As a seasoned solo traveler, my motto has always been “Alone, but never lonely!”
I’ve met and spoken to so many women and even men who have been intrigued by the idea of traveling solo, but have always felt a slight hesitation toward the idea. Mainly because they felt like it would be lonely 90% of the time.
Out of the 5 core fears I discussed in one of my previous blog posts, loneliness has always been at the top of the list for the majority of people. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but not that surprising. Psychology says that human beings crave attention, affection and basic human connection. That’s why it’s not surprising that the majority of people choose to travel with family, friends or groups.
Traveling solo isn’t as common as it seems. Yes, more and more millennials (and people of all ages) are traveling alone, but back in the day this was very uncommon and unusual for people to do.
Well I like to think of what my grandparents often say about my solo adventures.
“Why do you always want to be alone? Isn’t it lonely and hard to put everything on your shoulders?” my grandma constantly questions me.
I try to explain to her that traveling solo gives you the feeling of freedom, adventure and spontaneity. But the older generation doesn’t always understand, because they never had the same opportunities when they were growing up. This is why their mentalities and outlooks on life are so different to the younger generation.
That being said, I have definitely met many individuals who are much older than me who rave about traveling alone – but this is a minority of people – maybe the 1%. Many of these older travelers are labeled as hippies, outcasts, drifters, and the black sheep of society. I’m not saying that’s what I would call them by any means. In fact, I think it’s amazing when I meet people my parents or grandparent’s age who are extremely free spirited and nomadic. I like to learn from these individuals and listen to their stories.
Last year when I visited the island of Crete in Greece, I met a woman from Sweden who was traveling with her 10 year old son. I met her at a kite shop, as we were both inquiring about renting some gear to go kiting that afternoon. Unfortunately the wind dropped, so we both talked about going to hike one of the mountains nearby. We had both rented quad bikes, and we ended up agreeing to go on a little adventure together.
First, we stopped at a bakery and had some coffee to give us some energy for our spontaneous adventure. I was so intrigued by her life story. She had been traveling with her son since he was pretty much a toddler, homeschooling him while on the road and living in about 50 different countries.
I realized that this was definitely not the norm, but I thought it was badass. She definitely didn’t seem lonely, as society would definitely label her as being lonely for traveling without a husband.
Our world has shifted a lot in the last 100 years, let alone the last couple of decades. People used to travel conventionally to go on a holiday with their family or friends, to visit family in another country, or to travel for business.
Now that more opportunities have been on the rise – working holiday visas, student visas, work aways, and backpacking becoming a trend…. more and more people are beginning to travel solo. Although female solo travelers are on the rise, there are still so many women who hold themselves back from traveling solo because they are afraid to feel alone.
Solo travel has changed my life completely. I always rave about this. But It’s only because it’s true.
I think it’s a wonderful thing to do, and I encourage everyone to try it at least once in your life.
I’m going to give you some tips on:
How to overcome the fear of being lonely when traveling solo:
Firstly, recognize that you will never be alone 100% of the time → In fact, if you plan to stay in hostels or areas where there are tons of backpackers or expats, then you will meet people without having to put in much effort.
At first, it will be intimidating and scary to do, because when have you ever had to put yourself out of your comfort zone and chat to strangers in order to make new friends? But I promise, that everyone else at that hostel will be in the exact same shoes as you. They will be stoked about chatting to you, getting to know you and going on an adventure together with you.
In fact, I find that traveling alone opens me up to striking up conversations with more people, then if I were to be traveling with family or friends. When you are by yourself, it forces you to be more social. I even make an effort to chat to the airport staff, hospitality staff, taxi drivers and just random people I bump into throughout my day.
Secondly, you will find that you will actually begin to crave ‘alone time’ when you travel solo → It will get to a point that it will become so effortless for you to meet new people, that sometimes you will find yourself needing to purposefully schedule ALONE TIME.
Only because you will feel like you’re constantly surrounded by others on your travels. I felt like this when I stayed in dorms while backpacking throughout SE Asia. Some days, I became so exhausted, that I just wanted to take a day for myself to recharge – this is because I’m an extroverted-introvert who needs space after having a lot of interaction with others.
