As an introvert, I had one worrying question before travelling alone for the first time: is solo travel lonely and sad?
Travelling alone does get sad and lonely at times.
Solo travel is particularly lonely if you avoid staying in shared accommodation, participating in group activities and meeting new people.
But there are many steps that you can take to avoid feeling sad and lonely when travelling alone.
Below, I’ll list the 9 times when solo travel feels lonely and sad (based on my personal experiences).
I will also share 30 tips on how to travel alone and not be lonely. Use these tricks and you’ll find yourself smiling and surrounded by other like-minded travellers.
I’ll also provide some extra advice for introverts like myself.
Is it your first time travelling alone? Find more solo travel tips on Nomadic Yak!
Is Solo Travel Lonely and Sad?
First-time solo travellers tend to worry about two things: is travelling alone lonely? And is it sad to travel alone?
Solo travel is lonely at times. In particular, solo travel can feel lonely and sad when you:
- Arrive at a new destination;
- Only stay in private accommodation;
- Endure long journeys alone;
- Leave your loved ones behind;
- Say goodbye to new friends;
- Can’t contact home;
- Can’t share the moment;
- Feel anxious or depressed;
- Don’t get involved in activities.
However, you will rarely actually be alone when travelling solo. This is because you will constantly be surrounded by other travellers and tourists in your accommodation, at restaurants and bars, and when visiting attractions.
Even though travelling alone does get sad and lonely, there are things that you can do to take care of your mental health and minimise feelings of loneliness.
The 9 times when travelling alone gets lonely or sad
1. Solo travel is lonely when you arrive at a new destination
When you are travelling alone and arrive at a new destination, you don’t know anybody. You’ve never met the other travellers staying in your accommodation. And they all seem to know one another and have already formed friend groups.
You also don’t know much about your destination. You haven’t yet got your bearings and you certainly haven’t spoken to any of the locals.
It’s times like these that solo travel is lonely, sad and even awkward. But give it a day and you are bound to feel more comfortable.
You can quickly make friends with other travellers and penetrate their friendship circles. All you have to do is break the ice with one person and they will likely welcome you to their group.
Similarly, go for a walk around town, visit nearby attractions or do a day tour. Along the way, you’ll get your bearings, meet the locals and make friends with other like-minded travellers.
2. Solo travel is lonely when you only stay in private accommodation
If you choose to only stay in private accommodation for the duration of your trip, travelling alone can feel lonely or sad.
There are benefits to staying in private accommodation and I suggest that all solo travellers should stay in a private room at least once a week. This gives you the chance to get a good night’s sleep, use a clean bathroom and call home.
But the downside to staying in private accommodation is that it is harder to meet and befriend other travellers. You don’t get as many opportunities to interact with other travellers (as you do in a hostel dorm room).
If you want the best of both worlds, I recommend booking a private room in a hostel. This way, you get a good night’s sleep and the opportunity to meet other travellers in common areas. Plus, you can also join in the hostel activities, such as day tours or pub crawls.
3. Solo travel is lonely during long journeys
Many people ask, is solo travel boring? I would say that the most boring moments of solo travel are when you have to endure long journeys on trains, planes or coaches.
These also tend to be some of the most lonely moments during solo travel. You are stuck by yourself in an uncomfortable seat, you feel restless and dirty and all you want to do is arrive at your destination.
However, there are things you can do to overcome the loneliness and boredom of long journeys.
For example, you will likely meet and befriend other passengers. I made many friends when catching coaches around South East Asia.
And make sure that you’ve got your entertainment pre-downloaded onto your smartphone or tablet device. Limited mobile internet access means that it’s not always possible to stream when travelling overseas.
Find 10 more entertaining tips in my guide to flying alone for the first time.
4. Solo travel is lonely when you leave your love behind
Travelling alone is lonely if you have a partner or family at home that you are leaving behind. You quickly realise how much you miss them.
The same is true if you find romance while travelling alone.
It is very common for solo travellers to fall into a relationship with another traveller during their trip. You often end up travelling together for a little while. But eventually, you have to go your separate ways. This hurts and you’ll feel sad and lonely after they’re gone.
Remember, there are things you can do to ease the loneliness when your partner goes away without you. Focus on the benefits of travelling alone, do things you enjoy and schedule regular calls with your loved ones.
5. Solo travel is lonely when you say goodbye to new friends
You are going to make a tonne of new friends whilst travelling alone. Unfortunately, however, you will also have to say goodbye to all of them at some stage.
As a solo traveller, you’ll likely even end up travelling together with a few of your new travel buddies. You’ll plan your route together, stay in the same accommodation, visit attractions together and catch transport together.
