This is a guest post by Janice Waugh.
From India to Chile to Spain… I have met many RTW travelers on the road and, interestingly, almost half were solo traveling.
Here are a few reasons why someone would choose to travel solo:
- friends hadn’t the same desire for such travel
- partners hadn’t been able to arrange for the same time off
- to discover the many unique opportunities solo travel affords – the need to learn about yourself as you learn about the world
Whatever the reason, traveling solo long-term is both wonderful and a challenge. The challenge is often loneliness.
In reality however, many solo travelers don’t travel alone for long. They meet others along the way and share part of the journey together. This is important to me as I’m a fairly social person. Fortunately, I’ve never taken a long trip without meeting and traveling with someone else for a week or so.
But other solo travelers don’t care to make travel partners. They want to be alone. For them it’s a luxury and they are happy with their own company.
Whatever category you fall into, there may come a time when you are facing loneliness. If it happens, here are six ways to cope.
Six strategies for beating loneliness as you travel solo.
- Join a tour for a day, a week, or more. Let someone else manage the details of your travels while you enjoy the company of others. Budget for this in your trip planning however, unless it is something very special you want to do, don’t arrange the tour in advance. Book it on the road when you have a better idea of your pace, schedule and need for it. Whether for a day, a week or more, there are organized tours for every interest and style of travel.
- Stay put and connect with the community. One of the great benefits of long-term travel is that you have the time to settle into a community and explore it on a deeper level. When you do, establish a routine. Go to the same coffee shop or small restaurant on a regular basis. You will be recognized as someone new but when you return repeatedly people will get curious. You’ll start connecting and making friends.
- Take a course. Language and cooking classes are very popular for solo travelers as both help you connect to the local culture while participating in a social activity. Art, history and wine appreciation classes are also popular. You can take courses in just about anything that interests you. Join discussion forums on your interest, such as Chowhound.com for cooking, to get recommendations from locals in the know.
- Find groups that share your interest. Check out meetup.com or join couchsurfing.org. Both organizations offer many opportunities for travelers to meet locals that share the same interests. Local libraries often have interesting programs as well and a city’s events calendar will point you to a wide variety of local groups.
- Volunteer. It’s a great way to contribute to the local community while connecting with people. There are positive and negative volunteer experiences however. If you’re planning your volunteer experience before leaving, research the opportunity carefully to ensure that the project is actually doing good. Unfortunately, some don’t. If you choose your volunteering gig when you’re there, check it out personally to see if it seems like a good fit for you and those being served. I’d recommend reading The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook to get a full understanding of this complex issue.
- Work abroad. Working abroad can be more complicated than volunteering, but it is possible. Make sure that the work you do is legal. Australia has Working Holiday Visas for people from some countries. Canada has a program specifically to help those between 18 and 35 find work abroad. Many organizations help people find work teaching English abroad. Explore your work options carefully.
As a solo traveler, you may find that you’re connecting with so many travelers and locals that loneliness is not an issue at all. But, as most solo travelers will attest, there are moments when you’d like a little more human contact. This is when to employ the tips above.
Janice Waugh is author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook, publisher of Solo Traveler, the blog for those who travel alone and moderator of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook with over 9,000 fans. She has spoken at The Smithsonian and elsewhere on solo travel and at a number of industry events on travel blogging. She has been quoted in many media outlets including CNN, the Oprah Blog, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and USA Today. On Twitter she is @solotraveler.