Is Solo Vanlife Lonely?
I get this question a LOT. When I meet people on the road, they always ask two questions: “Are you afraid to travel alone?” and “Is solo vanlife lonely?” Spoiler alert: the answer to both questions is no…but sometimes sorta yes.
I’m going to dive deeper into the definition of loneliness, what I think it’s often a symptom of, and provide practical advice for how you can combat loneliness while traveling solo. For more about solo travel, check out my blog post about lessons from solo female traveling.
What is Loneliness?
First, let’s get clear on what we mean when we say “loneliness.” The definition of loneliness is “sadness because one has no friends or company.” Asking someone if they are lonely assumes he or she wants to be with other people rather than being alone. It’s worth noting that women get asked this question much more often than men, likely because society assumes that women always want to be social. That simply isn’t the case. All of us can benefit from solo travel, even if it is difficult (and yes, lonely) at times.
I think that loneliness is really a symptom of one of the three following things:
Many people confuse loneliness with boredom, which is “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.” If you don’t know what makes you happy or what brings you joy, then you will likely feel very bored on the road. What many don’t realize is that boredom is actually a good thing! Many of us are on the road because we want to find our life passions and work on self-discovery. Sometimes we use social interaction as a crutch to help us avoid listening to our inner voice, which doesn’t allow us to work through our crap and grow as humans. If you feel bored on the road, ask yourself what you want to do with your limited time on this planet. Try to focus on your goals and dreams. There are many studies that show that boredom leads to creativity, so zone in on this feeling rather than trying to avoid it.
“We vacillate between distress and boredom if we don’t have meaning in our lives.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
FOMO: Fear of Missing Out
If you’re feeling lonely, that means you’re either 1) thinking about how your current environment or situation could be better than it is, or 2) you’re comparing your current situation to the situation of others. Perhaps you’re scrolling on Instagram and looking at how much fun everyone else is having and that makes you feel like you’re not good enough. Or maybe you’re thinking about how much better the moment would be if you were sharing it with a romantic partner. Comparison is the thief of joy. If you are comparing yourself to your interpretation of the experiences of others, you will always feel less than. The more you think you’re missing out on something, the more you will actually miss out on your life.
Inability to be Fully in the Present Moment.
Solo vanlife is not easy. It is an intense growing experience that comes with very high highs and very low lows. If you’re feeling lonely and craving social interactions, you are not able to be fully present and happy in the moment. Being present is really really hard, but people who mediate will tell you that it’s the only way to truly be happy. This concept is often called mindfulness and if you can improve your ability to hone this skill, many say you will live a happier and healthier life. It’s not easy to be still without letting your negative monkey mind take control, but the more you try to be present, the easier it will be to do so.
How to Cope with Solo Travel Loneliness
There’s a huge misconception that solo vanlife means “alone vanlife.” In my experience that isn’t the case. There are so many opportunities to have social interactions on the road, from people you run into in person while traveling, to those you can connect to via online resources. Honestly, you’re often only alone if you want to be. Here are some excellent resources to connect with other travelers on the road:
- Vanlife Gatherings and Events: Vanlifers love to connect and get together and many end up traveling in small caravan groups for extended periods of time. Check out my blog article with a complete guide of all vanlife, RVlife, buslife, and tiny house events!
- Social Media Groups & Apps:
- Facebook has a ton of vanlife groups where people can connect and network.
- Instagram of course is an amazing resource.
- Couchsurfing has local events all over the world for travelers to come together and meet. You can also reach out to hosts about staying in their driveway or meeting to connect.
- Bumble Friends: I’ve never used this but it sounds cool — a way to meet friends while traveling that’s a sister-app to the Bumble dating app.
- Dating Apps: I have lots of solo traveling friends who use dating apps as a way to meet someone new and get a tour of their town or city. There are so many options: Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Match, Plentyoffish, and more.
- Look up local events and approach a stranger! If you’re nervous about approaching a stranger, I recommend having a go-to friendly pick-up line. If you’re a solo traveler, you’ll want to get good at approaching strangers! I promise it’s not as scary as it seems and people usually love to talk, so you really just have to make the first move. Try something like: “Hi, I’m just visiting and was wondering if you have any recommendations for cool things to check out while I’m in town.”
- Connect with old friends: Map out where your old friends and acquaintances are on your path and reach out to them to connect. Meeting new people is great, but there’s something very comforting about connecting with someone you’ve known for a while.
Know What Brings You Joy
Solo travel is a great way to connect with hobbies and passions you’ve let go over the years. Make a list of the things that sound like “fun” and see if you can do some of them while on the road. If you’ll be in one spot for an extended period of time, see if you can check out a weekend crafting or improv class. Check out Meetup to find activities based on your hobbies. Make a list of all the books you’ve been wanting to read or online courses you’ve been interested in checking out and make it happen. There is always something to fill the time and if you are clear on what you love and what you want in life, you will be able to fill this solo time with valuable activities that will help you become the person you want to be.
Remote Online Therapy
You have a lot of time to think while traveling solo, and this will likely bring up a lot of issues you’ll want to work through. Maybe you’re coping with the death of a loved one or heartbreak or just feeling lost in life. Therapy can be amazing tool for you on this journey. I love BetterHelp, which provides affordable online remote therapy. Once you’re matched with a therapist, you can have weekly video chats, phone calls, or live text chats. The therapists often provide you with worksheets that you fill out to help you process your thoughts in a productive, goal-oriented way. My favorite part of BetterHelp is that there’s a texting portal where you can message your therapist 24/7 if you’re feeling down. The therapist doesn’t see the messages until they are on the clock again, so messaging at 3am is totally cool. This allows you to vent your emotions in the moment instead of keeping them in and has been invaluable to me if I’m feeling sad or depressed late and night and it’s too late to text a friend or family member.
I’ve partnered with BetterHelp and subscribers get 10% off their first month. Check it out and let me know what you think! I honestly can’t say enough good things about this service.the and action-oriented problem solving rather than problem understanding.
Mediate and Journal
We all know these are two excellent things to do for our mental health! Not only is journaling wonderful because it helps you self-reflect, journaling while on the road helps you document your travels. Write about where you’re parking, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling, and look back on these entries in the future to better understand yourself. I love the Day One journaling app because it shows you memories from prior years, you can add photos, and you can track the locations of your posts.
Meditating is a little more challenging for me, but I know it’s super beneficial. I recently started listening to Tara Brach’s guided meditations, which are calming and insightful.
Is Solo Vanlife Right for me?
I don’t know, but if you’re considering giving it a try, there’s probably some reason it’s calling to you. I recommend giving it a shot and seeing how you feel. If you’re just testing the waters, try something small– a short solo road trip, rather than a full-on long-term trip to see how you feel. Or you can pair a solo trip with a group trip or a visit with a friend, so you’re not on your own the entire time. I personally LOVE solo travel and vanlife has only brought amazing things into my life. I say give it a shot– you only live once!
“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” — Lewis Carroll