However, at some stage, you’ll need to go your separate ways. One of you will have to go home or you’ll both want to go in different directions. You’ll exchange social media details, say goodbye and that’s when loneliness kicks in.
But remember, most goodbyes aren’t forever. I’ve met up with most of my solo travel friends again when visiting their home country.
And when you travel alone, a new friend is always around the corner. Give it a day and you’ll have made a new buddy and new travel plans together.
6. Solo travel is lonely when you can’t contact home
Depending on where you go during your solo travel adventures, there may be times when you can’t get any phone or internet reception.
You’ve got a local SIM card but it’s not picking up a signal. You check in to your hotel but the WiFi is non-existent or not working. This has happened to me many times when travelling alone through remote parts of developing nations.
During times like this, you feel sad and lonely because you can’t contact home and often you are visiting an isolated region (where there are very few other travellers around).
The best you can do in this situation is to get active, visit nearby sights and distract yourself from being lonely.
If there isn’t much to do or see nearby, get started on that book you’ve been meaning to read or get creative (see my tip below about beating loneliness with creativity).
7. Solo travel is lonely when you can’t share the moment
There will be times when you are travelling alone and you visit an amazing sight. You stand there awestruck at its beauty and scale. But there’s no one else there to share the moment with – it’s just you.
This happens to me all the time during my solo travels. For example, I’ll pull over on my motorcycle whilst riding through the mountains of Vietnam. Suddenly the clouds clear and I’m looking out over the breathtaking landscape below. But I get a pang of loneliness because I can’t share the moment with anyone.
Remember, you don’t have to share a moment for it to be special. Many of my most precious solo travel memories are those from when I was alone and lonely.
Being lonely gives you a chance for reflection. During these lonely moments, think about how blessed you are to experience them. Then grab a photo so that you can share the moment later with your loved ones at home.
8. Solo travel is lonely when you feel anxious or depressed
Solo travel can be an emotional roller coaster. I had all sorts of fears and anxieties when travelling alone for the first time.
It’s also normal for people to feel sad and depressed before or during solo travel. After all, you are away from everyone and everything that you know and love.
Take care of your mental health when travelling alone (see my 28 tips for dealing with solo travel depression). Anxiety and sadness will lead you to feel even more lonely.
Take time during solo travel to journal and meditate. Ask yourself why you feel lonely. Do you like spending time with yourself? If not, why?
Thinking through your emotions can provide you with mental clarity and help you overcome loneliness.
And remember, there are many advantages and disadvantages to travelling alone. Focus on the reason you chose to travel alone and the benefits of doing so.
9. Solo travel is lonely when you don’t partake in activities
Solo travel can feel lonely if you have a boring itinerary. When you have little to do, you spend too much time with your own thoughts and feel negative about yourself.
People ask me, is solo travel fun? One of the most fun things about travelling alone is that you have total control over your itinerary – you do what you want, when you want!
But if you don’t make the most of your solo trip and spend all your time in your room alone, you will naturally feel lonely.
If you keep a busy itinerary, you will meet a lot of other travellers when partaking in day tours and activities. Stay active and you’ll hardly ever be alone during solo travel.
Become a popular pilgrim with my 9-Step Guide to Making 100 Buddies When Travelling Alone!
How to Travel Alone and Not Be Lonely: 30 Tips
Worried about feeling lonely during solo travel? Here are my top 30 tips on how to travel alone and not be lonely!
1. Remind yourself why you chose to travel alone
There must be one particular reason why you chose to travel alone. Maybe there are several reasons.
Were your friends not interested? Did you want to challenge yourself? Are you looking to make new friends?
There are many advantages and disadvantages of travelling alone. When feeling lonely, focus on the benefits and how you can improve yourself through solo travel.
Fresh out of high school or college? See why you should travel alone in your 20s!
2. Stay in shared accommodation
The best way to overcome loneliness when travelling alone is to stay in shared accommodation (i.e. hostels).
In shared accommodation, it’s easy to befriend other solo travellers. You’ll find yourself talking with other people in your dorm about all sorts of things; such as local restaurants, nearby attractions, your home countries, travel gear, and much more!
Plus, many hostels organise group activities for their guests, such as sightseeing tours and bar crawls. And some even have their own bar, where you can party with other guests and dance the night away.
3. Stay with a local
There are numerous apps and websites that you can use to organise a stay with a local.
The benefit of staying with a local is that they can introduce you to their friends and family – an awesome way to travel alone and not be lonely.
