Coping with loneliness
A quick guide
On the road, it's up to pure damn luck when and where you meet people you connect with beyond pleasantries and smalltalk. And yes, that does get lonely at times.
Most of the time I manage to plan my accommodations so that I stay half the time in more private places, like rooms or hotels, and the rest of the time in social environments, like hostels or shared Airbnb rooms.
But let's be honest, it happens that your hostel roommates aren't exactly... Great. No, let me rephrase that: They can be total shits. In Vienna I tried the whole palette in the very same hostel. The first weekend was amazing. My roommates were friendly and funny, and we had a really great time. They all moved out on Sunday, and then came a new population. Nobody talked to each other, except for the two who got into a fight over which of the identical beds were theirs.
That said, hostels are in my experience the best way to socialize, and I've had more awesome experiences than bad ones. In Prague I met a group of people I'm still in touch with to this day.
Something interesting happens on the road. When you meet people you connect with, it's much like your minds skip that whole process of becoming friends, because there's simply no time for it. Our minds jump directly to being great friends, and let us have memorable times while we're together.
The ups and the downs
The second best way to cope with loneliness on the road, is to accept that loneliness as part of the adventure package. In the right doses it's actually good for you. It's a chance to recharge your social energy.
But let's be honest here. There will be times on the road, where things are a little more depressing and lonely than usual. And nobody seems to have a really good answer to dealing with this, and maybe that's because its presence is somehow necessary. We do appreciate ups much more, when we came out of a slumb of downs. The downs are the reason the ups even matter.
Think of it like being on a really hard and exhausting hike to a mountain top. The way up can be really dreadful. But reaching the summit is a super cool feeling. One thing is the spectacular view, but another is your fight to get there.
We all thoughts like "why me?", "why now?", "what have I done to deserve this?", etc. Some people are just very good at disguising or even denying it. But for better and for worse, those thoughts are very human.
Getting through bad times - for whatever reason they are there - is the same. Fight through them, so reaching the other side matters.
I also try to add some value to the fact that I achieve, overcome and do so much on my own.
Stay in touch
No, but seriously, give them a call or strike up a chat. Ask how they're doing. Bring some familiarity into your situation. As nomadic travellers we're constantly headed towards unknowns, and we constantly rely on our own abilities to deal with whatever the unknown throws at us.
It won't get you all the way. But it might give you a little boost you need to make it through another day.
You know how when we navigate in difficult terrain. We keep a fixed point like a star, a mountain top or something else, to guide us. The people back home are your Northern Star, socially speaking.
And that's enough poetry for one paragraph!
Maybe it's not for you
That said, it's not a fun thing to admit you're something you're not. For the better part of my life I've been fighting that fight. I've tried so hard to fall into line with the norm of society. You know, get married, buy a house, have kids.
A part of my have always known it wasn't for me. At least not the version of me that have existed until now. Even as I write this, the thoughts are often crashing around in my head. I'm searching for reasons why I should want to deny myself an ordinary life. And maybe there is a reason. But what I know is that I feel great, and at home, when I'm on the road.
And if you don't, and haven't done for a long time, then you're probably not in the right place. I can't give you the answer. But you maybe already have a voice telling you the truth. Or maybe, it's just not the right time for you to be here.