In this report we answer the question, do you get lonely traveling alone?
The answer is yes. In a moment, I will share some of my best tricks to reduce loneliness when I am traveling alone.
But first, let me talk about some of my basic observations about loneliness. One of my subscribers said, “I am afraid to slow travel the world because I am single and I think I would be super lonely.” So I wanted to share my answer on that today.
Have I ever traveled the world alone?
Yes. In the 14 years since I left my home country, the USA, to travel the world, I have traveled alone for about 4 of those 14 years. And yes, I have visited countries where I didn’t know a soul. And yes, I have felt lonely from time to time. Other times I have not felt lonely at all.
I think the subscriber is asking about not having someone physically by his side as he travels the world. So I will focus on that concept mostly. But I want to say a few short ideas about virtual relationships first.
You can feel lonely even when you are with someone
If you have a shallow connection with a person, you can feel lonely when you are with them. If there is a whole side to yourself that you feel they are not interested in, you may feel lonely because you are unable to express that side of yourself with them.
In that sense, it is often good to have people in your life that you can discuss quirky aspects about yourself that your spouse just doesn’t understand. Luckily, because of the internet, we are able to maintain close virtual relationships with friends and family even when we are not in their physical presence.
So as you travel the world, keep those lines of communication open so you can discuss politics, religion, or business, or whatever your spouse has no interest or nuanced understanding about. So even if you are traveling with someone, don’t expect them to have the same level of interest or knowledge in the same subjects as you.
You can feel deeply connected to someone not with you
Most of us have had the experience of having long text message exchanges with someone in another part of the world. Others of us have had hours long telephone conversations with someone and felt really connected to them when they were in another part of the world.
These are often the beginning stages of what later becomes a romantic relationship. In fact, at times when I have been single, I have experienced weeks and even months when I am in almost constant contact with a potential lover throughout the day.
I am not into long-distance relationships, but if I am planning to meet someone in the next few weeks, this is a great way to get to know them before you can meet them in person. But you should include at least a few zoom calls to see if there is basic attraction before you get too excited about an anonymous person. I never let these virtual relationships go for more than a few weeks. That is why I never put up a dating profile in a new country until about 2 weeks before my flight.
These sorts of text and phone call exchanges also happen when close friends or family are going through good or bad milestones in their life, like death, marriage, divorce, job changes, business failures, etc.
Do You Get Lonely Traveling Alone?
Of course. We all do from time to time. So what are some of the issues I think about when answering this question.
You Might Be More Lonely if You Stay Home
Why would you be more lonely staying home? Because your mind doesn’t have all the distractions of a new place. You just sit home and think about the fact that you are alone. Nothing is new in your life to distract you. You are hanging out with the same people, doing the same things, and nothing new or exciting is distracting you from your loneliness.
When you are in a new country, you can take a group tour and talk to people you have never met before. Learn about a new part of the world you are in. Take a cooking class, take a yoga class, take an arts and crafts class, take a salsa dancing class.
When you take a tour or class in a new city, you are able to communicate with the people without them thinking you have some ulterior motive. They know you are on the tour with you. You are not trying to sell them anything or pick up on them. They relax and get to know you.
You finally have a natural environment to meet people and get to know them in a non-threatening way. You are on this tour together, of course, you are going to smile and say hello. Of course, you are going to ask what country they are from. Of course, you are all going to chat each other up when the tour bus stops for lunch.
People are relaxed and on vacation or holiday. They know the other travelers flew to this country and want to experience the local culture. They know you can afford to fly and are unlikely to ask them for money or to buy a souvenir. They see you as like them.
Compare that to going out on a Saturday night in your hometown. People are there to pick up on each other and try to have a relationship or sex, right? So if you start chatting someone up in your hometown, you are going to get a bunch of resistance. You are probably so tired of the rejection that you just talk to your buddies and drink beer.
