Solo-Traveler’s Loneliness

The Eiffel Tower (Auna Harvey/UConn School of Business)
The Eiffel Tower (Auna Harvey/UConn School of Business)

Traveling away from home can be hard. Solo-Traveler’s Loneliness, or STL, is a real thing (or at least I’m making it a thing now). Common symptoms include: seeing something you know someone back home would love and wishing they were with you, sending tons of photos in group chats and text messages to include loved ones on your day, scrolling through social media late at night to see what everyone is doing, giving thought to whether you do take-out or be brave and sit alone at a restaurant. For all the criticisms of technology, it is really helpful for STL because it makes staying connected easier. At the same time, it can be a crutch to really going out of your comfort zone to make meaningful connections with the people in your new environment. There’s a balance to it, as with most things.

Family makes all the difference in two ways, and I will touch on both:

1. Support from loved ones back home gives you the courage to leave
2. Family, when you have it abroad, is true solace

My thoughts on family back home – I realize now how important it is to have their support. It’s my grounding foundation. Before choosing to do something like leave home for 3 months, I needed every single person in my life who was encouraging me and emboldening my dreams.

Seeing new parts of the world has been exciting (dare I say life-changing), but I also see how easily without the people I have waiting for me and knowing they’re there, I could feel lost. I would feel lost. My family makes this adventure possible; they remind me of who I am while I find myself in a completely new culture where it’s natural to feel a bit out of place. Through them, I feel supported and encouraged to make the most of this adventure. And this adventure feels worthwhile because I get to share it with them in various ways (pictures, FaceTime calls, blog posts, etc.) What I learn abroad feels meaningful because I have family who I know wants to listen and cares. So, to all my love back home, thank you so much!

At times, I am truly alone. Even surrounded by people in a restaurant per say, I know I’m not surrounded by the same type of I’ll-always-have-your-back kind people I’m used to at home. You have to be on guard, you have to be cautious and that’s not the way any of us want to live, but the reality of a solo-traveler. Which brings me to my second point, family abroad is a true solace.

I stayed with my Auntie Rukmini (Lolo for short) and her partner Pierre while in Paris. It wasn’t just the cherry on top to Paris, it was the whole sundae and the cherry on top. When you can travel someplace far away from home, and then find yourself in the company of family in a foreign country, you appreciate the little things we often don’t realize when being surrounded by family is usually our norm – like dinner conversations, having home-cooked meals, someone telling you tips to getting around, someone wishing you goodnight, someone to hug. How comfortable it is to find yourself not just in a house, but a home.