How To Overcome Loneliness When Traveling Solo

One reason many people hesitate to travel solo is a fear of loneliness. Although I am an advocate of traveling alone, I will admit sometimes this feeling can begin to seep in. Luckily, there are many ways to overcome the problem. To help you get over your feelings of solitude, use these tips when traveling on your own.

Travel Slower

Many solo backpackers tend to rush from one city to another, trying to fit in as much as possible in the time they have. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t give you much opportunity to meet other travelers, interact with locals and form an attachment to the city. You’ll end up constantly feeling like a confused, lonely outsider in every city you arrive in. However, if you travel slowly, you’ll be able to form relationships with the people, places and things around you. Your hotel will begin to feel like home, the barista at the nearby coffee shop will know your name, you’ll find a favorite park or cafe to hang out in and you’ll form friendships with other travelers and locals. Additionally, a slower pace makes you less likely to come down with a problematic case of Travel Fatigue.

Spend The Night In A Hostel

If you’re not already, stay at a hostel for a few nights. This is a great option for solo travel. Not only will you save money, you’ll be putting yourself in one of the friendliest atmospheres for travelers. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to meet others when staying at a hostel. When searching for the perfect property, make sure there are commons rooms, shared kitchens and social spaces.

Attend Or Set Up A Meetup On CouchSurfing

CouchSurfing is a great tool for when you’re feeling lonely. Simply log on, search for a group related to the city you’re in, join and check the message board to see what meetups people are hosting. If nothing interests you, you can post a message yourself asking if anyone wants to join you on a hike or to meet for dinner.

Scavenger Hunt

Distract Yourself By Doing A Global Scavenger Hunt

One of my favorite new discoveries is Rambler. It let’s you be James Bond for a day and accept “quests” to do quirky and exciting things around the world — a great distraction when you’re feeling lonely. Described as a “worldwide scavenger hunt for travelers, by travelers,” you can post quests as well as search for them with the ability to earn points once challenges have been completed. Once you create your profile, click on “Find Quests” on the homepage. From there, you can type in the country you’ll be traveling to and a list of quests will appear. For example, in the screenshot above you can see I typed in “Australia” and was given missions like “Climb The Sydney Bridge” and “Dive To One Of the Seven Wonders Of The World.” Even if you don’t want to use the service, you can give yourself personal missions. Which leads me to my next tip…

Give Yourself A Mission

Immersing yourself in a goal can help keep you occupied on the task at hand and not thinking about being lonely. There are a few ways you can do this. First of all, you can research the area and plan an itinerary of sights and excursions you think are interesting. Another way to give yourself a mission is to choose a theme or focus for the city and make discoveries based on that. Find the best taco place, the most bizarre piece of art, the cheapest spa or an authentic souvenir. When I was in Denver, Colorado, I made it my mission to find the best artisanal shops in the city. It allowed me to see Denver in a new way and unearth some lesser-known but worthwhile venues.

Join Meetup

Meetup is excellent way to find unique activities to enjoy with like-minded people in the city you’re visiting, especially when you’re feeling lonely. With more than 9,000 groups and about 340,000 monthly meetups in 45,000 cities, they boast being the world’s largest network of local groups. You can search for meetup groups that interest you, join, then attend interesting activities and events. For the most part, the activities and events are usually free or extremely inexpensive to attend. You’ll have to join the groups to RSVP to events, although there is an option to contact the group moderators.

Sit Alone At A Bar

I know what you’re thinking. “But, isn’t that counterproductive?”

Sitting along at a bar is actually one of the best ways to meet other travelers, as you seem more approachable. Not to mention, once you’ve had a drink or two you’ll feel much more comfortable sparking up a conversation with a stranger. If anything, you’ll at least have the bartender to make conversation with. Furthermore, just getting out of your room and surrounding yourself with people can help to make you feel less alone.

