When thinking about solo travel the biggest concern that most people have, after safety, is whether they’re going to get lonely.
I can assure you that you’re not going to get lonely: you’re going to meet loads of new and wonderful people. When traveling, it is actually actively hard not to meet people most of the time.
However the flip side of that, which no one really talks about, is that meeting lots of other travelers wherever you go also means a lot of goodbyes. Whether you’re moving from place to place quickly or spending a few months in one location at a time, there will be a lot of goodbyes if you make friends with fellow travelers and ex-pats.
Where I was in Bali until recently, I had to start over with my friendship groups about 3 or 4 times. And when I say start over I really mean start over. I had to begin from scratch as if I’d just arrived each time. I had one female friend who was there the entire time I was and some local friends, like my housemates, but they were my only constants. Any other friends I made would come and go at different times. There’d be there for a month, two months, possibly even more but then they’d leave and carry on their travels or go back home.
And just because of how the world works, I’ve discovered that it tends to be in clusters that people leave. You’ll have met a wonderful group of people you love hanging out with and then within the space of 2 weeks all of them will leave at the same time.
I used to find it really hard. It caused me a lot of sadness because I would suddenly feel deserted. And I would also feel exhausted. Exhausted of having to go and make new friends all the time.
Plus the longer you’ve been somewhere the stranger it feels to then have to go and make new friends. I would feel self-conscious about it each time I had to start again. It’s all well and good making new friends when you’ve just arrived somewhere as a solo traveler but after a few months you feel like you’re going to be judged. Or at least I did. I felt people were going to look at me and think what’s wrong with you? You’ve been here long enough you should have your crew already. And I had. I did have my crew but then they’d all leave and then I wouldn’t again.
I’ve wanted to scream, “Why can’t you all just stay?” thousands of times. It felt like that shouldn’t be too much to ask.
But actually, over time I’ve realized that is too much to ask when you live a transient life. If you live a transient life chances are most of the people you’ll spend time with will also live a transient life too. And the consequences of that are a big adjustment from what life would normally be like at home. But actually if you adjust and set your expectations according to the fact that this is how things are on the road, it can be a wonderful thing.
It can be a wonderful thing because what the transience does is it forces you to meet so many more amazing and awesome people then you ever normally would. Back at home, we have our friendship groups and they don’t really change all that much. It’s rare to meet new people and become good friends with them. We have our group and we stick with them. But when people leave all the time then you constantly have to go and find new people.
The first groups of friends I had in Bali were amazing, they were incredibly cool people. But then they left. So I had to find new people. And you know what? That new group of people I then found were also incredible. That's happened time and time again. And I would never have met all of those amazing new people if it weren’t for the fact that the original amazing people I’d met left, and I was forced to go and do it all again.
Making new friends takes time and energy and so if we’re not forced to do it, it’s all too easy to get complacent and never bother to meet new people. If solo travel hadn’t forced me to meet new people constantly I would have missed out on meeting literally hundreds of amazing people. I would have missed out on meeting friends of mine who inspire, motivate, challenge and support me. I would have missed out on having friends all over the world who although they’re thousands of miles away still feel like they’re just next-door. Friends who make me smile when I think about them and who I can’t wait to be reunited with again, one day, in some distant corner of the world.
And just because people leave it doesn’t mean you won’t see them again. One of my closest friends is a girl I met in Costa Rica for 3 weeks 9 years ago. And we have, since then, traveled to 8 countries together. Another friend I met on my travels was one of the people I was most excited about seeing when I went back home to the UK to visit for a few weeks because she's a part of my life now and will contune to be, no matter what countries we're in. Just because people leave doesn’t mean it’s the end. It’s an opportunity to meet some more incredible people.
And when those new incredible people leave too, just remember: