Solo Travel and the Loneliness Myth

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It took me a while to become comfortable with the idea of solo travel. What if I couldn’t find ways to entertain myself?

I’ll be the first to admit I tend to travel with another person for the reason above. And don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with a friend, but you lose a bit of your solitude and independence.

So, I got over my fear by a mistake in travel plans and ended up on a plane to Iceland by myself.  A flying aficionado at this point- moving easily through security and customs, waiting out the Seattle layover, boarding the plane however many times, and getting off was a piece of cake.

It wasn’t until I was arrived in Keflavik Airport- figuring out my surroundings and adjusting to the time change- that I started to question myself. Even though Iceland is primarily English speaking and most tourists are European or American, the fact still remained: I was in a foreign country alone. I randomly had Dallas friends in town for a day, but after that I had to figure everything out solo.

Was I ever lonely? Anything but. From my second day in Iceland to the end of the trip, I met people from all over the world.

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At the local store, I met two happy locals, who struck up a conversation with me about Donald Trump.

At my bus stop, I met a couple from England who gave me a list of places to visit while in Iceland.

On my tour, I bonded with my guide over soccer and Icelandic history. He gave me good advice for a future summer trip- during the month of July the sun is out 24 hours and you can travel the island comfortably in 10 days.

I had dinner with a Japanese family one evening. We communicated through Google. I showed them places I had heard of in Japan and they showed me pictures of places they had visited. I made the decision to either go to Japan or Myanmar in 2019. At one point I mentioned I would like to visit Hiroshima. There was a brief moment of silence, and then we laughed about it and agreed that was a part of history when we were “mad” at each other.

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I ate many breakfasts and lunches with two wonderful people from New York. We had numerous conversations about travel and our personal backgrounds.

I had a cocktail with a guy from Pittsburgh at The Lebowski Bar. We discussed reasons for visiting Iceland, while a creeper was staring us down the entire time.

Upon arriving at my hostel, I had a long discussion with a girl living in Sacramento, who grew up in SoCal. She gave me recommendations for Death Valley and told me about her solo road trip around the east coast.

I took shelter under a canopy from a torrential down pour, where two guys from Chicago and Philadelphia joined me and shared their aspirations for Iceland and asked for recommendations.

On the airplane back home, I met a woman on her way to spend 10 days with her family in New Zealand. I learned she had had a serious brain injury not too long ago, but recovered and then wrote a book about it. We had scuba diving, among many other hobbies, in common.

To avoid the loneliness “plague”, disconnect from technology, be friendly, and ask questions. You’d be surprised how many interesting people you will meet.

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“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and- in spite of True Romance magazines- we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely- at least not all the time- but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”– Hunter S. Thompson

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