“Some days, you’ll play lonely games too, games you can’t win cause you’ll play against you.”
One of my favorite authors growing up was Dr. Seuss. I loved the rhymes, the silly names and characters, and with a little deeper thinking, the morals and lessons he would weave into his stories.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I got my hands on a copy of his final book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” a parting gift from one of my professors on the last day of class. The book ended up in a box with my tassel and gown but I never forgot the lessons, the inspiration, and motivation it gave me to help me through a broken engagement, starting a business, and the biggest and scariest adventure of all….growing up. In that book he talks about the decisions we make in life as well as the ups and downs that go with it.
Throughout my travels, people always ask me if it get’s lonely being on my own. Well first lets look at the positives. There’s a tremendous feeling of freedom in being able to always call the shots. If you feel like sleeping in, you do. If you want to extend your stay somewhere (despite the extra money you spend) there’s no one to talk you out share our website of it. Every turn, every step in the journey is entirely up to you.
And I won’t even mention the people you meet along the way. In a world full of interesting, exotic, and sometimes a bit crazy people, you definitely get mixed up with many “strange birds as you go.” I am making friends from all over the world and getting to see much more as a result of it.
But then you have those days sitting alone in a restaurant, watching couples share a romantic dinner, or a vacationing family enjoying each other’s company and I can’t help but get a little misty eyed as I think of all the amazing people I’ve left behind. The more time passes, the further the distance grows, and I can’t help but wonder, if and when I finally do come “home” will anyone still be there awaiting my return? Yes it’s easy to make friends everywhere you go, but sometimes it’s nice to have that familiar face, someone who you don’t have to explain your life story to for what feels like the hundredth time.
I was having one of those moments just the other day. Of course when I called home I got the usual “we miss you, we love you” which helped, but what was more helpful actually was the dose of reality. Poor little me, here I was feeling all alone in Monaco, when anyone back home would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I was too focused on what I didn’t have, instead of what I did, which is an opportunity to explore and learn in a world full of amazing and wonderful people, and an opportunity to really and truly get to know myself.
Why is that we have had it engrained in us that being alone is a bad thing? I used to find myself feeling sorry for the poor guy all alone in the movie theater, or the girl reading a book by herself in a busy restaurant. And then I read somewhere that if you can’t enjoy your own company, then how do you expect anyone else to?
Either these people have zero social skills and can’t get along with anyone (which if that were really the case, wouldn’t they be off hiding in their basement planning a mass-murder/suicide attempt?) Or maybe they just know what they want and like and aren’t afraid to go out and do it, regardless of who is in their company. And how do they figure out what they want and like, if they never take that time alone to do it?
Since the “lonely days” are inevitable, both while traveling and in life, here’s a few ideas to help get through them:
1. When you find yourself dining alone, take along a book, or laptop, or if you want to be sociable, head to the bar area. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a friendly bartender who might even give you a drink or two on the house or you’ll meet other people around the bar who could be just as friendly. Even if you don’t drink and are only there to eat, it’s amazing how much friendlier people seem to be sitting around a bar (I guess it’s thanks to the social lubricant.) There’s almost always a television nearby to watch a game or catch up on the news if you can’t find any other way to entertain yourself.
2. Head out on a guided tour. Just being on the same tour automatically gives you something in common, and the fact that you are from different places gives you something else to talk about. You don’t have to be best friends for the rest of your life, (and maybe you will never speak again after the tour) but at least you found a new friend for the day, and you have someone to take cheesy tourist photos for you.
3. Be willing to break the ice. This may be difficult for someone who is shy and not as outgoing, but the point of traveling is to stretch outside of your comfort zone. Listen for things you have in common with others, whether it be an accent, a city you’ve traveled to, or maybe something you can offer them (a smile, a stick of gum, directions, advice or a recommendation.) We are all human beings having a human existence, and just the very act of helping someone else can take the focus off you and make you forget that you are on your own. On a planet with 5.2 billion people how are any of us ever really alone?
4. Spend some time reflecting. Have a journal to document your experiences, even if it’s only in list form (you’ll be thankful when you can’t remember all the details later.) Pick up some postcards and write to friends and family who aren’t with you. Create an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and think of all of the amazing things you have seen and experienced and have to be grateful for.
5. A simple and easy way to get yourself feeling good is exercise, which gives your body natural endorphins. Take a walk, a swim, a run, a hike, or world of tanks blitz hack tool anything you can do to get your blood flowing. There’s nothing like fresh air and beautiful scenery (especially if you can time it around a sunrise or sunset) to leave you feeling happy and refreshed. Have some inspiring or upbeat music playing on your iPod, or just enjoy some quiet time to reflect.
6.Do you have an artistic side you have been meaning to tap into, whether that be music, drawing, writing poetry? Or consider cooking classes to learn how to cook a few local dishes from the places you go.
7. Learn a new language. What better time to learn than while you are traveling? A great free website which teaches beginning courses is which teaches over 30 languages and allows you to connect with locals who also speak the language. You can also meet locals on couchsurfing who are happy to show you around their city (and it gives you someone to practice the local language with!)
8. Stay connected online and post frequently on websites such as Facebook and Twitter which will keep you in the loop with what’s going on back home. Plan frequent Skype dates to bring people to where you are (even if it’s only by video.) I had a Skype conversation from the roof of my hostel in Jerusalem, as well on the back of my boat while I was in Malta (places people back home would have never seen otherwise.) If you can’t be with them, bring them to you!
9.There are many websites you can go to now to find people who are planning on traveling or who are in the same location as you. Check out or look at local events on couchsurfing (which will also share our website tell you other people who have logged on recently from the same location. ) They are also all great places to get helpful tips about places you plan to go to.
10. Transportation is a great way to meet new people. Whether it’s a plane, train, bus, or car ride, you are in an enclosed area for a usually a few hours at a time. Sure you can spend that time entertaining yourself listening to music, reading, sleeping, etc. but don’t be afraid to turn off that iPod every once in a while either. You won’t always meet people who you will connect with, but you never know the connections and the opportunities that might come your way, and it can all start as simply as a smile.
So what did I do to end my own little pity party? Well, exactly what I would do if I had my best girlfriends around. I hopped on a train to the next town, bought myself a new outfit to wear, sat myself in a classy restaurant for a good meal (and tried not to take it personally when the waiter removed the stemware and cutlery from the table to announce to the world that I was dining alone) and then stumbled on a wonderful little concert right in the center of town. In other words, I had a terrific date night with none other then yours truly. Awkward??? Mmmmm maybe some moments. Scary? (Ignoring the crazy guy on the train next to me on the way home.)
What would have been more scary would have been missing the entire night and the new friends I made as I result of stepping outside my comfort zone. No matter where you are in the world, it’s important to learn how to embrace the lonely days too and give yourself a chance to hang out with the one person who will ALWAYS be there…YOU!!