In that sense, your existing friends are blocking you from meeting new friends. So your physical loneliness of going home alone on a Saturday night is more likely to occur in your hometown than out traveling. You are less likely to meet someone interesting at home because your family and friends are getting all of your attention.
But if you start having a casual conversation with someone on a tour with you, they are probably not going to automatically think about whether or not they are attracted to you. You won’t have to overcome that resistance when you travel. You are all there to discover this new country or city. So conversations happen more naturally.
People Are More Relaxed When They Travel
Travelers wake up in the morning with a smile on their faces. They don’t have to work today. So if they walk to some ancient ruins near their accommodations, they are excited, happy, and feeling adventurous.
They are not thinking about the ten problems they have to solve that day. Their head is up a little, they are looking all around trying to figure out what this new world is all about. If they see someone near them in khaki shorts and a camera taking pictures, they often smile, so you can smile back.
Say something back, “Can you believe this place is 1000 years old?” They aren’t trying to solve ten problems today, so you won’t be interrupting their chain of thought. The conversations just happened naturally because people are more relaxed when they travel.
Form Culturally Based Connections
Study the culture of a place before you arrive. If the locals are into salsa dancing, take salsa classes. If the locals are into Yoga and meditation, take Yoga and meditation classes. If the culture is into hiking, biking, or cooking, join groups and take classes that interest you and are an important part of their culture.
That will put you in a natural environment with people that are interested in the same things as you. That will form the basis of the relationships you develop. When people see you caring about and learning about their culture, they will naturally be interested in you.
Who is this foreigner that wants to hang out with us and get to know our culture? People around the world are naturally more interested in people from interesting foreign places. Even if your ability to speak the local language is limited, there will often be someone there that wants to practice their English. Doors will often open quickly for you.
It is also okay to form relationships with Expat groups. Some ex-pats you will find have no interest in the culture they are in. They will just want to hang out with other Expats and share complaints about cultural differences. But to really understand and appreciate a new culture, you should also form bonds with locals.
You are likely to find yourself in very interesting situations that develop out of the people you meet in these classes and groups, both local and foreign. But the high-quality locals you meet are more likely to come from the cultural interests you form in a new country.
The world is full of traveling communities now. One such traveling community calls itself digital nomads. Digital means they earn a living with their computers and nomad means they travel all over the world.
Originally when I started traveling 14 years ago, almost all of the digital nomads were under 30 years old. I hadn’t even heard the term digital nomad when I started traveling the world. I just told people that my income was unrelated to my geography. I had a geographically irrelevant income. But then someone coined the term digital nomad.
But now, I meet digital nomads in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. With people being able to work from home during the pandemic, I am sure we will start seeing nomads in their 70s and 80s before long. Once that happens, they won’t call me grandpa nomad anymore. I am 60 years old.
So you can now be part of these traveling communities. For almost any part of the world now, just Google, “Digital Nomads in Buenas Aires” or “Coworking Spaces in Puerto Escondido Mexico.” You will find a place where you can park your butt for a few hours per day and make a few connections right away.
Frankly, I was surprised how welcoming the 25 and 35-year-olds were when Grandpa Nomad showed up at some of these coworking spaces around the world. Many people (couples and singles) show up in these coworking spaces and work part of the day and play a part of the day.
Some work 60 hours a week when they are launching their online businesses.
Coworking spaces often post public social calendars that say what activities are happening each day. And many coworking spaces don’t seem the least bit clicky. Everyone seems to be able to have fun together with little regard to age, race, religion, sex, or country of origin. Just don’t assume anyone is interested in you romantically just because they are being friendly.
Digital nomads are all about community. And if you are respectful, that means you too.
You should be friendly without expectation also. Just take your time and get to know people and let things happen naturally. Just realize that most of the people are still younger and they are being polite because that is how digital nomads generally treat each other.
You are unlikely to form romantic relationships in these communities with people decades younger than you because they are successful self-sustaining world travelers. But it is a great place to make connections and have a soft landing when you get to a new country.
