It was a gloomy morning on that third day in Buenos Aires and the clouds and cold gathering outside my hostel window were hardly inviting. I woke up feeling under the weather and lay in bed feeling alone. It was my first time solo traveling and that initial high of being a traveler extraordinaire had given way to a darker sentiment. I was utterly alone in this city, in this country, on this continent.
Surrounded by my journal and a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, it dawned on me that I could stay locked away in that hostel room the entire trip. There would be no cavalry of friends to swoop me away for brunch, no boyfriend to spoon me in the early morning hours, no rush of family to make sure I was okay. If I didn’t pick myself up, no one would. With that, I pushed myself out of bed, gave myself a hug and went out to explore Argentina.
While I am quick to speak to the adventure of solo traveling, it would be disingenuous if I didn’t speak to one of its necessary evils: loneliness. Feeling alone while solo traveling is a reality that will nip at your heels when you least expect it. We are much more resilient, resourceful and stronger than we give ourselves credit for and it is through solo traveling that you confront the best and worst parts of your personality. If you fear feeling lonely while solo traveling, look to these tips to beat it.
1. Embrace Being Solo
While solo traveling throughout Argentina and Uruguay, I ran through the emotional spectrum. I felt inspired and invincible; if I could set out into the world solo then surely I could handle anything back home. I felt indifferent and would simply enjoy soaking in the sounds, sights and flavors of the destination as I floated from restaurant to park, park to wine bar, wine bar to monument.
I felt reflective as I thought back to problems I had been dealing with back at home and asked myself the hardball questions I had been actively avoiding. I felt vibrant and full of life; times where I’d be surrounded by new friends or running over jungle roads in Iguazu with a smile plastered across my face. I’d feel lonely too; it was just another emotion on a brilliant display of sentiments washing over me during my solo trip. Loneliness while solo traveling can be inevitable but there is something truly beautiful about learning how to comfort yourself. If feeling lonely, rather than dodge it–embrace it.
2. Carry What Makes You Comfortable
As a writer I draw comfort from journals and books. My journals reflect back at me my innermost thoughts while my books offer escape, advice or solace in harder moments. When I was solo traveling, I found my book and journal to be a surprising source of comfort–be it writing at a cafe or reading on a park bench–the things I carried became an extension of myself. Bring what makes your comfortable.
3. Get to Know Yourself
It’s said the most important relationship we will ever have is the one we have with ourselves. There is something inspiring about getting to know yourself, learning the intricacies of your personality and embracing yourself for all you are. Having left my life in New York in an upheaval, it was freeing to go to Argentina and begin to untangle the emotions and thoughts in my mind. There is beauty in walking through colorful streets solo, having a good meal with nothing but a book and listening to your thoughts as they pass by.
4. Stay Connected
If you are feeling lonely, it is a comfort to know that friends and family are just a phone call, e-mail, or text message away. In the age of digital nomads and travel blogging, I am always documenting my adventures on this blog, my Instagram and other social media accounts and as a result I receive some of the most encouraging responses, comments and notes from readers who remind me why it is I do what I do.
If feeling lonely, never forget that you are part of a vibrant community of travelers who are supportive. Never forget that your loved ones are only a call away and that while you may feel alone, you never truly are alone.
5. Say Hello
One of the best parts of solo travel are the people I have met–from the friendly Aussie rugby player who is a self-proclaimed foodie, to the recently graduated American college kid making his way to Chile, to the British-Italian fella backpacking his way throughout South America–it was incredible to connect with people from around the world. None of these serendipitous encounters would have happened without a simple “hello.”
If you remain open minded, friendly and curious then you will find yourself meeting new people and swapping stories with other travelers. Of course, it is important to stay safe and remain savvy so while chance encounters have their appeal, your intuition and common sense are your best companions.
6. Make a Playlist
On my Spotify, I have a “solo travel” playlist filled with inspirational songs that evoke feelings of adventure, happiness and calmness. Music is a great way to lift your mood, push yourself forward and inspire you when needed. Here’s my solo travel playlist.
7. Consider Joining Local Tours
While in Buenos Aires, I joined a local foodie tour with Parrilla Food Tour Buenos Aires to explore the cuisine. The tour was led by a local ex-pat who took our group around to ice cream shops and eateries. It was an amazing experience to not only try authentic, Argentine dishes but to also meet the other travelers on the tour and connect over a shared love of travel and food. If feeling lonely while solo traveling, look to join tours to explore your destination! It is a great way to meet people while also learning about the place you’re visiting.
Have you solo traveled before? Share your best tips for tackling loneliness while solo traveling! For more tips on solo traveling, check out our SOLO TRAVEL section.