HOW DO I DEAL WITH LONELINESS?
Updated: Jul 9
JUL 3, 2023
This was a blog post suggestion, posed as: How to overcome those lonely moments?
I'll divide this post into three sections: Who I was, What I experience, Why I don't feel lonely.
For a short read, I rarely ever feel lonely and I never get homesick.
This may be different from many people who have the feeling of wanting to go home after they've gone away on vacation, but I have never felt this way even prior to this big expedition. I don't know why this is. Maybe I sniffed too much gasoline over the years.
WHO I WAS
Before I left on this expedition, I always needed people around me. If I went to the gym, ate at restaurants, went hiking, or did a day trip anywhere, I always invited at least one friend, oftentimes a few. I organized big camping trips and snow cabin trips where 20+ people would attend. So when I left on this big expedition, I wondered how I would fair. Would I suddenly feel empty? Would I have an emotional break down as many solo travelers do when they realize they are without their circle around them? Ready for the boring anti-climax?
I adjusted quite easily. The sudden silence of being alone was completely new to me, but I think my body and soul knew it was time to fully focus on myself.
My goodbye hangout surrounded by dear friends in the Bay Area
There is a caveat to having a lot of friends. You get invited to a lot of events! So almost every weekend for 10 years, I either had a wedding, birthday party, child's birthday party, bachelorette party, bridal shower, child's baptism, badminton tournament, marathon, obstacle course race, motorcycle group ride, group hike, grand opening party, friend's art show, housewarming party, helping friends move and more. I've been a maid of honor twice, a bridesmaid 3 times, an officiant and a signing witness. It was nonstop. This is probably why I have so many miles on my Ninja 300 in California, because I rode around the Bay Area attending all these events, sometimes up to 3-5 in a weekend. Attending such events, I also helped with errands, organizing, set up, break down and clean up. I loved it, but my body and soul knew before I did that it was finally time to be alone.
WHAT I EXPERIENCE
So what do I feel?
I feel isolated. It feels like I'm an astronaut floating in space that broke out of society's rat race and am far away from everyone and everything. I experience life at a much faster pace. Everyday is different for me. I am exposed to meet new people, cultures, languages, trains of thought, history, struggles and problems I must solve on a daily basis. Where will I sleep tonight? How much food should I strategically buy so I don't need to carry too much, but waste nothing, yet also stay good unrefrigerated while still eating healthy. I am stranded on the road with a bike problem and don't know anyone in this country. How do I get myself out of this situation? All these situations that I need to solve everyday force growth very rapidly, more so than living a routine life. What I experience is an overstimulation of newness that forces quick adaption and change. It has become hard for my friends and family back home to relate to me, and because I've grown so quickly in a short amount of time, I have difficulty explaining my experience to them so they can try to understand. It feels isolating when your people who understood you so well before, can no longer relate to my struggles and experiences of living on the road. So I look around. And the only people that truly understand me are other travelers who have been on the road for a long time. They don't even need to be motorcyclists. I have had to find my new people and form a new community away from home.
Riding through Belogradchik, Bulgaria
I felt case aside. I had an emotional breakdown 3 months in. Not from the loneliness, but the lack of reciprocation of my friends to maintain our friendships. After living a decade of social-ness, I've acquired a lot of close friends, more than my fingers and toes. It was important to me to maintain these tight friendships when I went away. Each day, I would video call a different friend, each day throughout the month. If they didn't pick up, I would try again the next week or so. But the same effort was not reciprocated. I understand time zone differences, being busy, etc, but overall, my calls were not returned by the majority of friends. This was actually really hard for me and I was depressed and hurt. I knew my friends weren't intentionally trying to hurt me, but they had the misconception that since I'm across the world, I'm adventuring 24/7 and they thought I was busy all the time or they didn't know what time it was for me, nor did they ask. So they just didn't bother to call back. Life moved on without me.
Riding through Kosovo
I feel differently now. I've come to realize and have accepted if you are not in proximity of people, life moves on and people learn to live without you. It's human nature to survive, adjust and not dwell on what was lost. Besides, there is so much life that is happening. So I've put these friendships on hold and will foster them if I return. I don't hold on as tight as before. As a friend of mine described, I may be floating out in space and that cord that ties me back to Earth may stretch or condense, but it is always connected. Who knows. I've become detached to the feeling of keeping things, people and relationships, since new ones come and go everyday.
I don't feel loneliness, but there are times where I have felt absolutely cripplingly alone. There is a difference between feeling alone and loneliness. I am alone everyday and I enjoy it. Loneliness is defined as sadness due to not having friends or company. But the cripplingly alone feeling I am describing is when you really just need another human you know that cares about you to help you through that really hard time and give you a big long hug. Luckily I haven't experienced too many of these moments, but there are 3 big ones that come to mind.
When I was threatened with a bat in Croatia. YouTube Video Here
When my cat Toby died while I was in Greece. YouTube Video Here
When I had an extremely rough few days in Prague, Czech Republic when someone tried to steal my bike and my hostel kicked my bike out at 4am because of this. I pushed my bike for an hour with tears from anger, exhaustion, and stress trying to find a secure parking lot. The next day I needed a root canal and a man wouldn't let me use his phone to call a dentist since my phone wouldn't work. I later learned Prague was closed for two days because of national holidays and I would need to bear this excruciating tooth pain until businesses opened again. This was a rough few days for me. IG Post Here
In all of these situations, the words of new friends and strangers don't comfort you at the depth as from someone who truly knows you, your history, your personality and character and receiving their comfort in person. I couldn't call for help in these situations because no one across the world could do anything for me. That is what I mean by feeling absolutely cripplingly alone.
WHY DON'T I FEEL LONELY
I've deducted there are two main reasons.
The first is that I fill my time with things I enjoy. I do ride a lot. But when I'm not riding, I'm editing YouTube videos, marketing myself to companies, updating this blog, organizing photos/ files, reading books, playing badminton, hiking, exploring the cities I'm in, or making new friends. I just do what I love. I don't have time to feel lonely.
Friendly badminton players in Slovenia who let me play with them and treated me to a refreshing sports drink.
The second reason is because strangers approach me everyday, multiple times a day. With my 55kg/ 120 lbs of stuff, the circus has arrived to town! People are curious about me, so they start conversations. That fills a lot of my social need for human interaction. After those interactions, I'm happy to have alone time again.
In conclusion, I don't have many lonely times. I'm too busy living.