These are also great places to network for business ideas and resources if you are starting an online business or life. Many people in these communities have been living internationally for a decade or more, like me. So be respectful of their space and time.
When I was single, I almost never put an online dating profile up until 1 to 2 weeks before I arrived in a new country. You can easily ruin a great prospect for a future relationship by communicating too long before you meet in person. Some people less skilled in online dating get insecure and needy after about 3 weeks of intense communicating which makes things go bad before you even arrive in a country.
So don’t do long-distance online dating for too long. Just put your profile up a week or two before you arrive in a new country. Also, be casual and friendly in your communications. If you get too specific or serious you will sound too needy or desperate. Just meet people in person within a week or two once you start communicating.
You have to meet and see if there is mutual physical chemistry before investing too much time in any potential relationship. Once you are in the country, and you have communicated for a few days to a week, two weeks maximum, it is time to meet to see if there is chemistry.
Once two weeks are up, and they don’t want to meet, even though you are nearby each other, I would just end the messages saying, “Text me when you have time to meet.” “I don’t want to move things any further along until we know if there is mutual chemistry.”
Also, don’t give anyone any money for any reason. I am not going to say more about that. It should be obvious.
Meet in a public place for a coffee or a meal for an hour and agree that you will both think it over and meet again for an official date if you both agree there is chemistry. Nothing worse than meeting someone and having a 3-hour date when you know in the first 5 minutes they are not right for you.
In some countries, someone will ask you if it is okay to bring a friend or family member for a first meeting. That may sound odd in your home country, but it is not necessarily odd not in the west, so you should be willing to adjust to local customs. Not everyone will ask to bring a friend.
As An Expat You May Make Unusual Connections
When I first left the USA in 2007, I moved to New Delhi India for work. I made friends with ex-pats and locals that I had almost nothing in common with. The only thing you may have in common is ending up at the same party standing near each other.
At the time, I was in my late 40s and I made lifelong friends with people from 19 years to 70 years while in India. People with zero education to doctors. People with very little money to a few from very wealthy families.
In some countries, you should be hesitant to make friends with government officials or their family members that approach you directly when they are in their home country. They may be above the law. So you are playing with fire if they want something from you.
Expat circles are very interesting because the people are from all over the world and they are there for many different reasons, whether for business, government, or charity. You are unlikely to ever find yourself in such a diverse and interesting set of people.
The world is a book and people that stay in one country their whole lives read merely a chapter. But if you are lucky enough to get out of your home country and spend time in other countries, you will be amazed how fascinating it is to read the other chapters of that book.
Expats circles in large capital cities are like having all of the chapters of the book at the same party. It will open your eyes widely and you will never see the same. People will want to hear your story because your view of the world and the culture you are from are a chapter in the book they are all hoping to read. And you will cherish the friends you make for the rest of your life.
If you remain positive and interested in the people around you in these circles you will not only get to read all the chapters of the book of the world, but you may form some deep connections with people all over the world that will make your travel interesting for many years.
Take The Beauty That Flows Into Your Life
We often have a very specific idea of who we want in our life romantically. Experience has shown me that it is better to keep an open mind about who might fit into your life comfortably. Other than basic physical attraction, I would be more open about exactly what you are looking for.
In other words, put away the list of things they must have or be to qualify to be in your life.
I would also be open about how someone is going to arrive in my life whether via online dating, via friends, ex-pats, or just meeting someone casually as you live your life. Start to imagine that life is going to give beauty to you but you do not know or control how or when that beauty arrives.
Just keep an open mind and let love flow naturally and gracefully into your life. Then when grace brings that special person into your life, you won’t be so intent on qualifying them for your imagined future and asking them too many questions that sound needy or desperate. Just have fun and let love flow naturally.
Thanks for listening to my thoughts on do you get lonely traveling alone?
Make sure to read the “Top 10 Mistakes International Retirees Make.” And, grab a free copy of my eBook, How I Fired my boss and traveled the world for 14 Years.
This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the YouTube Channel for VagabondBuddha.com. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?