Dealing with the loneliness as a traveler

2. July 2018 1 By Justus Zeemann

In this article I discuss what the “loneliness” of traveling means to me and show you different ways how to handle it.

Before that, I would like to briefly explain myself and what my initial situation is. Also the term “loneliness” is defined by everyone different, so you get my definition also.

In my childhood I was never involved in large groups and never found a good connection to the mainstream. Neither at school, nor in recreational or sports groups, I wasn’t mass compatible. Nevertheless, in the years of my youth, I succeeded in establishing three solid friendships, which are now lasting for 18, 14 and 10 years. At some point I realized that I do not have to be everybodys darling.

I started my life as a digital nomad at the age of 31, and thus had previously been able to build my social base in Germany. Since these people are very important to me alongside with my family, one of my focuspoints is to maintain these relationships during my continueing travels.

I believe a human is a social being that finds his closest friends at a younger age. It takes time to experience and understand the worries and fears as well as successes and developments of the other. The necessary constant exchange and shared experience is hard to get in times of travel. If this relationship were not created before traveling, I would guess that I can most easily build this with a travel partner with whom I travel for many months or even years.

At the same time, I think that you should travel as much as possible, especially in your younger years, so you can see a lot of the world and figure out what you really want. These two points do not have to be mutually exclusive in my opinion. Anyone who goes through the normal European education system is – for the most part – long enough with the same people to develop real friendships and can still be on the road in between.

The loneliness which I’m writing about is not sitting alone in the cafe. It’s not lonely gym training season or the episode on Netflix, you look at with yourself alone. It is the long-lasting “isolation” from the social environment that has been created over years and perhaps decades – both with family and friends. It’s the feeling of being alone in the apartment in the afternoon and knowing, that no one is calling you out for the evening/night. It is the lack of confirmation from friends that comes automatically when you sit down to barbecue or play billiards. You miss the time with the people for which your status is not so important, who know you well and have always accepted you as you are.
Of course you meet a lot of new people while traveling and you are not alone, but for me this is not the same as spending time with your depper friends. And it’s a different thing to meet with new people and explaining for the hunderts time what you do with your life and make a point of your status.

Not everyone has a “problem” with this loneliness. Not everyone has the need for solid friends or an unlimited basis of trust. Many of the travelers I meet are satisfied with a superficial encounter and are not locking for more. This is important for me to consider – but this article obviously addresses “the others” ; )

As a slow traveling digital nomad, I spend very little time in hostels and rent apartments long term instead. Because of my job I want to have my peace, a quiet surrounding and therefore I can work less effective in CoWorking spaces.

When I come to a new city, I walk around the area for at least two hours every day for the first few days, to familiarize myself with the region or the surrounding area. I am looking for a cafe or a restaurant, which I like to go to and visit it once or twice a week. The same with a grocery shop and kiosk. Also, if you do not meet your new best friends there, you have a point of reference that you can always return to and build a consistent environment. This creates some peace in your life.
Learning a few words in the local language often works wonders and helps to deal with the employees. Just a smiling “Thank you” as well as yes, no and 123 are not wrong, and conjure a lot of locals quickly a smile in the face.

If you are already traveling and have not had the opportunity to build long-term friendships you can find attachment or exchange through various portals and opportunities. Maybe there is a travel partner there, with whom you can build a deeper relationship.

Here I would like to list a few ways you can meet new people. I would always focus on the area that I enjoy most. Because when I’m having fun and am happy, the others are usually on it also and it creates a good climate.

Digital, social networks

Facebook:

On Facebook you will find different communities around the world for digital nomads, backpackers, permanent travelers and your hobbies. If you are not looking for a group to travel or if you do not want to build a long-term relationship, you can quickly get started with local groups for your hobbies. They want to interact with you, learn from you and you can learn from them. It’s rather unlikely that someone joins your lifestyle and travels with you after 1-2 months.
The other communities are more likely to find travel buddies – exchange experiences for fighting the loneliness ; )

Tinder:

On Tinder you can make good new contacts, as a woman and as a man. Even if the network is more likely known to have a horizontal, physical exchange, it is possible to get to know the right people through a clear statement in your profile and to gain insights into the country while living. Many travelers use this platform for exchange, so maybe they’ll find a travel companion. Although it is not easy to fight loneliness within minutes, but you can build controlled “short-term” friendships and thus always retrieve when needed and organize in before the evening.

CouchSurfing:

On the couchsurfing portal, you’ll find a variety of hangouts and meet up opportunities. You can meet people without obligation and chat about your experiences and feelings. Sometimes you succeed here as well as on Tinder to build better relationships, but similar to the local sports clubs, people are more local and therefore more for the time of your stay.

CoWorking Spaces:

In so-called “CoWorking Spaces” you share desks, internet and the motivation to work with others. You can certainly team up with other digital nomads and work there. Many locals are also to be found there, where sometimes a problem is that the local coworker, after they have done their work, going straight back to their normal life and they are not necessarily automaticly available. Therefore, you should take the initiative here and actively seek contact, ask for leisure activities and plan joint ventures.

CoLiving Spaces:

In order to escape the problem with “going home” coworkers, so-called CoLiving Spaces have already been created. In these communities, you can live and work with other digital nomads or travelers. The advantage here is that the same people usually spend one to two months together in the same city and get to know each other better. Another advantage is that the people who want to work in this community type, do their normal digital craft during the day, and then fill their evenings and weekend together as desired and thus can exchange the already mentioned experiences, successes, fears and hardships. If you like a CoLiving tribe, or if you have found a “Buddie”, you can travel with him and the “Tribe”, exchange experiences, and maybe build a solid friendship.

Big events for the community

There are already many different, large to very large events for digital nomads. Here are three examples:

Nomad Cruise:
A cruise that currently takes place twice a year, holding digital nomads together for several days on sea. The day is filled with talks by respected speakers, workshops and meet-ups. There are sports and music, excursions and disco. Due to the “long” stay and the very international audience, you will surely find here one or the other interesting people with whom you would like to spend your time after the cruise. General recommendation: plan at least 1 week before and after the cruise, better 1 month after it ; )

The Nomad Summit
takes place once a year in Thailand and allows you to connect with other digital nomads on land, learn about their travel plans, learn from them, teach them something and thus maybe build friendships and relationships. You can certainly find different travel groups or travel partners here.

Once a year, the so-called Mindvalley, takes place.
This is a 1 month long event that aims to bring together like-minded people in terms of productivity, lifestyles and common interests, and to give them as much knowledge as possible. The big advantage is that most of the participants, like the Nomad Cruise or the Nomad Summit guests also, are interested in working digitally, traveling and creating something.

The general advantage of these three events is that you can see your counterpart for a long time, talk to him and get to know him.

Loneliness is a constant companion, I realize that. If you decide on a traveling lifestyle, you have to come to terms with it. It should not discourage you – it’s a chance – because everything has two sides. In these situations and moments you learn a lot about yourself and can thereby grow with it.

Thanks for reading!

Yours