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Do You Ever Get Lonely When You Travel?

Lonely-on-the-Road

Of course, and sometimes that’s the best part.

Last month in Hong Kong, I went to the New Territories, a part of the city I’d never visited before. It was only half an hour from bustling Kowloon, but it felt like a totally different region.

On the eve of my departure, before I’d fly to Tokyo and then to Los Angeles, I was feeling anxious.

I went for an hour-long run, my longest in a while. I set out just as the sun was setting and ran along the water, looking at the Kowloon skyline across the narrow harbor.

I felt as if I were completely alone in the world, a pilgrim on a journey of discovery that would lead me back to my hotel. I wasn’t alone, of course—all around me were island residents walking dogs and pushing strollers. But I didn’t know them, and even though I came to Hong Kong often, it wasn’t my home.

I was just another traveler, out in the South China Sea, dreaming of my projects and soaking in the mix of disorientation and nostalgia that came from being in Asia again.

It’s a nice feeling to be alone in the world, yet still have the ability to order a nice pizza margherita back at headquarters.

As I ran I told myself: everything is going to be okay.

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Image: HK

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    8 Comments

    • Kabamba says:

      Once upon a time, I was flying to Gaborone Botswana from Johannesburg South Africa. I am from Zambia and it was my first trip to Botswana. It was an independent trip; I was on a budget; I had no prior books and I was not going for any official business. On the plane, I sat next to a woman who was going on official business and was being received in Botswana by the staff from the embassy of her country of origin. Looking at my own situation, I felt alone … and brave. 🙂

    • Alain says:

      I believe loneliness can be the best part of travel. It somehow adds to the total freedom feeling you have when you’re far away from home. Last year I enjoyed a lonely run in the streets of Barcelona. It felt pretty much like what you describe in this post.

      My best lonely moment was a sunset at the Grand Canyon in 2008. I was totally alone and the sunset was incredible. I felt like I was the only person in the world, owning the place, enjoying the cool wind coming from the canyon, listening to the total silence around me… It was magical!

    • This is beautiful Chris. I have felt the same way on many of my journeys around the world, especially while skiing across Greenland. Even though we were in a group of 6 people, some shifts, where we would ski for 1 hour before stopping for food and water, felt like I was all alone in the world. At times, that was really tough. Just being with myself and my thoughts brought moments of unparalleled joy and moments of deep sadness.

      I really admire everything you do Chris. You really live life to the fullest and that is a beautiful thing. Thanks for inspiring me and others like me to go beyond our perceived limits and experience life for all it has to offer.

    • Jordan says:

      I personally love traveling alone. I do start to miss my family and friends after awhile, but it is so refreshing to get away for a bit, even more so when no one I know from home is tagging along. I’m quite introverted, but for some reason I love being around people I do not know at all. I get self-conscious around my friends and family, but with perfect strangers I’m the life of the party. My brain almost has two separate modes, I can’t turn on fun me when I want to around my friends and family, yet I have no problem if none of them are around. So when I’m traveling it is like a big party, and I make a ton of new friends and have no time to feel lonely. It’s weird I know. I don’t get me sometimes.

    • arju says:

      I learned many things in your writing. The tour is very beneficial for your articulate. Thanks for sharing your views with us.

    • Alec Barron says:

      “I wasn’t alone, of course—all around me were island residents walking dogs and pushing strollers. But I didn’t know them,”

      It’s this that actually makes me feel more lonely when traveling solo. If I’m wandering around somewhere secluded with no one else around, I don’t really feel lonely.

      Seeing strangers in a foreign country happily chatting away and enjoying themselves is what makes me the most lonely. Sometimes I think, “Those people look nice, it’d be awesome to chat with them. ” Language, culture, and the awkwardness of randomly approaching locals as an American always seem to get in the way.

    • Joe says:

      Missing home and your loved ones is one of the best part of the travels. Sometimes, when I come to the end of my journey I feel sad. Most other times, I will happy that I am going back home. Perhaps those are the journeys that I am most satisfied. I have done what I came to do and now is the time to go home.

      Also, those are the times you realize that you are lucky in many aspects. You have a home and loved ones to go to and when you look around the people you realize you could have been any one of them but you are happy for who you are. For example, in Asia I look at the street vendors and old people trying to sell a few fruits and vegetables and realize how tough is life. Then, whatever way your struggles they all seem to be very small.

    • Rebecca says:

      great story! I can relate. Sometimes I find I really love traveling solo but in saying that, it was the first time in my life that I felt lonely, though it only ever lasted for a short while, soon I would meet some new person who would change this and my life around again 🙂

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