6 Ways to Beat Loneliness as a Solo Traveler
Updated: May 17, 2020
“I’m happy for you and glad to see that you’re finally living out your dream...but do you sometimes get a little lonely?”
I’ll never forget the night my mother asked me this. It was during one of our weekly conversations that I called her in Virginia from my home that many consider paradise in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While I could hear the sincerity in her voice, I could also hear her true concern-- concern that perhaps I wasn’t quite okay with living abroad alone with my son.
As a single parent living in a foreign country and one who sometimes travels solo, it’s a concern that often comes up among others: whether I get bored or “lonely” traveling alone. In fact, aside from the usual questions about safety and overall well-being, I’d say the topic of boredom is the biggest concern among those who have not yet but someday wish to travel solo.
The truth is, yes, I absolutely do miss having my friends and family around. When I first moved to Mexico, it was a rough transition for my son and I. I remember crying in frustration about not having anyone around to help. There have been many occasions where I longed to have my hometown friends nearby to go out and grab a bite with, to explore local destinations with, or just to call up and talk to. But although I do miss having friends and family around to do the usual things, I can’t say that I’ve ever considered myself “lonely.”
Why? Because I know I’m not alone.
So what do I tell my mom and others who ask whether I get bored or lonely? I tell them that I do these six things:
1. I get active on Facebook travel groups. Simply by joining other travel-related Facebook groups, I have met other women and families traveling through Puerto Vallarta. In fact, I can honestly say that every person that I’ve met and had a great time with since moving to Puerto Vallarta has been through a mutual Facebook travel group. Every day there are posts from women mentioning where they are currently traveling, or where they will be traveling. It has been a great way to make plans with other solo travelers, and simply just to have the comfort of knowing that someone else is out there too.
2. I start my own Facebook groups and pages. Back in February of 2018, I started my own Facebook group, Single Moms in Mexico, to build a community of other single moms in the country (both local and non-local). This group has not only allowed us to build a safe space among each other to discuss single mom concerns while living abroad, but it has allowed me to connect with and meet in-person other single moms living nearby. Through the Travel Unapologetically and Just Me and J in Mexico blog pages, I’ve connected with other solo travelers and families that have ultimately led to fun, in-person meetings.
3. I join tours. Instead of leaving it to myself to go out and explore new places and things, I join organized tours through sites such as Viator or through one of Airbnb’s newest features, Airbnb Experiences. Not only is it a safe way to venture out and learn about a place through a knowledgeable guide, but it is an excellent way to meet new people, including other solo travelers. For solo travelers considering these options, I should add that while Viator has a bigger variety of tours, I find that Airbnb Experiences is much more cost-efficient for the solo traveler.
4. I still go out! Just because I’m alone doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the local nightlife! If I want to go out, then I suck it up and go out. I do my research on places, remind myself of all of the common sense things to stay safe, and I go out with a positive mind that I WILL have a good time no matter what. It may feel awkward in the beginning, but the truth is that when I go out alone, I always end up having a better time than I would have if I had gone out with friends. On many occasions, I’ve ended up running into other groups of women who would see that I was alone and would invite me to come hang out with them...I’ve even met some nice guys who didn’t want anything more than to have friendly conversation. The best part is that these invitations usually turned into long-term friendships lasting far beyond the length of the trip.
5. I don’t mind sitting at the bar. Whether it’s just for a meal or a drink, I have no problem with sitting at the bar. Not only do I get served quicker, but I never feel alone. The bar has single seating, so many people there are also single. I can strike up a conversation with the bartender if I choose, and on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself next to another solo female traveler.
6. And yes...I go on dates too. With safety being a large concern among women traveling solo, there’s always the question of whether or not going out with someone new while traveling is a good idea. However, by keeping myself open to it I’ve met some pretty great people along the way, some whom I’m still good friends with to this day.
As a solo traveler, I know that I’m never actually ALONE. In fact, it’s safe to say that “loneliness” is just a mindset. All around me I know that there are others just like me: other single parents, solo travelers, and friendly people in general who are there to take those feelings of loneliness and boredom away. They’re out there waiting to met, just like I am-- it’s just up to me to get out there and find them!