Alone vs Lonely: How to tell the difference

Travelling alone can be one of the most freeing things you will ever do.

You are 100% in charge of you and your destiny.

You become self sufficient, able to make decisions and organise, able to make a plan and change it on a whim because you don’t need to consult anyone else.

The possibilities become endless when there is no one else to rely on.

Friends are made, new travel partners found and lost and changed.

As a solo female traveller I have had some of the best times travelling alone amongst times when I have met other travellers and gone along with them.

Sometimes it has lead to solid friendships that carry on to this day.

Other times it has been a little bit disastrous.

One thing that I think many solo travellers stuggle with at one time or another on the road is how to tell if you are feeling lonely or alone?

They are too different things but after one too many nights sat by yourself in a bar/cafe/hostel/dorm room/common room you begin to feel a little down.

It has happened to me. Walking into a common area at a hostel hoping to strike up a conversation only to have everyone in there ignore me or blatantly not make room for me to join them around the table.

After days/weeks/months of travelling alone suddenly I craved company of other humans and when I sought it out I found none.

From past experiences I was positive that I would find other like minded single travellers to pair up with but instead I seemed to only be met with big groups of people travelling together.

I started to realise just how alone I felt and I was lonely.

One thing that I realised later though is the importance of recognising when you are alone and when you feel lonely.

They are two different things and as a solo long term traveller it is easy to struggle to differentiate the two.

I choose to travel alone, it makes things free and I feel as though I can take on anything and that I have no one but myself to rely on.

I am alone. and that is ok. it is by design.

It can mean that sometimes I feel very alone. When I am in a new place and have not managed to meet anyone at the hostel or in the bus station or at a cafe etc.

I suddenly realise that I am really travelling alone.

When I am lost and the only person that is going to have to get up the courage to ask a stranger on the street for directions is me.

The only person responsible for choosing the next destination is me.

It can end up being a bit exhausting.

Yet sometimes it can also start to feel lonely.

Too long spent alone can lead to loneliness, it doesn’t have to, but it can.

When you see photos of your friends 1 month backpacking holiday and realise that they have more photos on Facebook and look as though they are having more fun than you because they are travelling with 5 of their best friends.

You start to feel as though you just desperately need a friend.

You start to question why you are even doing this.

If/when this happens I always take a moment to re evaluate.

Am I feeling alone and am I just realising that I need a day to sleep and rest at a hostel and recharge?

Or am feeling lonely and should I sign up to that pub crawl or city walk in the hopes of meeting some people to talk to?

Am I feeling lonely because it seems like at this hostel everyone knows each other and seems to be travelling in groups?

If I remove myself from this situation will I feel different/better/ the same?

A few times last year during my travels I struggled with this feeling.

It is a really hard one to work out and sometimes it can also be a sign that its time to return home (a whole other topic).

There is no hard and fast rule and everyone is different but I think it is really important to remember these two key things.

You choose to be alone.

But you do not choose to be lonely.


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