Long-term solo travel: does being alone mean lonely?
Job: Senior Investment Advisor for Investment Promotion Agency “Invest Lithuania”, an agency that works with large international companies fostering FDI in Lithuania
Education: Master of Science in International Marketing & Management at ISM, Norwegian Business School
Intro: Sandra – adventurous soul with a big passion to explore the world & seek constant change. Last year I quit my job to travel the world. I spent six-seven fantastic months in Southeast Asia and just a few months returned back home (Lithuania). The years of 2013 & 2014 were such fantastic and exciting time filled with challenges and hard decisions which in the end rewarded me with joy, happiness and glory. It only took 6-7 months but it has added up to what could be the best of my life – for now. I have tried many new things. Some have been hard, some full of wonder, but none of them boring. When traveling, you are exposed to overcome a lot of barriers: from geographic, time and climate to cultural and political. A constant change in the outside world surely makes a huge impact on your inner changes. It forced to slow down and improvise your way through each new day on the road. It awakens enthusiasm, attentiveness and interest in every slightest detail. It calls to make the most of the precious time we have on this earth. In other words – the real change is in how we “do” live.
In a nutshell:
Travelled 6 countries in 7 months
Travelled ~ 26.343 km in total, out of which [within SE Asia] by:
Plane: around ~ 15.723 km
Bus: ~6.665 km
Scooter: > 3.855 km
*excl. ferries/ boats/ yachts
Long-term solo travel: does being alone mean lonely?
Perhaps you too have been in the position when you have a great trip planned out there, to a place you have really been longing to see, but you cannot seem to convince anyone to come with you. What’s then? Wait? You better do not wait for other people to make your dreams come true. Deferring your happiness to the future is a terrible idea. Stop over-thinking so much and start acting! The reason I feel I am getting so much done in the recent years is precisely because I do not allocate so much of the time for over-analyzing whether I should do something important or not. I trust what I feel.
People are not alone in being alone. One of the most frequent questions I got asked one the road is if I as a solo-traveler felt lonely. The short answer is no. I guess loneliness is the disease of the modern age and is more commonly found in a rich westerner’s day-to-day life than in the backpacker’s mind while on the road. Not surprisingly, “individualistic society” with self-centeredness leads to distance, suspicion, mistrust and loneliness. So if a reason for feeling lonely is not having a company, then there is no need to worry about! If you are friendly, open and charming enough, making friends with people from every culture and background is such an easy process! Loose up your home cultural baggage and through yourself into experience connecting with other! Sometimes it’s just a smile that leads to extraordinary conversations with ordinary people… Talk with people: as simple as that. Every person on the road has his/her story to tell. But you can too fell lonely even if surrounded by people. Therefore, to me, loneliness is something that depends way more on the person’s mindset than on their situation. Therefore, I believe learning to be alone and feel comfortable and happy with your own company is as important skill as being a good conversationalist in a crowd.
The world is small: global crossroads. Once the road you meet so many like-minded travelers as it seems all the world has gone searching and exploring. The important thing is that most of the travelers share the same eagerness to get out of the comfort zone, to see how is out there, always deliberating whether the grass is greener elsewhere… I met the uncountable number of people in those 6 months period while on the road, many of which were incredible people that may stay forever in my heart. Some of them made a great influence on my perception, broadened the horizons, closed some doors and opened the other ones. Some of them taught me very important lessons of the life. The good thing of backpacking is that you pretty much never have to be alone if you don’t want to be. So you better be open and get to know the views of people from the world different to yours and get to know their side of the story.
Solo-female travelers are everywhere. I noticed that every year more and more women, young and old, choose to travel to all over the world on their own. Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in the South East Asia? It’s far safer than the media would have it appear, and with the proper planning and precautions, it can absolutely be safe & easy. I’d say there are only a few spots in the world map that could be easily regarded as safe for solo women travelers – and SE Asia would be at the TOP of that list. Why? If you have traveled extensively there, you’d know that for sure. For others – just book a plane ticket and go.
Of course, there are a lot of travel bloggers and a lot of safety rules, which if followed, helps to protects yourself from the danger you can get when travelling in any foreign country. Fist of the core – use the common sense. Don’t be careless, don’t totally trust someone you just met, be aware at all times that you’re in a world very different from your own, inside a culture comprised of people who think and behave very differently than you are used to. Dress modestly and behave respectfully. That’s the basics. They say there are certain countries in the world like India that necessitate greater caution for women travelers. I think this is some of those widely known misconception. You’d be surprised at what you’d find in common “safe” Western world destinations.
As women, we are often taught to regard the unknown as threatening, which is unfortunate because it keeps us stay at the comfort zone, where we think we feel safe. The truth is that in many, if not most, places, if you travel intelligently and responsibly you are probably at least as safe as you would be at home. However, the sad truth is that no matter how prepared you are, no matter how many precautions you take, sometimes bad things can happen. Just simply stay awake and make the right decisions as to keep yourself safe.
Solo travel is not always easy. It tests your tranquility, patience, flexibility, tolerance and willingness to adapt to situations outside your my comfort zone. But, despite all the challenges, because of solo travel, I’ve met people and had opportunities, adventures I don’t think would have had otherwise. Traveling alone has taught me many important lesson and opened up many great doors. If I ever go on the same long-term trip, I’d definitely choose the same solo-way! It’s life-enhancing opportunity with a few surprises in store…
Experience travels in another way. Experience gifts by Tinggly: