The Loneliness of Travel

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry

“And do you travel with a group…?

It’s a familiar question I’m frequently asked, carrying all that is implicit in the questioner’s mind. Only the most extroverted or inquisitive go on to say

” But don’t you get lonely…?”

Unfortunately for many people, aloneness equates with loneliness, that fearful, ever present modern day disease

Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.”

Douglas Coupland, Shampoo Planet

I admit that at first I did feel lonely when travelling solo, but then more and more I learnt how to nourish myself and increase self responsibility in situations where before I had relied on others. That is a wonderful feeling; it’s knowing that whatever happens, you can handle it.

If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”

Jean-Paul Sartre

It’s that feeling of connectedness which assuages loneliness- but to what and to whom?

This blog post was inspired by a very talkative Uber driver who had completed over 17,000 trips in addition to managing his own car hire business. We started chatting about this and that and curious, I asked him about his best and worst clients. “Only one difficult person” – most people are reasonable and respond to positivity dont they?

“He’d been to a bucks night… his pals put him in the cab and he slept. But suddenly, on the highway, he woke screaming and tried to grab the steering wheel from me…it was scary for a while there I can tell you, but then he went back to sleep. Only the one…”

We pulled up at my destination and he shook his head then softly said

” I’m scared of loneliness though, thats why I love my work”

When you’re surrounded by all these people, it can be lonelier than when you’re by yourself. You can be in a huge crowd, but if you don’t feel like you can trust anyone or talk to anybody, you feel like you’re really alone.”

Fiona Apple

Another person recently confided the same thing. She, a successful yet stressed workaholic, related that she feared retirement and equated it with loneliness.

When the traveler goes alone he gets acquainted with himself.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging these people, I know only too well this virtuous addiction,its roots and flowerings.

At the time I was self-employed and never knocked back work. I told myself it was because I was conscientious, capable, responsible but that wasn’t the whole truth. Work gave me all the things I was not getting in other areas of life-principally acknowledgement and recognition. And I was using it to paper over a fundamental imbalance in my life and cover up my deep unhappiness

But life shifted and I started to change, addressing the raw emptiness within, learning to respect and love myself in my essence not my output

Not I, nor anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself.” — Walt Whitman

That journey is still ongoing and my travels have become an evolutionary tool for greater self awareness and nurture. And the wonderful thing about solo travel is that many opportunities come my way for meaningful connection-with the earth, fellow humans, animals wild and domesticated and of course myself.

It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” — Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

7 thoughts on “The Loneliness of Travel

  1. Great post Kate, you have brought up a much talked about subject with wisdom and freshness.
    There are many quotes that ring so true and are supportive.
    I also am enchanted with your athmospheric photos.

    miriam

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wonderful photos and post Kate – yes, solo travelling – abroad – is something I’m looking into. I do a lot of road trips on my own and stay over wherever on my own – for me it’s bliss. I love the quotes too. But who tell is Beth – is this also you wearing different hats?

    Liked by 1 person

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