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She Deals With Loneliness on the Road

 

Evelyn Hannon

I've been travelling solo for twenty-three years and I absolutely love it. It wasn't always like this. I remember my first solo journey to Europe. It was just after my divorce and I couldn't stop crying. I cried on park benches in Paris, in restaurants in Rome and even as I shopped in London. No, it wasn't simply because my heart was broken. I know now that my sadness was all about being totally alone, without a support system, and not having another human being to share my travel experiences with.

I still get lonely...

Since that time I've worked on learning the art of solo travel. Today's newspaper articles and magazine stories applaud my seeming ability to venture forth all alone. Bold adjectives like brave and intrepid inevitably find their way into journalists' descriptions. Yet few explore the underlying truth. I still feel alone when I travel. That's natural because I am alone. In fact, at times I experience extreme loneliness. Now I enroll in classes along the way, seek out restaurants with communal tables or use my solitude to relax and just be me. The difference between that first solo journey and now is that I have acquired the experience and the skills that help me to deal with the 'aloneness' and to reach out for company when I need it. Actually, in a lovely turnaround way, it is this reaching out that has produced incredible experiences that make me love 'solo travel' even more.

In a past newsletter I asked other travelling women to share their thoughts on loneliness. Do they feel lonely as well? Any solutions to offer ? Has loneliness stopped them from going off to follow their journey dreams? Here is a sampling of e email responses from the Journeywoman Network. Some submissions are serious, others lighthearted, however we found each one helpful in their own special way. Enjoy everybody!


Cybercafes are my link to home...

I do feel lonely at times but that doesn't stop me from travelling all by myself. Going alone allows me the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it. However, I can't bear being away from my family for long stretches of time and not knowing what's happening back home. My survival plan is finding out beforehand where the cybercafes are located at my destination. Then I seek these places out and get daily updates from my clan. They even send digital photos as a special treat.
Beverly, Winnipeg, Canada

I'm a woman who knits...

I learned to knit recently, and avid knitters are never without their knitting, especially when travelling. It's a distraction from loneliness and boredom, as well as a good conversation starter. People invariably ask what it is that I'm knitting, then tell me about their own knitting or a friend who knits, etc. I've met lots of nice folks this way, as well as fellow fiber artists and fashion designers. P.S. I've had no problems bringing (wooden) knitting needles on planes. Just leave your scissors and tapestry needles at home or pack them in your checked baggage.
Theresa, Atlanta, USA.


I gave someone a birthday party...

Reach out! That's my cure for loneliness. Travelling to Paris by train I struck up a conversation with a young American woman twenty years my junior. She told me it was her birthday -- the first time she wasn't celebrating with family and friends. I invited her out to dinner and then to a French dubbed Woody Allen movie with English subtitles ( hilarious!). We had a great time. It didn't make a huge dent in my travel budget and I'll bet that she remembers that celebration as vividly as I do. I hope that one day someone does the same for me.
Evelyn, Toronto, Canada

I give myself presents...

A great way to deal with loneliness on the road is to take along gifts. I put aside any small ones at Christmas or my birthday. Not that I receive so many gifts, but if no one minds, I just don't open smaller gifts when they are given and save them for times when I expect to feel low. When I open one I feel loved and connected and surprised. It's a real pick me up.
Cyndie, Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico


Don't feel bad if you feel bad...

Here's a bit of advice that I would like to share with other JourneyWomen. I have found over years of solo travel that the day of my arrival at my destination is always the toughest. I tend to feel lonely, a little frightened, and often end up doubting the sanity of my decision to travel alone again. In order to head off those early trip blues, I bring along a favorite snack treat from home, eat it upon my arrival at my hotel, take a refreshing shower, and then head out for a walk. It helps me to get to know the area where I am staying. It keeps me from basking in loneliness in my hotel room, and it provides me with a breath of fresh air in my new home away from home. By the time the following morning rolls around, I am usually feeling more than ready for a brand new adventure.
Gail, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA


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