Whether you’re clutching a backpack in the middle of the Sahara or feeling invisible in a party hostel, it’s rare you’ll find someone who enjoys the ‘clutch moments’ of being lonely. And while getting the blues can lead to increased confidence once the ordeal is over, in those bleak moments it can be hard to remember why you put yourself in the situation in the first place.
Fortunately for any solitary travellers out there, a trending thread in Reddit’s r/solotravel community has some smart advice on how to beat lonliness while travelling.
“I embark on my first solo journey next week,” Reddit user ‘Canvaseyes’ recently posted. “After being on this and similar threads for a few days (and especially in the wake of covid), I think it’s time to have a broad discussion. This will apply more broadly than to just our solo travels, but given I’m about to depart on one, I could benefit from the focused discussion.”
The topic of discussion? Loneliness.
“Have you experienced profound loneliness, especially if on the road? How did you manage it? Especially if you’re someone who is single/without involved family or even a like-minded friend group. Any advice on how to really settle into yourself while solo traveling, or even in the aftermath of it?”
“For those of us still figuring it out: Where are you at with your feelings of connection? Any thoughts or concerns? Anything we can help you with?” the author of the thread added.
The best insight, we’d argue, was buried in response to these questions, halfway down the thread: “There will be times on your trip when you’ll feel lonely. When that happens take a second to try and relax, to understand what makes you feel that way right then, and that’s it’s okay to feel that.”
“You could try not to think too much about it when those thoughts cross your mind. I find moments like those helpful for understanding myself better.”
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Another interesting insight, courtesy of another user, is that being physically alone isn’t the only thing that can make you feel lonely: “I never felt lonely when I was on a solo trip. But felt lonely when traveling with friends. I think it has a lot to do with expectations.”
Another solo traveller lent their advice to others, writing: “A big part of enjoying travel is not trying to see everything. Instead try to really enjoy what you are experiencing in the moment. If you didn’t hit everything you planned for, you have a reason to come back.”
Not to mention: there are various benefits to being the master of your own itinerary, which the same user pointed out: “After the joy of solo travel, I could never again subject myself to a 6am wakeup and run for a tour bus. That’s not pleasure, that’s a morning commute!”
Another user touted the benefits of going with the flow – a broader travel tip which can help you avoid bouts of loneliness too: “Sometimes the best parts are when things don’t work out as expected. A few years ago I was camping my way around Iceland, and the forecast one rainy day was for 90kph+ winds. I managed to get the last hostel bed in the country that night, and although I had to skip a planned stop to make it to the hostel, the experience at that hostel changed the way I travel, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
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Another said, in their experience, lowering your expectations on socialisation when travelling at the beginning of the trip can help too: “When I am on a solo trip, I do not expect engaging with anyone socially. Which in a way, makes me open to anyone approaching me.”
“A short conversation feels like a lot. And, if that short conversation leads to having a meal or a drink or a destination visit, it feels great. Like 0 to 100. After that, I can just go back to my solitude state.”
Of course, being Reddit, a few users took the chance to brag. It wasn’t all hot air though; in doing so they revealed another way to find social connections when travelling: dating apps (and staying in the right kind of accommodation).
“I’ve travelled solo extensively and never felt lonely, but I’m very comfortable being alone. I view it as a positive, not a negative. But I also enjoy being in the company of others when I feel like it, and that’s always available via hostels and Tinder.”
This then led into a discussion around how to make your Tinder profile more attractive as a traveller, with the key insights, from one Tinder using traveller, is to come across as interesting, authentic, and self-sufficient.
“My personal advice is to make your profile interesting, especially if you’re into travelling, have someone (for example a couple you photographed) snap a pic of you in front of a nice view too.”
The key themes of a successful profile? According to this Reddit user: “action, beautiful nature and fun.”
“It’s exciting to meet someone who’s self-sufficient enough and capable of making travel plans and executing them successfully. Also show your main interests (Are you a foodie? Do you love coffee/ music/ dance? Bikepacker, backpacker? Ride horses? Love a certain destination? We want to kinda get an advertisement for you if that makes sense) I (now 22f) personally was on Tinder for the sole purpose of finding travel buddies (my parents didn’t want to let me go alone when I was younger) and with reasonable success.”
“You can’t go wrong with a picture with a large dog, some active sport activity (your face/body can look like crap here, all that matters is the fun/excitement and joy you’re having) (water-splashing pictures such as water-skiing, rafting or bathing in waterfalls always made good contrast) picture in front of a scenic panorama or with children in a foreign country,” the same user added.
Bringing the discussion back to travel, further users discussed the kinds of trips that made them loneliest.
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“I have been traveling for 5 years, and the only time I felt lonely, like really lonely, was when I spent 10 months in Australia living in a campervan by myself.” There was a silver lining though, they said, to being lonely – personal growth.
“It was a very tough year, but it was very enlightening too. As hard as it was to be so alone most of the time, I recommend everyone to, at least once in your life, spend a couple of months alone, with minimum contact with other people, like a personal retreat. You will learn things about yourself that you couldn’t if you never do it, it was such a hard and dark time in my life, but I was always hopeful because I was choosing the way I was living, and now I understand why it happened.”
“You will feel stronger than ever, afraid of nothing, you will realize that you can be happy by yourself, you don’t need people anymore, so your relationships will be a lot healthier, no attachments. When something or someone is not good for you, you will leave right then and there, because you are not afraid of loneliness, you can easily let go of anything or anyone.”
Finally, one user’s comment sums the thread up well: “Keep yourself busy exploring the place… Initiate contact… [And] solitude isn’t for everyone.”