Plus, they can show you all the best restaurants and parties!
4. Take day tours
Another easy way to meet people and beat loneliness during solo travel? Join day tours to nearby attractions!
You’ll find free walking tours in many major tourist destinations. This is a great way to get your bearings and immediately meet other tourists when you arrive at your destination.
After breaking the ice with some of your fellow group members, ask if they have any plans later. Add them on social media and meet up that night for a meal or drinks.
5. Join a group tour
Some people get fixated on the question, is solo travel lonely? If you are really, really worried about getting lonely, I recommend joining a group tour.
I’ve joined several group tours as a solo traveller and have enjoyed them just as much as travelling alone. I instantly made friends with many of the people on my tour, who came from all over the world.
Considering joining a tour? I compare my experiences in my article on solo travel vs group travel.
6. Speak with your family and friends every day
Solo travel feels most lonely when you’re homesick and missing your loved ones.
Find a time of day when it is convenient for you to call your friends and family back home. And try to speak to your parents, siblings or friends at this time every day.
Of course, there will be days when you don’t have the time to call home. But the more often you do it, the less lonely you will feel when travelling alone.
7. Use Whatsapp for video calls
If you’re already feeling lonely whilst travelling solo, the last thing you need is to have your video call drop out every 2 minutes.
Avoid further frustration by using Whatsapp for your video calls back home. Out of all the messaging apps, it uses the least data and maintains the best connection.
Minimising your data usage is important whilst travelling solo. So be sure to turn on Low Data Mode in the Whatsapp settings.
8. Buddy up with other solo travellers
It’s easy to travel alone and not be lonely. You’re constantly surrounded by people and making new friends everywhere you go.
Oftentimes, you’ll end up travelling with the friends you make on the road. You’ll find yourselves heading in the same direction and doing everything together.
It’s also common to find love during solo travel (see below). You might end up travelling with a romantic partner for part of your trip.
The hardest part is often saying goodbye when you do eventually go your separate ways. But there’s always a new friend around the corner when travelling alone.
9. Take a genuine interest in other people
The best way to travel alone without being lonely is to make new friends. And the best way to make new friends is to take a genuine interest in what they say.
Most people do too much talking and not enough listening. They make the conversation all about them and this is boring for everyone else.
When talking with other solo travellers, listen more than you speak. Ask them questions and make them feel interesting – they will automatically enjoy spending time with you.
Want to become the world’s most popular solo traveller? Read Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends and Influence People.
10. Keep a lookout for love
As well as making friends, you’ll likely also meet a few lovers when travelling alone. And how could you be lonely when love is in the air?
It’s very common for two solo travellers to fall into a romantic relationship and continue their trip together. They travel in the same direction, share a private room and split their travel expenses.
If you are lucky enough to fall in love when travelling alone, you probably won’t have to worry about feeling lonely.
But, be warned, it can be hard to say goodbye to your new romance (at least until you meet again).
Did you know that 75% of backpackers have sex during their trip – discover 30 more secrets about sex while travelling!
11. Ask your partner to come with you
Already in a committed relationship but thinking about travelling alone? Maybe you need to travel alone for a specific reason (e.g. work)?
There are many reasons why someone in a relationship might travel solo. But often, you quickly realise how much you miss your partner once you hit the road.
This can be a good thing, as distance makes the heart grow fonder. But it can also be difficult if you suffer from loneliness, in which case it might be better to invite your lover along.
If you’ll be travelling alone without your significant other, show them this guide on what to do when your partner goes away without you.
12. Use apps to meet other solo travellers
Another way to travel alone and not be lonely is to use apps specifically designed for meeting other solo travellers!
Backpackr is the most popular social media platform for travellers. You can connect with other people visiting your destination, share photos, and organise meet-ups.
In the mood for something saucier? I’ve seen many solo travellers use dating apps like Tinder to meet up with locals and other travellers nearby.
Social media and dating apps aren’t always safe. You can’t be 100% sure who you’re meeting with. See our solo travel safety tips.
13. Learn the local language
If you learn your destination’s language, you’ll be able to communicate with the local people. Suddenly, solo travel isn’t so lonely!
The best part is, you only have to learn the basics. Spend only an hour or two on Duolingo and you’ll be able to greet people, use pronouns, order food and arrange transport.
Now, you can befriend the local people when dining at restaurants, shopping at the markets and visiting attractions.
And if you need a little help, you can always use Google Translate.
14. Chew through your reading list
Who needs real friends when you’ve got fictional friends?
Solo travel is your chance to get through that large list of books you’ve been meaning to read.