Another reason you will begin to crave ‘alone time’, is because solo traveling will teach you how to be independent. You will begin to enjoy the mundane day-to-day experiences of doing certain things by yourself. Because you will have to become an expert travel planner, budgeter and packer, doing things by yourself will become second nature to you.
In fact, you will probably want to take a day to hike by yourself, tour the city alone, or go for a walk or run with just some music in your ears. This will become totally normal, and you won’t feel lonely when you do it.
It’s one of the reasons why I have personally become much more spiritual as I’ve traveled alone – I love meditating and being out in nature. It brings me clarity and peace. I can thank solo traveling for allowing me to embrace my independence and solitude.
Thirdly, realize that no one is going to be looking at you or judging you for choosing to travel alone → As human beings, we always fear judgement of others. What if someone looks at me weird for getting on a plane alone, checking into a hostel or hotel alone, or eating at a restaurant alone?
The truth is, no one really cares as much as you think they do. Everyone is consumed by their own lives. What makes you think that they are going to notice you and judge you for being by yourself?
Think of it this way – next time you go out to eat with a friend, ask yourself if you remember what people were doing around you. Did you notice what kind of people were sitting at the tables next to you? Probably not.
You are more than likely going to be consumed by the conversation you are having with the person in front of you, that you won’t notice if someone comes in and dines alone.
Haven’t you seen people sit at bars alone?
Or sit in coffee shops by themselves working away on their laptops?
Isn’t that considered normal?
I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a coffee shop and said, “Oh wow, that person sitting there with their laptop all by themselves looks like a weirdo.” I probably wouldn’t think twice about it, and I would just order my coffee and carry on with my day. It’s kind of like picturing everyone wearing underwear in the audience when you had to go on stage for the first time to present at school.
You got over that fear didn’t you?
Well, you’ll get over the judgement of traveling alone as well – maybe picturing everyone in underwear is what you need to do?
How to be alone but not feel lonely when you travel solo:
This is for when you choose to do things on your own (e.g. go on a hike, a walk or tour of the city). Maybe you haven’t met anyone at your hostel, or you simply want to spend the day by yourself. Here are some tips to keep you feeling ‘alone, but not lonely’:
Dress up in an outfit you like and take yourself out on a day date → The point here is to make yourself feel good about spending the day with yourself. Why is it that we only dress up for other people? Do it for you & call it self love.
Pack a day bag to take with you on your hike or walk → Fill it with your favourite healthy snacks and drinks. The point here is to pack for your adventure. Bring all the necessities that you will need for your exciting day ahead – maybe a bikini, your camera and your beach towel.
Bring a journal with you so that you can record your thoughts/feelings → This will allow you to spend quality time with yourself if you have a moment to rest on your hike or sit at the beach.
Bring a book with you to read → This will allow you to have something to do, if you find that you might be stuck alone with your thoughts and needing a distraction.
Bring a notepad for you to draw or doodle on if you don’t feel like journaling → Get creative with yourself.
Download → Music & Podcasts on your Spotify to listen to offline on your phone.
Close your eyes and listen to a guided meditation → Download it to your phone & listen to it when you have a second to sit still.
Take yourself out for breakfast, lunch or dinner → Practice being comfortable in your own company. It will be intimidating at first, but you will soon realize it’s not as bad as it seems.
Bring a camera and a tripod with you & do a little photoshoot → Don’t worry if other people are looking at you. You’re having fun taking photos of yourself and the beautiful scenery and architecture around you.
Make an effort to speak to others that cross your path → Maybe you’ll ask someone to take a photo of you, speak to the person next to you lining up to get a coffee or ice cream, be extra friendly to the waitstaff or say hello as you pass someone on your hike.
How to be alone and not get bored when you travel solo.
I know what you’re thinking. What if traveling solo will end up being extremely boring.
Maybe these questions/thoughts come up for you:
I’m an extrovert and a people person, why on earth would I want to be alone?
I have only ever traveled with others and have always had fun.
Don’t lonely, sad or depressed people only travel alone?
There must be something wrong with you if you are traveling by yourself.
What if I become lonely, sad or depressed if I travel by myself?
