your immediate network can’t help you, join a Facebook group specific to the country you plan to go, and ask if someone will meet up with you. As a former Big Apple Greeter in New York, I can also share a wonderful resource – the International Greeter Association. Available in many places around the world, you can ask them to get you a city guide (free of charge) who will not only show you some of the wonderful places to see, but they may even become a local friend or contact. Even if it’s only a half day, you still get to enjoy someone else’s company during that time!
2. Go To the Same Cafe Or Restaurant Every Day
I learned this one living in France as a student, and it has worked for me everyplace I’ve been since then. If you find a favorite café or restaurant go there every day you’re in that city. (This presumes you’re there for at least a week). The staff will start recognizing you and if you’re an introvert, this can be an easier way to meet someone local who you feel more comfortable asking for advice about what to do and where to go. Bonus, they may even invite you to join them for a coffee or a meal.
3. Take A Local Tour
Walking or day tours are an excellent way to meet other people as you travel. So are classes, like a cooking class or a specific activity like crafts, wine tasting, etc. You’ll be in a group of other travellers and it becomes much easier to strike up conversations with them. On one of my tours in Thailand, I met a wonderful solo traveler from England who, like me, had quit her job to travel, and we became “check-in buddies”. We let each other know where we were headed over the next year, and checked in to let one another know we were safe. We even met up in Santiago, Chile, about a year later.
4. Check Out A Youth Hostel
Even if you’re not staying in a hostel, they tend to have a lot of group events that you can probably join. You may have to pay more for them since you’re not staying there, but I learned about a fabulous yerba mate class in Argentina by seeing the events at a hostel, as one example. Locals tend to advertise lesser known, interesting, events in hostels. You’ll not only learn about unique activities, but you’re also very likely to make friends from the hostel and end up with a dinner companion!
Speaking from personal experience, it’s actually a lot harder to be on your own as a solo traveler than you may think. If you simply step outside your room, you’re very likely to be invited to join someone for a meal, meet a new friend, or be asked to join someone to discover a new place. In the end, you don’t need to be afraid of loneliness as a solo traveler if you’re willing to show up with a smile, and openness to making a new friend.