Download all your ebooks and audiobooks to your smartphone or tablet device before leaving. Alternatively, just carry one of two physical books with you.
Other travellers will often ask you what you’re reading – the perfect chance to discuss literature, make some like-minded friends and beat loneliness.
15. Have your shows and movies pre-downloaded
If you feel lonely whilst travelling alone, it can be nice to just tune out and watch one of your favourite movies or TV shows.
Whilst this is only a temporary fix to solo travel loneliness, it is like a safety blanket – it is warm and comfortable.
But make sure that you have your shows and movies downloaded before you leave. Sometimes when travelling alone, you’ll struggle to find internet that is fast enough for streaming.
16. Work on your photography and social media
Have a passion for photography? Whenever you’re feeling lonely, take a walk and practise your hobby.
The nice thing about travelling alone is that you don’t have anyone trying to hurry you. You can take your time to get the perfect shot.
And when you get back to your accommodation, you can take your time to edit your shots and upload them to social media.
With all the new friends you make whilst travelling alone, you’re bound to gain some new followers as well.
But don’t spend too long scrolling social media – stalking your friends back home may only make you feel more lonely.
Running low on caption ideas? See the 100 best solo travel quotes for Instagram!
17. Carry a memento from home
When homesickness strikes, solo travel can feel particularly lonely.
To ward off homesickness, it can help to carry a small memento from home – a picture, a piece of jewellery, a keychain, etc.
Whenever you feel lonely whilst travelling alone, pull out your memento and remember you’re only ever a flight away.
18. Don’t worry about looking weird
One of the most common questions that first-time solo travellers have is, is it weird to travel alone?
Remember, travelling alone is the #1 travel trend in the world and hundreds of millions of people do it every year. No one is going to think you’re weird for enjoying solo travel.
But there might be times when you feel a little awkward. Particularly when you arrive at a new destination and don’t know anyone.
Don’t worry. Everyone else around you has felt the same way at some stage during their travels. Give yourself one day to settle in and make a friend. After that, you’ll never look back.
19. Find a quiet spot to meditate
To overcome loneliness during solo travel, it can help to look inside yourself and ask why you are feeling that way.
Find yourself a quiet spot amongst nature and lean into the loneliness. Ask yourself, is feeling lonely really a bad thing? Or are there benefits to feeling lonely?
At the same time, you can think about life, your future, your relationships, your career, your worries and your blessings.
Experiencing new places and cultures helps you put your own life into perspective.
20. Journal through your lonely feelings
There’s no denying that solo travel can be depressing and lonely sometimes. But if you journal about your feelings, you might realise that feeling lonely isn’t such a bad thing.
If you feel lonely during solo travel, sit down and write about your emotions. Ask yourself: why do I feel uncomfortable being alone?
You might find that you don’t like being in your own company because there are personal issues that you need to work on.
Identify the issues and consider how you can work on them so that you learn to love yourself.
21. Create a daily routine
Let me guess, you went travelling alone so that you could escape your usual daily routine?
It’s fine to be a little impromptu during solo travel. But letting your good habits slip can also contribute to poor mental health and feeling lonely.
Sticking to a basic daily schedule is one way that you can travel alone and not be lonely. It helps you to feel more centred and in control of your emotions.
Your solo travel routine might be as simple as making your bed, enjoying a shower, having a coffee and messaging home each morning.
22. Throw some exercise into the mix
It’s easy to neglect exercise when you travel alone. But ignoring your physical health can be detrimental to your mental health.
During solo travel, you’ll get exercise most days by merely walking around your destination and visiting the sights.
But that might not be enough for some people. So try to make time in the early morning to do some yoga or body weights in a local park.
You’ll also frequently come across locals playing group games like basketball and soccer. Ask to jump in – this is one of the best ways to meet locals and ward off loneliness!
23. Let out your creativity
One of the tricks I use to travel alone and not be lonely? I carry a travel guitar and play music in the common areas of the hostel.
People appreciate the creative arts. For example, other travellers in my hostel will ask to play my guitar, join in a singalong or just listen.
What’s your creative interest? Music? Art? Photography? Writing?
Whatever it is, try to practise it whilst travelling alone. Not only will other people take interest in you but it will benefit your mental well-being.
24. Keep a busy itinerary
Solo travel is lonely if you don’t have enough to keep you busy.
Prevent yourself from overthinking your emotions by keeping yourself distracted. Make sure that you have at least one thing to do during each day of your trip.
This doesn’t mean that you have to preplan your entire itinerary. But at the very least, you should have some idea of what you want to do tomorrow.
