The downside’s that it can be incredibly lonely at times, bringing on unexpected and sometimes severe homesickness that’s enough to make you want to jump off the nearest tourist attraction.
Bouts of loneliness are inevitable for solo travelers – whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure – so here are 12 things you can do to minimize the solo travel blues and enjoy your trip to its full potential.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to reach out to your loved ones wherever you may be in the world. Skype from an internet cafe, FaceTime, email, chat online, send postcards or even get a local cell phone. The important thing is to communicate back home with someone who can help you through your homesickness and not only sympathize with you, but encourage you to keep going.
When contacting home, you’ll want to exercise some caution. If you get too wrapped up in life back home, it could contribute to further homesickness and distract you from your current surroundings. Don’t get to caught up in staying connected. Remember, you’re traveling to experience new cultures and see different sights, not to update your status on Facebook and surf the web.
Comfort yourself with the familiar
Feeling homesick? Use nostalgia, to feel more at home. Comfort yourself with something familiar: watch a movie in English, listen to your favorite music, read a good book, seek out your favorite foods, look at old photographs, or inhale a familiar scent.
This can require some pre-trip planning, such as loading your computer with music and movies, printing a few pictures of the people most important to you, and even bringing small items like scented candles or your favorite candy to indulge in when you’re feeling especially low. Music’s a powerful force, and an uplifting playlist on your iPod can work wonders. If you find yourself far away without any creature comforts from back home, seek out food or treats that you enjoy, find an English book at a hostel exchange or email a friend for some digital pictures.
While it’s good to embrace the familiar when you’re feeling down, don’t make it such a habit that you never end up trying new things such as local cuisine, foreign films, or books that broaden your horizons.
>> Read about 9 things travelers miss when not on the road
Write and reflect
Grab a pen and paper and start writing! Make a list of twenty things you’re grateful for. Write it out again. Read it. Feel it. You can also journal your feelings, blog about your experiences, or send out a mass email with your trip highlights to reinforce the great times you’ve had.
Reflection is also a great way to combat the blues. Think about how you are changing and growing as a person. Comprise a list of your best trip memories to date and focus on each one of them, relishing in the good times you’ve had. You can also make a list of all the reasons you wanted to travel in the first place, which will serve as a good reminder that even though it’s tough at times, you’re doing what you wanted to do.
When writing and reflecting, make sure that you focus more on the positive than the negative. It can be easy to allow yourself to succumb to a “woe is me” mentality when journaling and this will only make you feel worse. Be positive, remind yourself why you’re traveling and be grateful for your opportunities.
>> Find out why you should never leave home without a Moleskine
Get out and make the most of it
Sometimes when you’re travel-weary it’s easy to wallow in your loneliness with a book or the TV and hide from the chaos of the culture you happen to be in. This is a perfect opportunity to force yourself to get out there and see the sights that you may be tempted to skip.
Set out to find things that interest you, such as local museums, markets, or art. Experience the culture by trying a local dish you wouldn’t dare eat at home. Interact with the locals. Wake up really early to see a sunrise or bask in a sunset. Rent a scooter or motorcycle and go exploring on two wheels. In short, get out of your comfort zone and remember that you are traveling to experience new cultures and sights, so do it!
>> Learn how to make the most of your time abroad
Change up your travel situation
Maybe your current travel situation isn’t working well for you, which in turn could be contributing to homesickness. Try mixing it up by changing your traveling situation. For instance, splurge for a nicer hotel if you’ve been hosteling it. If you’ve shied away from dorm-style hostel rooms, give them a shot.
If you’ve avoided tours, join one. They may be a little touristy for your taste, but you might be surprised at what you learn and who you meet. Or perhaps you’ve been doing too many tours and need to get off the beaten path and explore some things by yourself. Whatever the case, if you change up your travel situation, you might find that it changes your attitude as well.
Make some friends
When you’re in a slump, it’s easy to withdraw, but making friends and connecting with people is one of the best ways to stave off loneliness. Of course, for the shy, making friends is easier said than done.
A great place to start is to introduce yourself to other people staying at your hotel or hostel. When you’re traveling alone, make sure you choose lodgings that rate high in location, fun, and size. This will increase your chances of meeting other travelers. Ask your hostel or hotel if they offer get-togethers or events and sign up for one. You’ll get to experience something new and meet other people.
If you’re open to a travel companion, find someone you really connect with and ask him or her if they would like to travel for a few days with you. Of course, you must exercise caution when doing this and you need to make sure that you get to know him or her first. It also might be better to stick to your gender and have an exit strategy in the event that traveling together doesn’t work out.
Make someone’s day
Often the best way to buck up is to turn the focus from your current plight to someone else’s. Search online to see if there are any volunteering opportunities where you happen to be. Interact with the locals.
Indulge the children staring at you by saying hello. Give your cabbie a generous tip. Buy a language dictionary to learn phrases of the local language and practice them on restaurant servers and shopkeepers. Reaching out to others will not only make them feel good- you’ll feel good too.
Go for a brisk walk, rent a bicycle, go for a hike, swim, attempt horseback riding, or run if you have a good pair of shoes. Exercise releases endorphins that help combat negative feelings such as loneliness and homesickness. People tend to walk a lot when traveling, but it’s at a low pace.
Often when you travel you can also find active things to do that will get your adrenaline going. Getting your adrenaline fix is a great way to overcome the lonely bouts. There are many activities you can do such as wind surfing or kite surfing, skydiving, bungee jumping, or parasailing, just to name a few. Getting active and facing your fears will make your sadness a fleeting memory.
>> Get tips for how to stay fit on the road
Give yourself an out
If you are so distraught by homesickness that the thought of going on for the predetermined period of time seems overwhelming, give yourself an out. Don’t quit right away, but rather commit to giving yourself a smaller amount of time. Then if you still feel the same way, give yourself permission to bail.
Have a glass of wine, splurge on a decadent dessert, indulge in a massage, buy yourself that dress or gadget you’ve been eyeing, or spend a bit of extra money for a luxury room at a hotel.
Of course if you can’t afford to indulge and you do, that might contribute to stress which won’t help your anxiety. If you’re on a tight budget, find little ways to splurge, such as a glass of wine, a treat, or buying yourself that English book you’ve been wanting. Indulgence does not need to be expensive.
Take a class
Everywhere you go, there’s something to learn. Cooking classes, dance classes, water sports, language lessons – there’s something for every kind of learner.
>> Learn about taking a cooking class on your travels
Sit with it
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to ward off the blues. When this happens, acknowledge it, sit with it, and realize that it’s okay to have a bad day every now and again.
Just remember that “this too shall pass.”Don’t wallow too long. Pick yourself up by telling yourself that tomorrow will be better and remind yourself that these feelings won’t last forever. Be positive and optimistic. Shake yourself, jump up and down, and give yourself a pep talk.
Sometimes a good night’s sleep and a new day is all you need to get through a rough patch, so when you have a truly horrible day, just go to bed early and sleep it off. Traveling is about the highs and the lows, and without the lows, you don’t fully appreciate the highs.
Even though traveling alone can be difficult at times, it’s highly rewarding. Not only will it increase your self-confidence, but it contributes to massive personal growth. The next time you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by homesickness or loneliness, try some of these tips. By learning how to manage these unwelcome feelings, you can ensure that you will have the best possible time in your journeys, making memories that last a lifetime.