One of the most often asked questions I get when I tell people that I travel by myself is “Don’t you ever get lonely?” or some variation of this question. People assume that if I am not traveling with others, that I am alone and without friends or people to hang out with. Actually, just the opposite is true.
When a person travels by themselves, it forces them to be more active in starting conversations and meeting people. Conversely, if a person is traveling with someone, or with a group, they are more likely to stick to that group and less likely to try to meet new people and make new friends. This is a sad fact because to me, the people make the destination. If you’re not getting to know the locals, why go?
I do get a lot of alone time, which I love, it allows me to get to know myself. I also meet a lot of new people and make new friends everywhere I go. Very rarely do I feel lonely, and if I do, I can usually find someone who speaks English to start a conversation with and spend some time with.
My last night in Hong Kong is a perfect example of this. I went to Lantau Peak on Lantau Island to camp for the night. It was pretty cold and very windy, but when I got up there, there was a young group of locals taking photos. It didn’t take too long before we all started talking (English is their second language) and became friends.
Two of the locals stayed a bit longer to talk to me and we had a great conversation, they even gave me some cake!
After they left, I had the peak to myself for what I thought would be the rest of the night. I started reading my new book and watched the view. Then I was surprised by another group making their way up. It took a bit longer for us to start talking because I was enjoying my book and they were busying themselves with photo’s.
After a bit, I decided to break the ice, we started talking and had a great time with a lot of laughs. I found out that they were all students, half studying psychology and the others, nursing, so I, pretty ingeniously if I do say so myself, called them a “group of psychotic nurses!” But again, soon, they gave up on their photo session when it was too dark and cloudy to get the photos they wanted and had to leave.
Once the park closed and no one was supposed to be up on the peak, myself included, I figured I had the peak to myself. I did for some of the night. At about 2AM, I woke up inside my tent in the small shelter at the peak. I heard what I thought was likely some animal trying to get into my backpack. Instead, I saw a light, and for a moment got nervous, but then a woman around my age came into the shelter, much more nervous than I was to find that someone else was on the peak than I was.
“Hi” I said when I saw her, she was stunned at first, but we quickly began talking. It was Anita’s 24th birthday and she came up in the dark (she’s afraid of the dark) by herself so that she could watch the sunrise. Her friends thought something was wrong with her, likely struggling with some mental disorder.
We talked for a few hours and then slept for a bit over an hour until 6.15AM when it was time for the sunrise. Sadly, the clouds came low and it was so foggy that we couldn’t see twenty feet in front of us. We hiked down the way I came up, opposite of where Anita came from, down Lantau Mountain to the Big Buddha in Ngon Ping. It was Anita’s first time exploring the area, and even though everything was still closed, it was nice being there without all the tourists.
Still think traveling solo is lonely? I hope not. I hope that I have shown you that even when you think you are alone, you could soon find yourself in the company of a lot of great people at times when it is completely unexpected to run into anyone. Everyone should try traveling alone at one point or another, it is truly a great experience feeling the complete freedom.
Go, do, and enjoy whatever you want, however you want, without pressures to compromise anything from a companion. You truly get to know yourself in ways you would never be able to with others watching and judging. There are billions of people on the planet and most of them are happy to make a new friend and share some stories, with so many people to meet, how could you be lonely?
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