The other benefit of a busy itinerary? You get to meet more people and make more friends!
25. Take a self-care day
Sometimes, loneliness stems from stress and anxiety. All your negative emotions build upon one another.
During solo travel, it’s good to take a self-care day at least once a fortnight (particularly if you’ve got a hectic itinerary). This gives you time to clear your head.
On these days, you should:
- Book a private room
- Get comfy and sleep in as long as you like
- Eat good food
- Take a long shower
- Laze around
- Watch a movie
- Call home
- Visit a spa and get a massage.
26. Travel to popular solo travel destinations
Some people enjoy the sense of adventure and freedom that comes with visiting less popular destinations. But others may find it daunting and lonely.
If you are worried about how to travel alone and not be lonely, start by visiting the more popular tourist destinations.
For ideas, see my list of the 193 best places to travel alone (I’ve scientifically ranked every country in the world). Some of the most popular destinations amongst solo travellers include Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia and Europe.
27. Visit the bustling tourist streets
Want to make friends whilst travelling alone, but don’t want to stay in shared accommodation like hostels? Then spend a lot of time in popular tourist spots.
All the big cities around the world have an area that is packed with travellers – Khao San Road in Bangkok, Port Olimpic in Barcelona, Miami Beach in Florida, Kings Cross in Sydney and Lapa in Rio De Janeiro.
Head to these spots and you’re bound to befriend like-minded solo travellers in restaurants, bars and even on the street.
28. Party a little
So many people ask me, is solo travel fun? Of course it is. And one of the most fun parts of solo travel is partying!
If you want to travel alone and not be lonely, you should do a little partying with your fellow travellers. You’ll make a heap of friends and some awesome memories.
As mentioned above, many hostels organise pub crawls and party nights for their guests. But you could always just go alone to a random bar, club or festival!
29. Volunteer or teach a class
One of the best ways to travel alone and not be lonely is to volunteer with a local organisation or help to teach classes.
Alternatively, you can use websites like Go Overseas to seek teaching opportunities abroad. Teaching a local class of children and meeting their families is a great way to beat loneliness during solo travel.
30. Remember that time alone is a rare opportunity
In everyday life, you rarely get to spend time alone. Most people are constantly surrounded by colleagues, clients, family and friends.
So make the most of the peace and quiet when you travel alone. View loneliness as a blessing and a rare opportunity to relax and recharge.
Are you cut out for solo travel? Take the 15-question quiz: should I travel alone?
Solo Travel for Introverts
See my guide to solo travel for introverts – including 10 things to expect and 12 tips for shy travellers.
Introverts find the idea of solo travel particularly daunting. But as an introvert myself, I can tell you that travelling alone is one of the best things you’ll ever do.
The biggest concern that introverts have about solo travel is that it will be lonely. They worry that they won’t be able to make friends and will be alone throughout the entirety of their trip.
These concerns couldn’t be further from the truth.
Throughout my 5+ years of travelling alone, I’ve met countless introverts. Every single one of them has become skilled at talking to strangers and making friends.
Summary – Is Solo Travel Lonely and How Can I Travel Alone Without Being Lonely?
Does solo travel get lonely and sad? Yes, at times. But are you constantly alone? No!
When you begin to solo travel, you quickly realise that you are rarely ever alone. You are constantly surrounded by other travellers that you have befriended.
You also have to remember that there are many advantages and disadvantages to solo travel.
Whilst one of the cons is that you will feel lonely sometimes, this is far outweighed by the pros – such as the fact that you have total control over your itinerary and more time to focus on yourself, your well-being and your personal development.
Focus on the 3 key things you can do to travel alone without being lonely:
- Put yourself in social situations (e.g. stay in hostels, do group tours, volunteer);
- Follow a daily schedule (should include time for creativity, mindfulness and exercise);
- Stay connected with home (call family daily and carry a memento).
And if you are feeling lonely during solo travel, remember that you chose to travel alone for a particular reason. One of those reasons is probably because you wanted to grow as a person. And learning to accept and appreciate loneliness is a sign of a strong person who is comfortable in themselves.
Find More Solo Travel Tips on Nomadic Yak
Nomadic Yak helps solo travellers to plan journeys that are adventurous and authentic.
Every article is written by me, Harry Dale. I’ve travelled to 40+ countries over the last 5 years – all alone.
I’ve shared everything you need if you’re planning to solo travel for the first time.
You’ll also find 100s of solo travel tips on how to save money, make more friends, build a social media following and much more.
Plus, you can use my solo travel destination guides to discover international sights and attractions that few other travellers get to witness.