Coping with loneliness
I was asked at a recent talk if I got lonely on the road and how I coped with it. I don’t often get lonely – I am very content being by myself – but sometimes you feel that you need some kind of comfort. I’ve written a few tips on what to do if loneliness hits.
Posting photographs and experiences onto social media sites is a brilliant way of receiving instant feedback and messages of support from your loved ones back home.
2. Surround yourself with people
Whether this is friends by pre-arrangement, or cycling enthusiasts, or the people propping up the local bar. There are always communities to seek out, wherever you are. This can be a physical community or an online community – try warmshowers.org for a worldwide network of cyclists. Strike up a conversation with someone, even if you don’t quite understand what they’re saying. Some of the most moving tales I’ve read of other’s travels are sharing a cup of coffee with someone who doesn’t speak their language. Signs, smiles and laughter are the same, wherever in the world you are.
3. Make a list of the good stuff
It’s easy to let the bad stuff get you down, and it will keep you down if you let it. There are amazing experiences wherever you are – sometimes you just have to find them. Write down the things that make this trip special: If I hadn’t come on this trip I would never have swam in the Pacific Ocean/ had my apple eaten by a peacock/ seen a puffin diving/ learned to navigate by the stars
4. Have that one luxury in your pack
Travelling light doesn’t mean travelling miserable. Make allowances for yourself – take that one thing that you know is going to make life a little easier on the road, whether it’s a real feather pillow, your most cosy leg-warmers, or your iPad.
Music is magic – a motivational playlist can work wonders. Ask friends to suggest songs in advance, or ask the people you meet to let you know their favourite track and add it to the list.
6. Small steps = big adventure
If you’re finding it particularly tough, set yourself small targets. The big distances can seem overwhelming, but the miles accrue 10, 20, 30 at a time, and suddenly you’re in a new place, with a new adventure ready to greet you.
7. Enjoy your own company
You like you, right?
8. Have a chat with a cow
Animals are great at listening. Tell them your woes. Name them. They won’t be able to talk back, but a good chinwag with a bovine could make you smile for the rest of the day.
9. Remember it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime trip
Tough times are bound to come. You might feel miserable and lonely right now but there will, at some point in the future, be a high to compensate. It’s hard to tell yourself this when it’s raining and there’s a headwind and you’re ill and you’re missing that one special person and you’re wondering why you ever came. Don’t worry. You never have to do this again.