Solo Travel: Crushing Loneliness

Solo travel, particularly in a foreign country, is hard.

I don’t just mean logistical issues that come up because of the language barrier, although those exist. When I journeyed from Amboise to Sarlat-le-Canéda I definitely was unsure whether the man in the information booth and I had communicated correctly with each other, whether I had then boarded the correct trains, and so on. I was relieved when it became apparent I was heading in the right direction.

No, that’s not the primary difficulty.

The primary difficulty is loneliness.

I knew it would come. It isn’t catching me by surprise.

I live alone and my workdays are spent in an office, mostly by myself. For better or worse, I’m quite used to being alone. Being alone is not something that is generally hard for me.

This, however, is an entirely different type of alone.

Typically, I chat with people while I’m waiting in line for something. I strike up a conversation with the couple sitting next to me at the bar. I wind up interacting with tons of people in a broad variety of ways.

I took this completely for granted until this trip. Because of the language barrier, this isn’t happening.

It’s a type of loneliness that is both freeing and crushing.

I can be present in my location and my thoughts without the usual knee-jerk desire to connect with the person next to me. We’ll smile at each other and say bonjour, and that will be all.

It’s crushing at times, though. The need for connection is biological. It’s how we’re wired. And I’m lacking it.

My Instagram and Facebook posting frequency has kicked into overdrive in the most extreme way. It’s likely for this reason, this need to feel connected.

I miss my people. I want to feel connected to them. When they view or like a post, or, even better, comment on it or send a message telling me they like it, it’s as close a thing to a hug that I’m going to get for weeks.

I’m not reaching out to people individually or privately and I don’t know why. On some level I think I feel I’m a bother. They’re engaged in their usual daily activities and for whatever reason I’m feeling unworthy of their time and attention.

There’s a ton of self judgement occurring, too. There’s are “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” in my head, as much as I’d like to fight them.

I should be happy all the time I’m here. I shouldn’t long for anything right now. I’m experiencing the trip I’ve dreamed of for so long. It’s all I wanted and all I hoped it would be. I have no reason to be anything but ecstatic 100% of the time.

Logically, I know this is folly. Logically, I know I’m experiencing all the same emotions all solo travelers do.

It’s all good. The enjoyment of this trip far outweighs the loneliness.

(Note to reader: the above was posted to Facebook during the trip. The loneliness became much better once I understood I was fighting myself unnecessarily. I can be independent and still need my people; these aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.)

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