Solo Travel: Is it Lonely?
People had a lot of reactions when they heard I'd be traveling solo for 3 months - safety, of course, is a major concern, but right up there with it is "won't you get lonely?" Before I started this trip I really wasn't sure, but after being abroad for a month my experience has been that I'm only alone if I want to be.
In this first month of travel, I can count on one hand the number of dinners I've eaten alone. And those were usually just because I felt like a quiet night, or was too lazy to strike up a conversation with someone at the hostel (it happens).
|One reason it's important to make friends: Georgian food is meant to be shared.|
Some strategies I've learned found helpful for taking the solo out of solo travel:
1) Friends of friends
I've been very lucky - this has by far been my best resource on this trip. Friends of friends, both local and expats, have been tour guides, dinner companions, language teachers, and cultural ambassadors. In addition to being great company, they give me insight that I wouldn't get from fellow travelers - and have set me up with a local cell phone, helped me find delicious food, and have even offered to do my laundry! Interestingly, almost all my contacts have come from folks I know through Tulane. Go Green Wave!
|My first weekend in town, George took me to visit Uplitsikhe, an ancient cave city about an hour outside of Tbilisi.|
2) Choose social accommodations
Hotels are nice, but there's often not much chance for interaction with other guests. Hostels are a great place to meet people in cities, especially if they have a good common area. A conversation on the rooftop or in the breakfast room at Envoy in Tbilisi has been the start of many an activity buddy.
Even better, for me at least, are the guesthouses you typically find outside of the bigger cities in Georgia. Many of them offer an option to eat a home-cooked dinner at the house for a very reasonable price. This usually means a communal table and family-style meals - perfect for getting to know people and finding a group to join in on activities.
|Heidi and I met at Envoy in Tbilisi and were both headed to Kazbegi; Josh was in our dorm room at Nazi's Guesthouse.|
|The hiking crew grew on day 2 with more additions from the guesthouse, and expanded into a khinkali-eating, wine-drinking and card-playing crew as well.|
3) Be flexible
I have the luxury of time on this trip, which is not always the case. If I find a place or people I like and want to stick with, I can change my plans. In Ushguli, I wound up staying several nights at a guesthouse because I loved the place and the people so much. When we left, the Canadian family I'd met suggested I stay a night at the guesthouse they were headed to in another village - it wasn't what I'd planned, but why not? And, as these things often seem to go, at their guesthouse I met an Australian couple who was traveling the same way as me the next day and gave me a lift in their rental car!
|Hiking with Matt, Yok and Rosa near Ushguli|
4) It's okay to be alone
I've really enjoyed all the people I've met, and I certainly think it's more fun to hike and dine with friends... but I won't lie, sometimes this introvert needs a break from meeting new people! So I give myself a day or two, usually in the city, to be a bit antisocial. Today, for instance, I'm running errands, writing this blog post, catching up on some rooftop reading (250 pages down, only 950 left to go in Anna Karenina!), and eating leftovers in the hostel kitchen. I had a busy and social week in Yerevan, and I need some down time to reset (if I was home, it would be a popcorn night... I miss my popcorn!) Tomorrow I'll get back in the friend-making game ;-)
|The view from my rooftop resting spot.|
Got any more tips for avoiding loneliness on the road??