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Peaks and Valleys--Dealing with Loneliness as a Solo Traveler

ECUADOR | Saturday, 4 March 2017 | Views [688] | Comments [1]

A lot of people ask me how my travels are going. They see my social media posts on Facebook and Instagram and can't help but assume that I am high on travel fumes and adrenaline twenty four hours, day in day out. This, I can assure you is not the case. Though I haven't chosen to share the lows of my trip on social media, they have been existent and actually vacillating with frequency. Not to say they aren't important, to the contrary actually.

The sharing of behind the scenes action on social media is something that intrigues me, and I myself have slightly dipped my toes in the water with posts describing my own experiences with eating disorder recovery, depression and anxiety. I really respect those who have delved into complete transparency online regarding important topics. (No, not you who posts what color you painted your toes while watching XYZ movie on Netflix last night…). Yes, I value my privacy, but how much? What am I not sharing that could possibly help someone in need of advice or support? I'm still figuring this out and have been for years.

So back to the question- how are my travels going? I'll try to answer that with some transparency, or at least more than I've expressed thus far...

Solo traveling through South America is quite possibly the most gutsy thing Ive chosen to do during my time in this body. Living out of a 55L pack, never knowing what the next 24 hours will bring is both exhilarating and at the same time, quite un-grounding. Honestly this is, emotionally, way harder than i anticipated. Worth it? Absolutely. But not without struggle.

What can I relate it to? Solo traveling is a lot like re-living the first day of high school at lunch time. At my old high school, there were different lunch periods and the absolute most important thing (next to if there would be fresh baked chocolate chip cookies for sale) was the small percentage of chance that myself and my best friends would all get placed in the same lunch period. At sixteen, not much else matters. Ok...let's be real, a LOT matters and every single thing that goes wrong means the world is lit on fire…but anyways, more often than not, this would happen:

Lunch A= everyone and their second removed cousin. Even that weird uncle that collects pez dispensers or handkerchiefs.

Lunch B...*walks into cafeteria with stupefied look, sees groups of already functioning cliques and acquaintance faces, sighs and curses under breath* ...

Getting used to never being placed in Lunch A and pushing beyond my natural comfort zone is taxing as an introvert. But I absolutely crave connection, want to meet new friends and explore things unseen on this trip. AKA the introvert conundrum.

Some days, I don't want to be social. Making friends for me is a process as a true INFP. (Introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving person). I value deep and meaningful connections rooted over time. I hate small talk. It's terribly uncomfortable for me. But when I'm charged up, other days I am very extroverted and constantly seeking out voices I hear down the hall with enthusiasm. This is quite an annoying facet of my personality that, honestly, I wish were a little more steadfast in one way or the other.

So the first day at a new hostel is a little tricky. The vibe of the hostel is very important and can make or break the likelihood of meeting a good group of friends as well. A lot of people have pre-established groups speaking in different languages. (Do I really want to be the gringo that forces the group to speak in English? Eh...sometimes :) Lots of variables at play. Commence the lunch room experience!

It's not so much of a stressor now as it was at the beginning of my time alone. Within a day, I always end up meeting new people from all over the world. We share travel adventures for 1 day, 2 days, maybe even 3 or 4, which is are absolutely beautiful experiences. I find that my definition of human connection (can it even be defined?) is rapidly changing as the weeks pass, as dozens of new interactions come and go like weightless petals in the wind.

Im realizing human connection doesn't need to be as deep and existential as my aforementioned INFPey description. It can be small and surface, and that's okay. It can be cavernously deep, too. The prerequisite to calling someone a friend could mean sharing a drink over some awful blaring hostel music, meeting and spending fifteen minutes chatting in the park, or sharing a short taxi ride knowing you'll most likely never see each other again. It's a different kind of connection that I am learning to appreciate with each new city and worldly face in passing.

Learning to accept my alone time is an ever winding road, too. Accepting that “okay, today I've got just myself. What do I want to do? Go explore? Go try to meet new friends? Eat ice cream in bed and watch Netflix? Cry in the shower? How about go explore, then get ice cream, and then cry in the shower?” Ok, cool, it's a plan.

It's a concept that I think a lot of solo travelers struggle with- feeling lonely- but it's rarely talked about. One minute you could be fine, and the next, it hits you like a dozen bricks. You miss your family, your friends back home, and all the travelers you met and departed from in previous cities, all at the same time. A huge cloud of “shit, what next” looms when you realize the human embrace of those you love really are so far away.

But like clouds do, the feelings pass. You meet people. They distract you. You go find fun shit to do. The beauty and vulnerability and transience of life is again apparent. Loneliness sets in. You try to love the things around you to counteract the ache in your heart. New people distract you. More fun shit. You learn about others, about the history of the places you're in. And then you hop on a crowded bus to some new crowded city, and try to soak it all in as the changing scenery whirs by. Complete awe and wonder. Loneliness. Anxiety. You chat on the phone when good wifi presents itself. You walk in the city trying to find a way to love where you're at just a bit more. A big bubble of gratitude fills your heart recalling all the blessings you are so lucky enough to miss. More people. More fun shit. You feel like you're flying. You feel like crying. Repeat.

It's emotional and it's unpredictable. It's simple and raw and beautiful.

Well- There's my vulnerability cupcake for everyone. Let me know what you think- maybe I could bake up some more feels for the blog in due time.

A bit of an actual update: im in Latacunga, Ecuador. Going to hike the top of a volcano tomorrow to a very special lake. Next stop, Banos!

Adios amigos. (can't say Parceros--it's a Colombian word and I'm in Ecuador now!)

Xo D


Tags: america, budget, ecuador, south, travel



Viajar sola es la experiencia más linda de la vida, para mí un "mal" necesario. Hope you are safe and sound and improving your Spanish.

  Carola Sep 26, 2017 9:33 AM

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