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The Perils Of The Solo Traveller

Melbourne Australia 1 Melbourne Australia 2 Melbourne Australia 3 Melbourne Australia 4 Melbourne Australia 5 Melbourne Australia 6 Melbourne Australia 7 Melbourne Australia 8 Melbourne Australia 9 Melbourne Australia 10

Melbourne, Australia

It was around this time last year that I was getting ready for a flight to Australia; I was running around Cambodia, riding motorbikes and throwing grenades and drinking the cheapest beer I’ve ever had. I was geared up to meet my friend Ali, as she had been living in Melbourne for a year or so and I missed her very much. We spent that week drinking delicious coffee, photographing street art, and seeing the city through tram windows, and it cemented our friendship that much more.

I almost always travel solo, but on this trip I am lucky enough to meet up with not one of my best friends, but two. Ali will most likely meet me in three weeks and we’ll traipse around El Salvador and Nicaragua, and then I’ll meet Kerri and we’ll start in Honduras and work our way down south. I feel like I’m going crazy with anticipation – I can’t wait to be with them and just be me, just be us.

That’s a side of solo travel that’s not often talked about, I find. On this blog and in my life in general I am constantly advocating solo travel, of being on my own. “I’m never on my own for long!” I proclaim, and it’s true – everywhere I go in my travels, there are other people open to sharing a drink or two, or locals eager to hear your story, or even a kindly bartender that takes pity on the girl with nothing else to do on a Friday night but sit and read. But as I travel more and more, I find I connect with fewer people; gone are the days when I need to add everyone I meet to Facebook, gone are the days when I even tell people my full story or full name. I’ve not become bitter, or mean, just realistic, and older. What I crave now is to connect with just a few people in my travels, to connect and to actually make lasting and wonderful friendships. There are those rare people you meet on the road that make you stop and think, “Yes, I would be friends with this person no matter where I met him or her; this friendship is not circumstantial; this friendship is real; my life is better with this person in it”, and it’s a beautiful, life-changing thing.

And while Antigua is gorgeous and relaxing, I have yet to connect with anyone in the nearly two weeks I’ve been here. I’ve shared beers and shared laughs and enjoyed hearing of other people’s travels, but there is nobody that I can say I will keep in touch with. The one person I did wish I had more time with had to leave abruptly, and I didn’t get his contact information. I know this game, though, I know how it works – I can be lonely and bored one day, but meet someone whom I adore the next. There is nothing to do but keep smiling, keep introducing yourself, and keep on the lookout for those magical connections that happen every so often. It’s how I’ve met all of my closest friends and all of my boyfriends. It’s how I met both Ali and Kerri.

Yes, I will continue to sing the praises of solo travel, but I will also be honest with anyone who asks if I ever feel lonely – of course I do. So why do I keep travelling on my own? It’s because I know what, or who, could very well be waiting around the corner.

16 Responses to The Perils Of The Solo Traveller

  1. Jay May 21, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    I related a lot to what you’ve said in this post but not because I also travel alone. The expat community can feel incredibly small depending on where one lives. Often times friendships are formed out of convenience and common language but not because of a deeper connection. As I get older, I think I’m more realistic about friendships and like you, value ones that will last. It’s tough to find those meaningful relationships – they’re out there but it’s tough!

  2. Rebecca McKanna May 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    I really liked this post. It’s nice to reflect on both sides of traveling alone – the freedom and the loneliness. And I agree, as I get older I focus more on quality rather than quantity in friendships.

  3. Steph May 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    This has been really helpful! I have known i want to travel for years and have been trying to find someone to go with but i’m coming to the realisation that if i want to go, i’m gonna have to do it alone. It’s nice to always hear that solo travelling is great because you always meet loads of people but it’s really good to hear that that’s not the entire picture and that it’s not so bad to not meet people everywhere all the time! xx

  4. Ruthie May 22, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    I can totally relate to this, as Jay said with the expat community. I had a really lonely time in Seoul for a while because although I’d met lots of people, it was clear to me that the friendships were not real or long-lasting. Thankfully, I finally feel like I’ve made some real connections and it really makes the experience a worthwhile one and reminds me what I love about living abroad.

  5. Chinye May 22, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    I moved halfway acroos the country from home for university, and once graduation rolled around my core group of friends slowly began leaving to return home or to build new adventures. No longer the teenager, I found it harder to make new friends in the city I’ve known for 4 years, questioned if I even wanted to attempt to build new non-professional relationships. Like you, I think it’s because I’m more intentional about the time I invest into relationships. Don’t think its a bad thing, just a honest realization.

    Lovely thought provoking post!

  6. [Ali] To Be Continued... May 22, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    Sweetheart, this beautiful post bought a tear to my eye. Not only do I resonate with everything you’ve said (as you know I’m coming to the end of my 3.5 months solo NZ camping trip myself where every-other-person has asked me the “Don’t you get lonely” question!), but I miss you so much too. I am so excited we are going to be hanging out and travelling together very soon! This is what makes good travels simply great! xx

  7. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    My solo travel trips have never been longer than 2 weeks, so I feel like I can’t really comment too much about personal experience. If I wasn’t married, I would have love to have tested myself with several months of traveling solo. I’m sure the loneliness gets hard at times, but how great that you never have to compromise.

  8. Oneika the Traveller May 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    I agree with both you and Jay. I find that I also long to connect with people, really connect with people, and can’t really bother talking to people just for the sake of not being alone.

  9. Mary R May 23, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    You make some good points about traveling alone… I’m a fan generally, but I do feel lonely at times. Although when I’m traveling with others, I long for my alone time! In any case, I could relate well to what you said about your style changing over time and the need to connect diminishing. I think it’s right to strive for a few connections, and the more local the better.

  10. Caitlin Oliver-Olsen May 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    I’m getting ready for a big, solo trip of my own around Asia, and I’m glad to read an honest, yet positive piece on traveling alone 🙂

  11. This Battered Suitcase May 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    Thank you so much for your comments, everyone. I’m glad that this post resonated with some of you and that I’m not the only one to feel this way sometimes!

  12. Charu @Butterflydiary May 23, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    I can see how solo travel would be lonely, but sometimes when I travel without my husband, I am eager to form new friendships and travel makes it so much richer to do so. I’m sure a lot of women are inspired by you!

  13. This Battered Suitcase May 24, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    Charu – Absolutely, and I love meeting new people all the time! This post was just about how sometimes even if you want to meet new people, you can’t or you don’t. Solo travel is very rarely lonely, though, I find…

  14. Garby May 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    I felt the same way about Antigua! Quickly made great friends in Xela, and I’m still in touch with a girl I met in Flores, but Antigua was just a bit cold. Easy to chat with people, go for a beer or a hike, but harder to solidify frienships.

    I love what you wrote.

  15. This Battered Suitcase May 25, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Garby – Strange that you felt the same way! Luckily I met a really cool girl here and we are hanging out a lot; if I hadn’t met her, though, I’d still be struggling!

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