When I was 20, I was fortunate to be able to study abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland for my Junior year of College. There, I lived in a flat style dorm, sharing the kitchen and living space with 9 others. Unfortunately, my relationship with my flat mates was tenuous at best (save the times I made apple pie, then I was their best friend).
One day, I couldn’t handle their snark anymore and decided to journey on my own for the weekend. So I took the train down to a little town on the coast of Ireland, arriving just around 5pm. I imagined a hike followed by a lovely meal out where I would visit with locals and be invited to their home for tea and crumpets.
It didn’t work out that way.
My hike was cut short due to darkness, the one cafe was closing in about 20 minutes, and there was nobody around to boot.
All was not lost. I thought, I will go back to the hotel, enjoy my book and some television and perhaps catch up on my emails to home.
The hotel had no tv and no internet access. So there I was, 7:00 at night, just me and my book that I was suddenly not interested in. I panicked. I was alone. Literally. There was nobody but me and the thoughts that I could conjure. And boy was I good at conjuring thoughts.
That’s the problem with loneliness. When we are alone, we often become our own worst enemy. I ended up panicking, checking out of the hotel, and catching the last train back to Belfast. The trip was a shambles. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and disappointed in myself. My perception of myself as an independent world traveler was destroyed. I couldn’t even handle one night on my own.
Over ten years later, I was reminded of this failed journey when a friend recommended this blog post to me: “How and Why to Travel Alone
As I planned my solo trip to Turkey a couple of years ago, I dreamed of an experience like this bloggers, but I also feared a repeat of my Irish jaunt. Being alone is a skill that some people just have to learn and practice to be good at.
I wish I could say I knew how to learn to be alone. My personal journey of learning to enjoy it came out of necessity – moving to new cities and having no friends, roommates moving away, being dumped, etc. Slowly, I figured out that my own company was pretty great. So great, in fact, that when people asked me if they could come with me to Turkey, I flat out said no. It’s just like the blogger above said, I wanted all the WTF time I could have.
The best thing, I met other travelers, was never lonely, and still got my own WTF time. So find your bliss, and do it…alone.