I get bored easily when I don’t have someone to distract me or entertain me.
Guess what all of the above questions and statements really are. Yep, you guessed it. They are limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is normally formed because it’s what your mind tricks you into thinking is true.
You may have commonly heard that people who travel solo are outcasts of society. Or maybe your family has always told you not to turn out like that one single woman traveling by herself without a man. They may have led you to believe that something is inherently wrong with a woman who chooses to be alone.
In fact, this could not be farther from the truth. A woman who chooses to travel solo is not only independent, fearless and confident, but she is truly unstoppable because she is capable of doing anything that she wants. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her otherwise, and she is likely putting her happiness first.
What many people don’t realize, is traveling solo teaches you to be strong and resilient to any challenges or adversities that you may face in life. This means that when boredom strikes, you will most definitely overcome it and find something to do in order to keep yourself entertained.
Here are a few ways to tackle boredom when you’re alone:
Make a plan the day/night before → I used to be a huge planner. In fact, an over planner – which led to increased stress and anxiety rather than calm and peace. I now recommend planning a day or two in advance, because it allows you enough time to get excited and not overanalyze your itinerary.
I like to jump on some hostel WIFI, or head over to a cafe for breakfast or lunch, and start looking up what I can do in the area I am visiting. My most memorable and exciting experiences have come from booking things a day or two in advance, and sometimes even the day of!
Write a bucket list of all the things you want to do/places you want to see on your solo trip → Maybe you’re going to be backpacking for a few months through Europe or SE Asia. What are all of the things you want to do during your time there? You don’t need to plan your days in detail and start booking the exact time and date you are going to do a tour months in advance.
What you can do though, is write down enough ‘rough ideas’ for your itinerary so that you never get stuck asking yourself “what should I do today?”
Sign up for a tour, class or event → Even if you’re going to be by yourself, you can still do things alone among a group of strangers. This will help you to feel less bored, as you will likely meet new people and form new connections.
I suggest doing an island hopping longboat tour if you’re in the Philippines, or a cooking class in Vietnam, and maybe even a pub crawl in Thailand if that’s what you’re feeling. Don’t be afraid to go to these events by yourself. It will make you much more confident to put yourself out there by doing these sorts of things.
Spend the day at the beach → There is no better way to spend than a day soaking up some sunshine. Going to the beach alone is completely normal. Bring your favourite book, some tunes, snacks and some sunscreen & get ready to soak all that boredom away.
Go hiking → I love walking and hiking. I think it’s one of my favourite ways to explore new countries. There is nothing more beautiful than appreciating the beautiful landscapes that surround you. You will be so focused and in awe with nature, that you won’t remember the last time you felt bored.
Go for a run, swim or do a workout → Getting your endorphins going through movement is a surefire way to feeling a rush of dopamine and excitement. Doing these sorts of things alone everyday will train your mind to overcome any boredom you may experience.
Visit a food market/find some local restaurants to dine in → There is nothing like food that makes you go from bored to starving. Sometimes if you catch yourself feeling bored, then it might just be your brain telling your body that it’s time to be fed. Plus, a thriving market will definitely get all your senses going, and you’ll forget why you were even bored in the first place.
Join a yoga class → I’ve done a few drop in sessions when I was in the Philippines. Yoga and meditation will do wonders for your mind. You will be so focused on moving, stretching and holding poses, that you won’t have time to be bored.
Sign up for an adrenaline rushing activity → Whitewater rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding, kitesurfing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, free diving, cliff jumping, rock climbing, abseiling, quad biking, zip-lining, skydiving, bungee jumping. There are so many fun things you can do while you travel that will never leave you feeling bored.
Treat yourself → If you’re traveling in budget friendly places like Bali or Thailand, then I would suggest that you pamper yourself at a spa for a day. Get a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a facial, the works!
Girl, I would treat myself twice a week AT LEAST to a massage in SE Asia. All of the above will cost you under $50 US dollars. You can’t even get a pedicure for that price in the Western World these days.
There you have it. All my tips and tricks to prepare for solo travel and combat loneliness, being alone and being bored.
Thanks for reading,
June 25, 2020