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Traveling Alone: Dealing With Silence and Loneliness

Traveling alone isn’t easy.  It’s filled with dinners for one, selfies, and an acute awareness that you’re completely dependent on yourself. My Bose headphones are probably the closes thing I have to a companion on the road and my personality is fiercely independent so this feels natural to me; but it doesn’t for everyone.  Dealing with silence and loneliness is a huge challenge for many people and there’s no right or wrong answer to deal with it. Traveling in countries where you don’t speak the native language can feel like you’re on an alien planet because you have no one to share your experiences or challenges with.  I get it and I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone… metaphorically speaking of course.

I’m a big fan of creating your own happiness. So I’ve brainstormed some ways to help you find peace and confidence while traveling alone.  Because if you don’t want to hangout with yourself, who else will?

1. Listen Music

Playing music during long journeys or while wandering around cities is a fantastic way to improve your mood.  Find an upbeat playlist on Spotify and set your own tone to the day.  Do you want to ponder deep questions while appreciating fine art at museums? Find a playlist that has few words and lots of melodies that will let you get lost in your own thoughts.  Planning the ultimate shopping trip alone? Opt for a playlist with upbeat music and give in to your guilty pleasure of listening to the latest charts. Gimmicky, easy-to-sing music is a great opportunity to sing along to create the illusion that you’re less alone.

2. Bring a Tablet

Computers are tiring to lug around and I’m always concerned that I’m going to drop my backpack the wrong way. Bring a tablet instead and take the opportunity to download lots of apps, books, and movies to enjoy while you’re transporting yourself to and from places. A tablet also allows you to carry tons of entertainment without the extra weight.

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3. Eat without your headphones on

I love inserting myself into strangers’ lives for the hell of it.  There are a lot of interesting people on this planet, but before you butt-in on someone’s private dinner party, give yourself the opportunity to listen in on their conversations (in a creepy way) and judge whether or not they would appreciate the extra company or your personality.  If you have no interest in spray-tans or nail care, but that’s all a group of girls are talking about, direct your attention else where. You should ALWAYS have breakfast without your headphones in hostels because you’ll be able to listen in on other people’s plans for the day and potentially snag a last-minute invite.

4. Practice a new language

Practicing a new language is a fantastic way to get to know the people and culture around you.  Even just asking the price of something is a great way to strike up a conversation while abroad.  Learning the terms for family members and hobbies is also a great way to have mini conversations with locals because everyone loves talking about the things they love; regardless of where you’re from.

5. Write

Write in a journal. Write in a blog. Write on notes. Write on walls. Just don’t write on anything sacred, alive, or in the process of being preserved. Writing is an ageless tradition that all human beings can appreciate and participate.  It’s what separates us from the animals and allows us to reflect on our lifelong journey to no where in particular.  Write because your story is worth telling.

Check out more photos like these on Instagram! It’s my fav.

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About Vanessa Elizabeth

Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.

  • Issa Clutz

    If you want me to come out with you and your friends, invite me somewhere quiet where we can talk. I get value from my relationships by getting to know you much more than just being around you.

    Issa@MapDestinations

  • Mary Elizabeth Huber

    HI Vanessa. You couldn’t have posted this at a better time; I’m seriously considering using my tax return to backpack through Southeast Asia and none of my friends are interested. I don’t want that – coupled with my family trying to convince me I’ll get killed – to prevent me from seizing an opportunity. I guess in short, it’s letting go of the fear of complete strangers thinking you’re a loser. But in hindsight, if you’re independently backpacking through Asia, that is anything BUT loser!
    Anyway, great post. Love your writing. Keep it up!!!