To be honest, I have rarely been completely alone in my travels. When I left home to travel to Asia, and eventually move to Australia, I was with someone the whole time. For the past two years, I have had my gorgeous girlfriend by my side, but during these times there has been an immense sense of loneliness and distance that comes with the complete freedom that is traveling around the world.
I have been struggling with some feelings of loneliness recently, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on what it’s like to be a “kind-of-solo traveller” and the feeling of isolation and distance that can come with it.
One of the things I struggle with most is making friends in one place, and then having to leave them behind when you move on. I have been doing this for five years now, leaving trails of friendship all over the place. It’s fantastic in some aspects, you create lifelong friendships with people from different cultures (and always have a place to crash whenever you end up back there), and build an understanding that friendship really IS about who you have in your heart – not around you.
The other aspect is those friendships that don’t quite make it. The ones that start off so well but you don’t keep in touch, or you didn’t get close enough to build that connection before you go. Each time you leave a place there are multiple things that you have to grieve with it, and these kinds of friendships are one of them. I have now gotten pretty good at leaving people.
Having to go somewhere new and start fresh means that you have to build friendships from the ground up. You arrive somewhere completely alone, and it’s up to you to go and find your people. I am thankful for the making-friends skill this has given me, but sometimes I just wish I had my best friends by my side.
The disconnect from home is something that is really real. It has been 3 and a half years since I was in my home in Glasgow and it feels like longer. The thing about travelling is that it completely changes you as a person. My girlfriend asked me today what the most important moment of my life so far was, and my answer was the moment I left home to travel.
At that moment, my life path changed. It’s like when I look back home before I left, I look at a completely different person waiting to get on that flight. I know that moment has made me who I am today. I’m not saying I would be the same if I hadn’t left, but I wouldn’t be this person right now.
The thought of going home after so long and feeling like a completely changed person is bittersweet. I cannot wait to see my family and at the core I am – of course – still the person they knew. But I can’t help but worry. Worry that I will no longer fit into the space that is there for me and worry that I will revert back to the person I was before I left.
I am so fortunate to talk to my family on a – very – regular basis, so I never feel too far away. I am just a person who watches from the outside, and I constantly wonder if I will regret the decision to spend so much time away from them when I am old and grey.
It can be hard when you are travelling with just one other person, to not constantly emotionally dump on them. They are the support system you have physically, so it’s your natural instinct to share all of your problems with them. However, something I have learned is that this is not sustainable and having to find other avenues of support is key.
Reaching out to people and asking for help or support is something I am learning to do. I think it’s something we are all learning to do. Being okay with needing extra support outside of the people you are with is brave and will bring you closer to the people that you feel furthest away from.
There has been one time when I was totally alone. When I moved from Sydney – Melbourne and then eventually from Australia to New Zealand. At this point I was alone, I had no partner and no friends to do the move with me like I normally do.
It was one of those times in my life I look back at and think “wow, I really can do whatever I want to”. I felt totally free. I felt liberated, independent, strong and capable. I have never felt more sure of myself than when I was moving around alone. I let my inner world guide me. I allowed myself to be totally authentic to myself, and this is what lead me to meeting the love of my life and her loving me for exactly who I am.
Some things are way more scarier in your head than they are to actually complete and moving countries – or travelling – alone is one of them. Sure, it’s terrifying, but the reward is SO much more superior. I would have never have thought it would be something I’d be able to do alone, without another person to guide me, until I did it. I’d say that was another defining moment in my life – needing no one beside me to chase my dreams with, and loving it.
While being alone is scary, and can be isolating. The good thing is, people are never far away. Those friends that feel like family will always be there whenever you need them, your family will never refuse a facetime call and in times of total solitude you can prove to yourself that sometimes, you are the best company you can keep.
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