You see my filtered photos and read my stories. I’m experiencing new things every single day and seeing things people only dream of. I feel so grateful for this. But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s more than just surreal experiences and incredible landscapes. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. And it can be lonely.
The first few days after I was officially on my own in Colombia, I asked fellow solo travellers what it was like traveling alone. Had they done it before? How they were dealing with it? One of the most common responses: You’re never really alone. And it’s true. You’re meeting backpacker after backpacker at hostels, new families while Couchsurfing and striking up conversations with strangers. It’s one of the things I look forward to: hearing everyone’s stories and learning new things. I’ve already had a week where it was hard to find any alone time at all. You click with someone who’s interested in your plans or vice versa so you spend a few days together. It’s great! You start forming semi-legitimate relationships and feel comfortable navigating some unfamiliar territory with someone else.
But then you part ways. And you’re on to the next city, experience and group of people. Things are brand new again and you have to start from scratch. It’s exhilarating—that’s what the trip is all about. However, it can be oh so lonely.
I’ve certainly had my ‘off days’ at home—I’d be shocked if you haven’t too—where I’m in a funk that I can’t explain or just want to fast forward to the next day. It’s natural to have those moments. But when you’re on the road, those moments are magnified. You’re away from every single one of your comforts and the nearest family member or friend, let alone acquaintance, is thousands of miles away. Your surroundings are 100% foreign and even if you have the guts and energy to chat with a stranger to pass the time, you can hardly even speak the same language. You can feel lost physically, emotionally and mentally. It’s a feeling that can pass in a fleeting moment or last an entire day or two.
And then you feel ridiculous. You’re in this incredible new land and have the opportunity to be here in the first place. You feel like you should soak in everything possible, be ecstatic at all times and never feel upset being where you are. But you can’t shake the loneliness. It can consume you without a moment’s notice. So you deal with it the only way you know how. Either you accept it and spend the night watching Netflix in bed or you throw yourself into a new situation to get your mind off of it. You go get yourself that ice cream you don’t need or write in your journal. It’s a guessing game if it will work, but you do what you need to do. And in the meantime, you just try to remember that tomorrow is a new day.
I knew these moments would come during my trip. I actually expected them to come sooner, so I’m happy it took this long to happen. And while it’s a gut wrenching, stomach sinking feeling, it’s what makes you stronger. Dealing with the loneliness and figuring out the necessary steps to bypass the bad moments will help me tenfold when this whole thing is said and done. A few tears might be shed in the process, but the lessons learned from the pain will only make this journey worth it in more ways than one.