As a frequent solo traveller, I’ve dealt with my fair share of loneliness. Usually I’m okay being away from friends and family for long periods of time, but there’s the odd occasion where it creeps in and tries to take a hold.
In my experience this is usually amplified by certain things, for example;
- Missing events with family and friends – #FOMO
- When you’re injured or sick
- COVID clusters / border restrictions (friends being confined to one place meaning that they cannot come visit you, and vice versa)
- Unexpected changes in plans
And surely many more reasons I don’t dare to delve into in fear of making myself upset.
Currently as I write this I’m sitting alone in a cafe in Queenstown – I’ve just moved here by myself. Two weeks ago I was living with my partner, meeting up with my friends and family in my spare time and working in a tight-knit family environment. And now? Now I live alone, my co-workers are close to strangers, and my family and friends are not avid messengers/callers. To add to this, my hometown has gone into lockdown and the Australia to New Zealand travel bubble has been temporarily closed. So my spare time is mostly filled with deafening silence.
So how do I deal with it? How do I get through it?
Give yourself daily/weekly tasks
Putting together a to-do list is a really easy way to give yourself weekly goals. It keeps you preoccupied and I’ve found it actually makes me more productive. These lists don’t need to be anything extravagant, it can be as simple as putting together your groceries list. It’s just something to hold yourself more accountable. Here’s an example of my to-do list from yesterday;
- Buy an umbrella
- Go for a walk
- Go out for breakfast
- Buy bread
- Finish a blog post
- Research winter activities in Queenstown
- Research best Queenstown tours
Let me tell you, ticking off those items in my notes app is incredibly satisfying.
Try do something alone that you would usually do as a pair
Take yourself out for breakfast, go for walks, explore more, take yourself out for dinner. You’ll find that most things that you usually do with somebody else, you can do by yourself, you just have to get comfortable with it. I personally love breakfast food – and even before I moved I would usually take myself out for brekky on my days off. Take a laptop, a book, whatever makes you feel comfortable with sitting alone – and honestly, no one cares!
Binge Netflix or read a book
Now I don’t know if this is unhealthy advice, but for me – if I’m reeled into a dramatic series on Netflix it kind of preoccupies me. It distracts you when you want time to pass. You can get sucked into your book, and even take it around with you. This is also a great idea when you’re on long-haul bus trips or again – while out eating alone.
Let yourself feel lonely
Before I go any further, I should mention that it is 100% okay to feel lonely. You’re allowed to wallow without guilt because feeling lonely does NOT mean that you are a bad solo traveller. It happens, it’s generally unavoidable, no one is immune to it.
Find good Podcasts or Ebooks
I’ll be real with you. I have never been a podcast/ebook kind of person. That was until COVID took over, redundancies became the norm and I had to start working all day, all week, completely alone. Now they’ve become a comfort. Being on a hike alone can feel longer without any conversation, so tuning into a good podcast can really kill the time. I personally love true crime podcasts, so before a hike I look up one with an intriguing synopsis and download it ready for my walk.
Take time to work on yourself
If you’re like me I bet you never considered joining a gym until you were presented with a whole lot of free time and not so much to do. For me, moving to Queenstown on the brink of Winter – it’s a bit rainy, I work at a desk, so some days it feels like I barely move. Joining a local gym is a good way to 1. Kill time, 2. Work on yourself, 3. Feel accomplished, 4. Spend your time better/in a more healthy manner.
Now I’m not saying you need to go on a diet – I’m definitely not, but you can take time to make more rewarding meals for yourself. When you’re travelling solo you’ve generally got a fairly tight budget – so it’s easy to fall into a routine of mi goreng and toast. If you’ve got time, generally it shouldn’t be that much more expensive for you to buy a few ingredients and experiment. Some dishes like Butter Chicken all you need is to buy some chicken, a jar of sauce, and maybe some rice and onion if you’re feeling fancy. It’s not THAT much when you really start thinking about it and breaking it down.
Make time to catch up with your friends and family back home
Now I’m pretty confident that my friends won’t be reading this, but Alex and Em if you are – I’m sorry but girls, we SUCK at messaging. We’re terrible. We try, but we rarely get a conversation out of it. Our work lives are on complete opposite tangents, and that’s okay.
So how to fix this? Set a time, a date, and stick to it. And then just call. That’s it. It’s so much easier to catch up with people over the phone than through messages. Not only because you can actually hear and understand the emotion and tones, but conversations just flow so much easier and you can cover WAY more topics in a smaller amount of time.
Stay somewhere social and put yourself out there
Hostels are the perfect place to stay and get to know other travellers – many of them probably being solo travellers as well. Some have backpacker bars, and some have group activities – so check out the notice boards.
If you’re staying somewhere longterm and a hostel isn’t an option, there are still plenty of other ways to meet new people. Some of which being;
- Join in on group activities
- Hang out in social spots
- Become a regular somewhere (i.e. your fave coffee place)
- Join Facebook groups (they’re actually more popular than you think!)
- Go on a date (Yep, hit up Bumble, Tinder, you name it!)
- Go on a friend date (Bumble friends is an option, I’ve heard of success stories!)
Embrace the alone time
How many times in your life have you longed for some peace and quiet, a break from reality, some time to be alone with your thoughts? Take this time to let yourself enjoy the silence.
Stimulate your mind – learn something new
Go learn something – whether it’s about your destination or just learning something online. Taking time to educate yourself is a really rewarding way to stimulate your mind. Practice a new language, visit a museum, or enrol in on an online course.
Take your hobbies with you
For me, I love photography, so if I finish a day with a few perfect captures I can generally go to bed pretty satisfied with myself. Challenging yourself to take your hobbies out with you and doing them in a new environment is a great way to feel more productive.
Whilst you don’t need to plan absolutely everything in advance, it’s a good idea to sit down and figure out where you want to go, what you want to see, how you need to get there, and what you need to do these things. Sitting down and drafting up a rough plan can create new goals for you and you can start figuring out when you can achieve these things. Doing this will give you more to look forward to and will remind you why you’re solo travelling to begin with.
Take a break from Social Media
Though social media is a super easy escape from reality, it will more often than not make you more homesick. Taking a break from checking your Instagram feed can help you immerse yourself into your surroundings.