I've said it before, but I'll say it again: travelling solo is one of life's greatest experiences. While there are numerous reasons why you should hit the road alone, the downside is that you run a greater risk of experiencing feelings of loneliness than you would travelling with a partner or friend. I recently complied my top seven tips for how to beat loneliness when travelling for MSN NZ and thought I'd share them here.
Keep busy: The best way to overcome loneliness when travelling is to keep busy. Some people like to write or read, but these in themselves are very introspective and lonely pursuits. I find it's better to plan a couple of days of full-on sightseeing. Set your own itinerary and pack your day completely seeing all the local sights. You'll be so busy trying to locate the next destination on your tour or working out the public transport system you won't have time to be lonely.
Go for a walk or run: Doing some exercise is an excellent way to keep active and clear your mind of any thoughts of loneliness. Going for a run or a long walk will not only raise your spirits, but also give you the opportunity to explore areas of a town you may not have seen.
Go to a local bar or coffee shop: Grab a book or your journal and head to a bar or cafe. Find one that is frequented by locals and then deliberately choose a seat where you can maximise your chances of striking up a conversation with other patrons. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and what's important to them, so this is a great way to learn a little more about the local people and the place you're in.
Join a tour: Travelling solo is a fantastic experience, but it doesn't mean you have to spend all your time alone. Whether you take a day-trip or a join multi-day tour, getting out and about with a group of other travellers is a great way to meet people.
Volunteer: A sure-fire way to meet other people is to find work as a volunteer. Whether you help out in a soup kitchen or teach children at a local school you'll not only keep loneliness at bay, but you'll also enhance your travel experience by making a greater connection with the community.
Stay in a hostel: While staying in a hotel with your own private bath and room service might be a tempting option, it can also be very isolating. Hostels on the other hand offer plenty opportunities to interact with like-minded travellers. What's more they're only a fraction of the cost. Most hostels have communal television or computer rooms - some even have bars. So you never know, you might even make a new friend or find a travel buddy for your next adventure.
Communicate with the world: With so many gadgets and gizmos at our disposal these days, it's certainly not hard to stay in touch with family and friends when you’re on the road. Whether you reach for a pay-phone to call home, send a text message on your mobile or log-on to the internet to catch-up with your friends on Facebook or to update your blog, connecting with friends and family is a good way to beat the loneliness blues. A word of warning: just make sure you don't allow technology to get in the way of making real connections with real people.
Get a good night's sleep: One of the biggest sources of loneliness is over-tiredness. At the same time, over-sleeping can also make you tired and lonely. So make sure you get around eight hours of sleep each night and be careful not to hide in bed all day.
Picture: Taking it all in, Malolotja Nature Reserve, Swaziland