What No One Tells You About Travel and Loneliness

What if the pandemic is preparing you for everything you asked for?”

I know. It sounds ridiculous. That’s the first thing I thought of when this idea came to me in writing meditation one day.

A pandemic is a terrible thing. How could coronavirus, of all things, help prepare me for everything I asked for? I didn’t ask for this. No one did.

This is not fitting with my vision board at all.

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Yeeahh, between writing and traveling and making new friends, I didn’t have enough room for a lockdown

But.

I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind.

“What if the pandemic is preparing you for everything you asked for?”

We are the last ones standing

I first arrived to Spain with a group of eight people. Me and one other girl are the only ones that are left.

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So grateful that I got to meet these amazing people

The lockdown was supposed to last for two weeks. We’re about to hit two months. Just last week, we were finally allowed to go outside once per day. And even then, we have restrictions. You can go out once a day, during certain hours; you have to stay in your municipality; you have to be alone.

Seriously. It’s illegal for me to make friends right now.

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Drinking beer with hundreds of people and line dancing? Definitely a big no-no during the times of corona

As an introvert, I was doing alright until a few weeks ago. Without getting into details, something small blew up in my personal life (because pandemics aren’t exempt from drama). Nothing serious, and I’m over it now, but certainly nothing you’d want to deal with while you’re stuck at home all day, with nothing to keep you company but your thoughts.

I felt real low for a bit. And I felt so alone.

And yet.

“What if the pandemic is preparing you for everything you asked for?”

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Traveling with friends in Vienna, Austria in November

You’re never alone, no matter how lonely you may feel

These past two months have been the most extreme cases of loneliness I’ve had on the road.

(Can I say that when I’m not allowed on the road? In my apartment? That sounds weird. You get the idea.)

This isn’t the first time I’m in a foreign country alone. I’ve arrived to several foreign countries by myself. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived in Chile, and made friends I still keep in touch with to this day. I’ve showed up in countless cities all over the world by myself, and rarely felt lonely.

If anything, travel has showed me how connected we are.

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Surrounded by a bunch of new friends that felt like family in Salta, Argentina

We may have different languages and cultures, but deep down, we all want the same things. People want a job they don’t hate, they want to make enough money to live comfortably, and they want to spend their free time with the people they love.

I think if we focused more on our similarities, we’d be less afraid, we’d judge less, and we’d realize how much love exists in the world. That we are all love.

Yes, I realize my hippie side is starting to show. But we’re all talking or looking like hippies right now anyway (like, when was the last time you washed your hair? Oh, you don’t remember? No? See, I told you).

The path less traveled wasn’t supposed to be easy

I showed this TEDx talk to my student on the first day of class back in September. This video, which is one of my favorites to show my students, talks about finding your life purpose.

The speaker says that most of the people he went to Yale with were privileged, but miserable; those who were happy knew their purpose. And sometimes, your purpose can lead you down some interesting paths.

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The path less traveled can feel like an uphill battle, but the views can be incredible

My student drew a picture in his notebook of two straight lines. He drew stars between the lines. “These are the people who choose the regular path, with a conventional job and a family,” he said.

“And these people,” he started to draw stars outside of the two lines. “These people choose a path outside of the norm.” You could tell that, while he was happy with the life he’d chosen, he admired those who went off the grid of a “normal life.”

He looked at me. “Which one are you?”

I didn’t need to say. Both he and I knew the answer.

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A life as irregular as this reservoir in Guatape, Colombia with all these irregular shaped islands

Watching my old life pass me by through a computer screen

Sometime in my mid 20s, when I was living in Colombia, I noticed something odd. People I went to high school with, who used to post pictures of them partying on social media, were getting married, buying houses, and having babies.

Every week, there was a new engagement or wedding, and every weekend I’d hum “another one bites the dust” much to my amusement. But I was also confused.

When did people decide that they were done with partying? When was it cool to “settle down”? And, should I be wanting that?

I’ve always wanted to get married. I’ve dreamed about my future husband, proposal, and wedding since I was a little girl. I’m the biggest and most idealistic hopeless romantic that ever was.

