Solo travel, in general, is a great way of travelling for introverts. It allows for plenty of alone time, you can decide how much (or little) socializing you want to do, everything happens at your pace. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t also certain pitfalls connected with this kind of travel. There’s one in particular that can affect introverts, especially as it seems so counter-intuitive. Its the problem of getting too much alone-time and consequently experience feelings of loneliness while travelling.
Not possible, you say? I beg to differ. Even introverts can get lonely if we don’t get together with other human beings once in a while. The danger of this happening is particularly great on a solo trip. While not all introverts are necessarily prone to experiencing loneliness in this way while travelling, I still believe it happens often enough to be worth talking about.
When being alone turns into being lonely
Even for introverts, it is possible to spend too much time on our own. Having some time away from our fellow human beings is often essential to our well-being because we need it to recharge. Yet, even for the most unsocial of us, too much of a good thing can become problematic.
Introverts, like all humans, are social beings and need connection. Yes, we may have certain preferences as to how much and what kind we prefer (who doesn’t?), but the basic need is still there. The problem with solo travel is that it can increase the risk of us isolating ourselves and drawing away from others too much. There is no one we necessarily need to see or spend time with when we travel solo. We are free to choose how much we want to socialize, or if at all. This is the big advantage of solo travel, but it can also lead to self-damaging behaviour if we’re not careful.
Too much of a good thing
I know from my own experiences that I can have a tendency to withdraw from others and keep to myself to the point when I start to feel lonely. This is particularly likely to happen when I don’t quite feel on top of things, like when I’m not entirely fit or things haven’t been going well. For example, when I suffered from travel burnout last year while in Patagonia, I avoided others even more than usual.
The problem is that in most cases, those are the times when some human contact would do me the most good, if only I allowed it. If I don’t, it can quickly lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness while I’m travelling. Ironically, these feelings will only make me even less likely to reach out. It takes a certain amount of energy for me to be social, which I simply don’t have when I’m not feeling good. In the worst case, it becomes a negative spiral that can require a lot of effort to get out of.
What to do when you experience loneliness while travelling
In order not to get lonely when travelling solo, you need to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of taking too much time away from people, while still honouring your introvert needs. How much alone time is too much can, of course, vary for each person. You have to identify the point when you need some human interaction. Even if you don’t necessarily feel like making friends. Ideally, you act before you really hit the low. It will be much easier to bring up the energy for socializing when you’re not yet at the point of feeling isolated from everyone and too dull to make conversation. However, even once you reach that spot, there still are a couple of things you can do.
Do NOT do what you usually would
When you feel lonely while travelling, it’s time to shake off your usual routine and change something. Usually, I advise introverts to take time for themselves when they travel, to maintain their energy. And in a lot of cases, that’s exactly what’s needed. But if you’re feeling off because of loneliness, it will only make it worse. So, in this case, you need to actually go out and try to meet some people.
Join a walking tour, or chat with someone in the common room of the hostel. Start a conversation with your roommates if you have any. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s okay to start small. Even just exchanging a few words with the waiter or the barista who makes your coffee can be a start. Alternatively, if you really struggle to have some real-life conversations, call someone at home. Talk to your friends or family. It’s not quite the same as personal contact, but it will help you get out of your own head and remind you that there are people out there who like you and care about you.
Say yes to something
There’s nothing wrong with not joining in activities you don’t enjoy, even if others consider them as vital. As introverts, we need to be conscious of how we use our energy. However, if you’ve spent a lot of time alone, it might be worth saying yes and joining in something you wouldn’t usually do. If some fellow travellers ask you to come along to whatever activity they are up to, just go with them. Even if it’s not usually up your spine, you might find you enjoy being out and active. I’m not saying you need to agree to something you know you’ll hate. But getting just a little bit out of your comfort zone can work wonders.
Get over yourself
Occasionally, when I’ve been alone too long, I don’t want to talk to anyone. Even if somewhere deep down I know it would be good for me. When you reach that point, it’s particularly hard to take the tips above and implement them. Sometimes, people are just so exhausting, aren’t they?
If that’s you, I’m afraid there’s nothing to it but just to get over yourself and talk to someone, whether you feel like it or not. After all, you’re already in a bad mood, can talk to someone really make it worse? Exactly. And just maybe, it’ll make it better. So go and have that conversation with your roommate, with the guy on your tour, with the other tourist you’ve just asked to snap your picture. Once you’ve started, you might even find it enjoyable.
What do you do when you experience loneliness while travelling solo? Any tips on how to get over yourself when you don’t feel like socializing but know it would do you good? Share in the comments.