When I went to Switzerland this summer I had plenty of time to contemplate living life alone. There was nobody to call in Zurich to hang out with until the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t share a walk along the romantic Chapel Bridge at sunset in Lucerne. Nor could I experience with someone the amazingly steep Mt. Pilatus Railway that arrives at the top of Obwalden. Every experience is locked up in my memory. What a shame words nor pictures can do them justice.
Although a week of traveling alone isn’t a long time period at all, I’ve realized I fear being alone as much as I fear being broke. I did everything I could after high school to make sure I wouldn’t have to depend on anybody to survive. I’m not sure I can say the same for finding companionship since my family has always been there. It’s like I’ve taken them for granted. I’ve also never not been in a relationship since college as luck would have it.
If I didn’t take companionship for granted, I’d probably be a nicer, more patient person. I’d probably exercise more and eat less lemon meringue pie. I might even try and learn some jokes. Alas, I’ve got a ways to go.
Popping over to Mallorca after Switzerland with nine other people in a villa only buttressed such fears of loneliness. We literally went out every single night to unspoken amounts of fun. We’d sleep in the next morning, make us some jamon with slices of honeydew by the pool for brunch, hit the clay courts after and then relax on a nearby beach before going out all night again. It was one extreme to another, neither of which I could handle for an extended duration of time. But if I were to choose, I would select being surrounded by interesting people any day.
We want to spend as much time with someone who likes us as much as we like them. Unfortunately, the pain is unbearable when you discover the other side doesn’t feel the same.
This simple concept is scalable to practically everything that involves another person. As a landlord, I get a huge urge to want to select a prospective tenant who just crows on about how much she loves the place. At work, all I want to do is sing someone’s praises if they sing back. You can see the harmony demonstrated every time a maitre d greets her regulars. There’s something about reciprocity that generates so much positive energy.
It’s not fair to say that there’s someone out there for everyone if you are already with someone. Yes there are billions of people on Earth, but that just makes folks feel worse when they’ve got nobody.
Traveling has allowed me to re-kindle old relationships and discover new relationships I never thought possible. Traveling takes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to speak to other people much in the same way as a new kid does at school.
For those of you who are able to travel for extended periods of time alone, I’d love to know how you do it. One suggestion given to me by a nomadic traveler was to stick to hostels. Hotels simply close you off to the world, while hostels open you up to endless possibilities. What else?
What about those of you who are more introverted by nature. What are some of things that allow you to enjoy the silence? I understand being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t want to be with someone. I’m just trying to get some perspective to tame my restless soul.
Perhaps the problem is that I never got to be a crazy 20-something year old after college because I was so busy working so I didn’t have to work forever. It’s as if I grew up too fast and am trying to make up for things now. Does anybody feel the same way?
Update 2/3/2015: I no longer feel lonely. I’m working three consulting jobs and keeping myself busy. It just feels lonely traveling alone for eight weeks. It’s too much! I’ll keep the traveling alone limit to three weeks next time.
Update 11/26/2016: Reading this post now is pretty interesting because I haven’t felt alone since I traveled to Switzerland and Mallorca since the summer of 2013. I went on that trip to find myself. It was one of those passages one goes through after leaving their occupation of 13 years.
Now, not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for having broken free from the corporate grind. All the sacrifice to get here was worth it. I’m so happy I started this site back in 2009 when the world was falling apart. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be here, absolutely free to do whatever. I’ve got a loving family and a business that allows me to be present.
Looking for a travel focused rewards credit card? Check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and others. I use my Chase credit card for all my business and travel spending to get points for more free travel, insurance in case my bags are lost or my flight is stuck, and more insurance for defective products I buy and want to return. Everybody should have a credit card for the free 30 day credit. Just make sure to pay off your credit card every month in full!
Check out some of the benefits:
Updated for 2021 and beyond.