As a Solo Traveler who has been on the road for many years, one of the most common questions I am asked is “Does solo travel get lonely?” From the outside looking in, I could see how people might feel this form of travel is lonely. It looks as if the Solo Traveler is always alone with no one to hang out with and no one to talk to. Honestly, from my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Generally, Solo Traveling does NOT get lonely. As a Solo Traveler, I am often approached by locals, invited in to the homes of locals, introduced to the friends of locals, invited out to dinner with locals, offered endless help from locals, offered gifts from locals, etc. the list goes on. A traveler must deliberately try to avoid local people in order to feel lonely!
If You Don’t Want To Be Lonely, You Won’t Be
Personally, I have always been an Extrovert Solo Traveler. It is my ultimate goal to meet local people and experience the local culture within every country that I visit. I literally try to meet as many people as possible. To me, this is the most exciting part about traveling the world. I almost always skip tourist areas and go to areas where foreigners generally do not visit. Cultures are usually authentic there.
Before arriving in a new country, I try to make friends online. These people often take interest in meeting a foreigner and sometimes go through great lengths to help me during my journey. These people have proved to be incredibly kind throughout the years. In addition, after arriving in a country, I have met a very large number of people offline. Many of these people have also been incredibly helpful and full of kindness. Be sure to read this article to learn more about how to meet local people while traveling.
While I am traveling in a foreign country, I am almost always hanging out with a local person. Why? Because I want to. Hanging out with local people it’s so interesting to me! The only time I usually do not hang out with a local person is when I go to my hotel to sleep at night.
So that being said, how would I ever feel lonely? Virtually impossible.
If You Do Want To Be Lonely, You Will Be
When I think of Solo Travelers who are intentionally alone, I always think of Introvert Solo Travelers. Generally, people who have an Introvert personality enjoy being alone. This category of traveler usually enjoys traveling to a foreign country to visit the architecture, the beaches, nature, museums, monuments, and other things. Being around people it’s not something that interests them very much. If they want to learn about culture, they will learn about it from a book or a YouTube video rather than in person.
Generally, Introverts do not intentionally plan to meet people on the internet before arriving in a new country. Nor do they try to go to a local park and spark random conversations with locals. In fact, if a local person does start the conversation with them, they can often feel very shy or uncomfortable and may try to get out of the conversation as soon as possible. Generally, Introvert Solo Travelers are alone because they want to be. It makes them happy.
When Solo Traveling Actually Becomes Lonely
So if Extrovert Solo Travelers are always around people and they very rarely feel lonely, and Introvert Solo Travelers are never around local people, but never feel lonely…then who actually feels lonely when solo traveling?
Generally, an Extrovert Solo Traveler can feel lonely if they try to meet local people while traveling, but nobody wants to meet or hang out with them.
I had to actually pause for a moment and scan my memory to remember if this has ever happened to me. And in fact, it has. However, it is quite rare. There have been a few instances where I have tried to meet local people on the internet, but the only people who wanted to ‘hang out’ with me were taxi drivers who were trying to charge me triple the local price.
Every time I would try to connect with locals, I was deliberately avoided. In addition, while walking around the country ( in multiple regions), I would try to start simple conversations with local people and the feeling that I got from almost all of them was that they were not interested in talking to me.
In addition, they tried to get out of the conversation as soon as possible. This was very strange to me. And yes, there were moments when I felt rather lonely. My goals are to travel the world, meet people, and experience culture…and in this particular location, I was rejected over and over again. Hence, the feeling of loneliness.
But again, it is very important to understand that this particular scenario is not normal. I have been to other areas and countries in which I had to decline hanging out with local people almost daily. The interest in foreigners can be rather high, depending on where you are visiting.
Location Plays A Factor in Loneliness
As you may have guessed by the last few statements, location does play an important factor in the feeling of loneliness while traveling solo. I don’t want to discuss specific countries or regions, however, I simply will say that there are some countries who show significantly more interest in foreigners than others. In some countries, foreigners are only seen as a walking money sign. Sometimes the only reason a local person wants to have a conversation with a foreigner is to convince them to buy their product or their service. Other than an exchange of money, you serve no other purpose. This is particularly disheartening.
But there are other countries where you will be approached by countless local people and almost all of them just simply want to chat with you and be your friend. Sometimes these are children, sometimes teenagers, sometimes middle-aged men/women, and other times they are elderly people. It is so much fun to visit a country where you feel invited and welcomed.
Being Alone is a Choice, Feeling Lonely Isn’t
The feeling of loneliness is definitely not a choice. As I mentioned before, if you are trying to meet with local people but they reject your offer of friendship, then the feeling of loneliness will increase automatically.
But being alone is simply a choice. You can choose to travel in a way where you are surrounded by local people based on the locations that you choose or even the effort that you put into meeting locals (both online or offline). Or, you can choose to avoid meeting local people and simply travel completely alone as much as possible.
Both traveling methods are completely alright! There is no right or wrong way to travel. I always encourage people to travel in the way that makes them the happiest. If you want to surround yourself with local people, then do it! If you want to travel alone and try to reduce the amount of contact between you and local people, then do it!
There is no right or wrong. There is no good or bad. Just simply be you, and enjoy!