On Travel and Loneliness Part 2: Post-Lockdown

YouTube recommended me this video: “21 Years Old: I Have NO Friends.”

One commenter said that seeing this video in their feed of recommendations felt like a personal attack.

The video has a beautiful sadness to it. The girl talks about growing up in a small, religious community and being homeschooled; growing up with social anxiety; and trying to make friends, but people don’t reach out. She recounts her longing and struggle for human connection. How, at the time of the recording, she felt like she had no support system.

Until the video went viral, that is.

It’s quite bittersweet how many people relate to this girl’s story, myself included. While my social anxiety doesn’t sound as extreme has hers has been, I have experienced several periods of solitude in my life. This period being one of them.

Casa de Campo in Madrid, Spain

Since my last update about living in the pandemic in Spain, a lot has happened, and a lot hasn’t happened. I lost nearly all my work very quickly, and then I got it back threefold just as quickly. I’ve completed four professional development courses. I’ve written several poems. Finished a few books.

I have also lost my small support system during this time, which as left me for all intents and purposes feeling very alone in a foreign country.

But good. Much to my surprise, I feel good. Light. Hopeful.

Downtown Madrid on a rooftop bar

This isn’t the first time I’ve been alone in a foreign country. When I lived in Colombia, I was the only native English speaker in my community at a few times. But back then, I already had many local friends, so I didn’t feel as alone. Not like now.

Alone, but not lonely. Such is the life of a solo traveler.

This period has taught me a lot about material and emotional self-reliance. Through external circumstances, I’ve become my own refuge in these tides of the unknown: believing that everything has a reason, and believing in my own capabilities.

Paseo de la Castellana

This is not the summer I had imagined when I made my vision board. I’m not sure what kind of summer I was imagining, but not this.

However, many things on my vision board have still come true in the pandemic. Just differently than I expected.

Several posts back, I wrote something that came to me in writing meditation one day, which was, “Maybe the pandemic is preparing me for everything I asked for.” In a strange way, the lockdown at the very least has.

No, I haven’t been able to visit the countries I want to see. I can’t even leave Spain while my visa is getting renewed. But, without getting into details, I’ve been able to talk to several people every day, and I’ve found a way to keep myself afloat. I’m saving money by not going out. I’m not gaining weight from wine and tapas. I’m doing intermittent fasting. I’m focusing on my career and getting ready to go back to school. Life feels like it’s moving, slowly but surely. It feels like I’m setting down the foundations for something greater than I could even know right now.

And there are benefit of being alone in a foreign country. Someday, I’m going to look back at this time of me working behind the scenes of setting up the life I’ve been dreaming of and working for, for so long. Already I’m grateful for it.

Anyway, without further adeiu, here are the benefits of being alone in a foreign country.

1. I’m saving money by not going out (except for the occasional coffee when I need air conditioning).

Going out for tapas and wine on the weekends (and sometimes, the weekdays) was so fun. Sipping a cappuccino in a café for hours was so relaxing. But you know what else is fun and relaxing? Seeing that money sit in my bank account.

2. I’m less likely to get sick by not going out.

Less likely, not invincible. But knowing I’m taking less unnecessary risks during a pandemic for myself and others feels like I’m doing my part.

3. I’ve been building my skills.

In the early stages of lockdown, I came across several heavily discounted courses due to the lockdown. With no end in sight, I figured it couldn’t hurt to build my skills in the meanwhile. As of now, I’ve completed over 140 hours of education for my professional development. My brain feels like it’s on overload, but I’ve been growing.

4. I’m learning to enjoy my own company.

Spend enough time alone with yourself, and you will learn to like yourself. There come a point where you have to stop fighting yourself, and learn to accept and invest in yourelf. This is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in a long time.

The problem is I really like spending alone time now. Like a lot more. Us introverts have thrived during quarantine, but we will either be craving socialization or pushing ourselves toward it.

5. I’ve been reflecting on what I value, and removing what I don’t.

This has been another valuable lesson. Being alone with little work gives you time to consider what’s really important. And over the years, I’ve learned it’s better to be alone sometimes than to stay in a situation that’s not right for you.

6. I’ve been reconsidering on how I want to travel.

I’ve decided to not travel this summer, because I’d rather save for meaningful trips I’m really excited about.

When I first started to travel, I would spontaneously travel to a city because I could. I wanted to see it all. And while I am still up for spontaneous trips like this one, there are a few places on my bucket list that I’d rather save up for. Places I’m excited to see. I want to see the northern lights and thermal pools in Iceland. I want to see the penguins in South Africa. And, I’m still overdue to go to Paris for my birthday. These are the trips I’d like to save for.

The Spanish countryside

What’s next?

In case you haven’t gathered from this post, I am staying in Spain.

I also dyed my hair blonde. Again. New hair, new life – that’s my motto as I dye my hair before another life change.

This is what five months since the quarantine began will do to you.
You know a woman is up to something big when she does something real drastic to her hair. Or maybe it’s just me. Also, the orange had to go

Due to how everything can change in a matter of days, and just to be cryptic, I won’t say at the moment what’s exactly next. But I can say that I’m excited.

Teaching Business English in Madrid helped me enjoy teaching again. I’m grateful for the experience, despite the pandemic, and I feel capable again. It prepared me for what’s going to happen next. So, stay tuned for the next chapter.

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