Quick disclaimer : I'm not a vulgar person but my vocabulary can be colourful. My life is R-rated and my website occasionally reflects that. Be aware of some frank language. All my photos are PG, but please read blogs before sharing with kids.
Don’t you get sick of feeling alone all the time?
You must get so lonely!
But don't you wanna share that with someone else?
Most of my travels have been solo. Yes, I do have friends. And they are lovely. ; - ) But being granted two separate years off work meant there weren’t a lot of available travel companions. So, many solo trips have been taken out of necessity; nowadays, I love it for its simplicity. I still choose to travel with friends, but traveling alone is definitely my jam.
Let’s all agree on one thing: The people you hang out with can make or break your trip. The right companion, even for a day, is a game changer. But you're not gonna click with everyone you meet just because you’re the same age and you can both commiserate about the weight of your respective backpacks.
Most times when I've felt lonely, I wasn’t actually alone. I just felt like an outsider. Or a dinosaur. I was either spending time with someone with whom I didn’t connect, or a group of people I couldn’t relate to.
That’s powerful. Admit it or not, most of the time we’re searching for a stronger connection than a near-stranger's company. That need to interact and connect with other humans is an incredibly strong impulse. And if you can't find that bond in your hostel's lounging room, then that's what Skype or Facetime is for.
Keep doing what you love
I never feel lonely with a book in my hands. Ever. So I make sure to bring tons of them with me and I take full advantage of hostels’ book exchange shelves. Music is another huge companion in my life. If I’m feeling out of sorts, I’ll walk around by myself or sit on a park bench and people-watch with my headphones on -- a guaranteed mood-switcher. Whether your thing is to paint, play an instrument, dance, photograph, draw, whatever. Travel is a version of removal, but your favorite things shouldn’t be removed from your travels. So keep doing what you’ve always loved doing, and throughout your adventures those creature comforts will go a long way towards providing... well, comfort.
Stay in solo-friendly spots
The backpacking / hostel circuit allows you to meet like-minded people because of its social structure (I like hostelbookers.com, hostelworld.com and booking.com). They’ll have social areas like a lounge or a bar, sometimes even a pool. Now, you younger travellers: If you’d socialize with anyone willing to do shots with you, then you’ll have no problem finding peers, especially in the cheaper hostels. My experience was slightly different. As a 30-year-old who was kinda over the let’s get shit-faced scene, good travel mates (and good party mates!) didn’t fall from the sky. At times, I pondered whether I was too old for the backpacking circuit (NEVER! ), but then I’d meet women my age, or in their 50s and 60s! These older chicas were kick-ass, beautiful, strong souls who stayed in hostels strictly to keep the social juices flowing and to meet other solo travellers.
Enjoy a travel routine
I tend to be pretty all over the place with my schedule; some days are filled from sunrise to sunset, others are a blank slate. If you enjoy routines, find out when breakfast is served and plan your morning around it. Sign up for day tours with your hostel - surprisingly, they’re usually a ton of fun! Visit the same spots every day: the same café, the same food vendor, the same trattoria for lunch. Learn people’s names - locals will recognize you and you’ll enjoy those bits of familiarity. Leave room for spontaneity, but little routines will make foreign travel feel less foreign without taking away from its cultural benefits.
Stay open and approach others
Traveling alone makes you more approachable. Remember that there are countless others in the same situation; you’re not the only one who might feel like a fish out of water. I've seldom jumped into a giggling gaggle of girls, but I have plopped myself down next to countless other solo backpackers. So at breakfast, sit down next to that friendly face and ask them about the coffee. Or the local bus system. Or the book sitting in front of them. Whatever.
In Greece, after offering to take someone's photo, I ended up enjoying a few cold beers in the sunshine with a kickass Scottish widow in her late 60s. She was an absolute hoot and one of the best drinking buddies I’ve ever had! Also, locals (patrons and employees in hostels and restaurants) are usually much friendlier when they know you're flying solo - they either think you're crazy or they feel sorry for you. Regardless, I've been offered friendly conversations and smiles (not to mention complimentary beer and dessert) just for sitting there on my own.
Every once in a while, I’ll splurge on my own bedroom so that I don't have to chat with random roommates (or listen to them snore). Some of the coolest people I’ve met travel alone simply because they want to; they’re amongst the most confident, badass, self-assured, happy people with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to share space.
Most people aren’t modern-day Gandhis or life-saving superheroes; they’ll rarely have Chris Hemsworth’s charm or Brad Pitt’s cute dimples (ah, Brad Pitt’s dimples...). But SO MANY people out there are awesome and unique in their own distinct way, and it doesn’t usually shine through at first. It takes time, and it’s always rewarding to discover that that kind of person has just stepped onto your life stage, even for just a day.
So don’t take any of it too seriously. There are many lovely people out there that, for some reason or another, you just won't jive with or will simply never have the time to get to know.
And then! Then, there are the people that you’ll REALLY jive with... You may have to search them out or you may naturally fall into a friendship with them, but they’ll shape the fabric of your time abroad. Years afterwards, I may not recall every detail of the gothic Sevilla Cathedral, but I won't forget the orange-throwing battle with Jared, Jay, Ash and Kim that one Christmas Eve. Or wearing lederhosen and a dirndl at Oktoberfest with Pat, singing madly as the oompah band played Metallica and somehow made it sound AWESOME. Or the yacht trip through the Whitsunday Islands, where I met a hilarious Swiss farm girl named Delphine. I will always have fond memories of Tammy, Danielle&Simon, Pia and Kailash in Thailand and be grateful for their beautiful spirits. As for Mr. Tom, well... We may not be friends for life, but he brought light back into my life and MADE my trip across Andalucia. Were these friendship ever to fade, the memories never will.
Oh, and then there was that adorable guy Steve in Australia...
You get my point.
Happy travels, my friend. xx
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