Wadi Mujib

Looking out over Wadi Mujib in Jordan. So peaceful, especially when traveling solo.

Do An Activity You’d Rather Do Alone

Personally, there are certain things I would rather do alone, like hiking, exploring a town or going for a run. I like being able to lose myself without any distractions. Think about things you enjoy doing on your own, and spend time doing them.

Connect With Family And Friends

Sometimes loneliness on the road is connected to homesickness. Call your mom, Skype with your best friend or start an email thread where your friends write messages to each other. It’ll be comforting to know there are people at home who miss you and are excited to hear about your trip.

Sign Up For A Group Tour Or Pub Crawl

This is an almost-guaranteed way to meet other people. At the very least, it will give you the sense of doing an activity with others. Group activities are great ways to meet people with similar interests who you can have interesting conversations with, as well as plan other sightseeing excursions with. I recommend companies like Vayable, HipHost and GuideHop as the tours are led by locals and allow you to have truly local experiences like cooking in someone’s hope or experiencing the underground art scene.

Get Inspired By Other Solo Travelers

When you’re feeling down about traveling alone, look at some solo travel blogs and videos and remind yourself of all the great experiences you can have. Doing this will remind you you’re not the first person to travel alone, and while some days may be a bit tougher than others, you shouldn’t let negative feelings ruin the life-enriching opportunity you’ve made for yourself.

Keep A Journal

Keeping a journal can help you get in touch with what you’re really feeling and work through your emotions. Loneliness can be a very difficult thing to deal with, especially if you bottle up your thoughts. If you have nobody you can talk to, talk to yourself through writing. You may also want to consider starting a blog and turning your solo journey into a story for others. It’s likely readers will be inspired by what you’re doing, which can help give some purpose to your solo travel journey.

yoga

Getting in touch with my spiritual side at Petra in Jordan.

Meditate

Meditation can help you focus on the positives of your journey. Instead of dwelling on how lonely and sad you feel, you’ll be able to focus on why you’re feeling the way you are and realize it can be fixed. Once your positive thoughts begin flowing, you can think about how lucky you are to be having the experience of travel. Moreover, solo travel often leads to a positive internal change, and meditating can help you uncover this.

Create A Goal

What do you want to get out of your solo travel journey? Do you want to learn something about yourself? Are you trying to overcome a fear? Do you want to make your trip as adventurous as possible? Set a few goals for yourself — whether focusing on the solo travel aspect or something more general — and then create a plan on how you will achieve these goals. The process may also help you to realize some bucket list items you didn’t even know you had. Instead of thinking about how you’re alone, focus on making your trip into the exact experience you were hoping it would be.

Remember The Benefits Of Solo Travel

If you’re feeling blue about being on your own, grab a pen and write down the benefits of solo travel. Getting to make your own itinerary, learning more about yourself, being more open to meeting new people and having an internal journey are just a few of the perks. You should also make a list of the reasons you enjoy spending time with yourself, and what you’ve learned about yourself so far on the solo journey.

Adapted from my original article on Gadling

6 Comments

  1. In Ireland we say “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet”. I keep this philosophy on the road, and don’t restrict my definition of friend to the sadly restrictive one of someone who I have known since childhood. No matter where you are on the road, if you are open to making a new friend – either with other travellers like yourself, or (more ideally) with those from the location you are visiting – you will never feel alone.

    1. @Maggie- What a great quote 🙂 If I’m ever feeling nervous about going up to someone when I’m traveling solo I just ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” (the person walks away from me), and then “What’s the best that can happen?” (I make a new friend). Luckily, I almost always end up making a new friend, many of whom I’ve stayed in contact with for years.

  2. Such a relatable post. I use couchsurfing to meet new people in pretty much every city I visit. I moved to LA last summer and all my freinds are from CS. Which is a good thing 🙂

    1. @Renuka- Thanks! I agree. Solo travel was life changing for me, and I believe everyone should experience it at least once.

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