Challenges for the lone(-ly) traveller

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Loneliness. That dreaded word. No one wants to admit to being lonely, especially when they’re travelling and supposed to be having the time of their lives. But it happens; you get lonely. Even after only 9 days of solo travel. On my first morning in Buenos Aires I cried discreetly into my cereal as I messaged home and the reality that I was all alone in one of the world’s largest cities gradually sunk in. “What the hell am I doing here?” I asked myself, panic-stricken. But once I had reached the bottom of my cornflakes, I had resolved to suck it up and do what I came here to do: experience Latin America. And I ended up having one of the best days of my travels so far.

I joined a free walking tour (www.bafreetour.com), which was amazingly interesting and fun, and a great way to get my bearings in the grand metropolis that is Buenos Aires. More importantly, I met some great people who I ended up spending the rest of my time in BA with. In the end, I never spent more than an afternoon alone. That’s the thing about solo travel: you’re never really alone.

Since then, I’ve realised that loneliness comes in waves, and never lasts for too long. For instance, before starting this post I was feeling particularly lonely and missed having my travel buddy by my side. I was imagining what we would be doing if he were here: having a cerveza in Salta’s main square before going for dinner and a few more drinks after that. Sure, I can do that on my own, but it’s not quite the same. And that’s the main thing: it’s not the same, but that’s okay. I’m experiencing a very different type of travel, one which makes you prone to the occasional lonely moment, but one which can also bring moments of quiet reflection that you might not get if you had a constant travel companion. For example, those long bus journeys spent looking out of the window, or, for me, staring in awe at the Iguazú Falls for a solid 45 minutes and contemplating how lucky I was to be there.

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The trick is to put yourself out there and make the most of all the opportunities you get to meet people, but also to make the most of all the opportunities you get to be by yourself, take stock of what you’re doing and enjoy your own company.

It’s a fine balance, and one I’m sure I’ll get to grips with the longer I’m on this solo adventure. Right now, it’s just the beginning and it can be hard, but, from now on, every time I get lonely I’m going to remind myself of the advantages that solo travel can bring and make the most of every experience, solitary or otherwise.

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