But, I don’t want to give up traveling to be with someone. I don’t want to leave making friends at hostels in the past. I don’t want to spend my weekends buying furniture at Ikea.

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I don’t want to give up meeting incredible people while I travel, like I did in Prague on Christmas

What kind of husband would be okay with their wife hopping off to Portugal for the weekend, alone or with friends? What kind of husband would be okay if I tell them that I don’t know if I want kids? What kind of husband will understand my passion for writing and travel, and that I won’t give these up for anyone? And that I find furniture shopping boring as shit?

Was I supposed to want the husband, house, and kids? And is it a crime that I only want one of those?

Can I get married and continue to travel the world?

Loneliness is a part of life, no matter where you are in the world

It’s inevitable. You could be in the middle of a party, and be lonely.

You can even be lonely in a marriage, which I’ve heard is one of the greatest forms of loneliness of all.

But, loneliness isn’t the end of the world. Like this virus, it will pass. In fact, loneliness can be one of your greatest teachers, if you’re willing to listen.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned about loneliness over the years, which have helped keep me sane during this time.

1. Change your mindset about loneliness

Start telling yourself that loneliness can help you.

When you have no one to focus on but yourself, you can really get to know yourself. You can learn to be your own best friend. And when you start to treat yourself better, you radiate positive energy, which eventually will draw positive people and situations toward you.

2. Go outside

Walking outside can help you realize we’re all connected.

When I finally walked outside for the first time in two months, I had to be alone. But, just being with people helped remind me that we’re all connected. We’re all in this social distancing together. And knowing that was enough to remind me that I’ve never been alone at all.

3. Books

Books, especially fiction, are a great way to go into other worlds and be with characters. There’s a reason why many people say books were their friends and family growing up.

Also, a book can be a good conversation starter. I’ve made several friends because I had a book with me. Once on a plane, once in the Colombian coffee region, and once in Villavicencio, where I met two friends who changed my life.

4. Create something to share with others

Being alone can send your creativity off the charts. Right now is the time to work on that creative project you’ve always wanted to share with the world. Is it a poem? A book? A painting? Want to learn guitar and sing songs for people? Now’s the time to do so.

With the whole world stopping, and noise and air pollution levels dropping, we’re in a pure time in the world. And if we share our creations with the world, however we can at the moment, it may bring a new type of healing for us all.

5. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude

This has been my mantra the past few weeks.

When I started to feel all alone, I decided to count my blessings. To give thanks to the higher power for how they’ve helped me. For a safe place to sleep, with a view of my beautiful neighborhood. For my food. For having an Internet connection. For my students. For my friends and family. For my goals. For my books. For electricity, running water, for legs to walk outside and eyes to see how beautiful everything is.

Learn to be grateful for what you have, even things you take for granted, and you will see how abundant and blessed you are.

What kind of people do you want as friends? Be that person. You attract who you are, so be the person you want in your life. The right people will come to you.

Maybe the pandemic is preparing you for everything you asked for.”

The more you tell yourself these affirmations, the less lonely you will feel knowing it will end, and the more hopeful you will be, because you can see how this time helped you bring what you asked for. Any adversity can help make your wildest dreams come true. I’ve seen it countless times. It can and will for you too.

Make a commitment to yourself, and you will see how, as said in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, the whole universe conspires to make your dreams happen. And it takes joy in doing so.

Remember that you’re not alone.

Remember that being alone can help you get back to who you are.

And remember that even if we are physically alone at the moment, we are all connected.

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This pandemic will end. I’ll be able to make new friends. I’ll be able to go for walks whenever I want, admire the beauty in this city, and I’ll appreciate everything even more.

Stay committed to yourself and your dreams! Never give up on yourself, no matter what the circumstances. Be faithful to your heart’s desires, and I promise you, things will work out and will leave you in awe, and every step that led up to that moment will finally make sense.

And for those like me, who wonder if they have to choose between love and travel: you can have both. I’ve seen it, and I personally know people who have both. You’ll have both too, and don’t you ever settle for anything less. The right one will either let you be free, or will join your wild and untamed soul.

Have you felt lonely during the lockdown? How have you been coping? What gives you hope during these times? Let me know below! And remember, you are never alone.

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