We all have a plethora of firsts. Some we want to relive. Some we wish to forget. Others linger and keep us incessantly longing for more. Our new feature called Travel Firsts explores the nostalgic beauty of firsts. The tripcentral.ca team presents Nora Dunn as our first guest writer who recounts her experience feeling lonely on the road.
My bones felt like they were being crushed. It was a symptom of the dengue fever – but I was convinced it was my broken heart. “What am I doing here?” was all I thought.
I’ve traveled full-time since 2007, and wrestled with loneliness a few times – it’s normal. Moments of wishing I had company, or of needing support navigating a hectic part of my trip.
I’ve even felt lonely in the cheerful company of friends; lonely moments come and go and are part of most trips – solo or otherwise.
I want to tell you about the first time I felt really lonely on the road – with a capital L.
Welcome to Paradise
I’d been traveling for four years. I’d had a few romances on the road (serious and otherwise), and was in a new(ish) relationship with another traveler.
But as travel goes, we had different commitments and parted company for a month while I flitted through 25,000kms of Europe and Asia on the Ultimate Train Challenge.
I landed in “paradise” – a beachside villa in the Caribbean, where my sweetie was to join me for three months of house-sitting. It was gorgeous; a perfect haven and retreat.
But something wasn’t right.
We spoke on Skype, two days before he was to fly in. I asked why he had been distant (aware of the question’s irony). Turns out while I was on a train somewhere in Siberia, my squeeze was squeezing somebody else…who was now pregnant.
Glory hallelujah, some part of me proclaimed. At least I knew now, so I could make this little paradise all mine. I had my doubts about the relationship and this was all the closure I needed. Moving on.
Not so Fast
I was amid the frozen food in the supermarket when I realized it wasn’t that easy. Anxiety. Panic. Fainting. “What am I doing here?”
A calm inner voice kept me upright and got me through the supermarket and home – barely. My explosion of emotion ensued in the privacy of “paradise”.
I’m on a tiny island. In the middle of the sea. I’m isolated. Alone. For three months.
What am I doing here?
It Gets Worse
If the Universe conspires, it happened that day; immediately following this bad news, I got dengue fever. I was so sick, I couldn’t even crawl to my neighbours to ask for medication and food. (After a few days they came to check on me – for which I owe them my life).
For a week, I shuffled from bed to toilet to bed, only occasionally able to muster the energy to prepare something to eat.
The pain was constant, and the fever was too high for me to do anything other than lay in a semi-delirious state. I’m still not sure how many days passed.
What am I doing?
I questioned everything. Why am I here? What is my life about? How do I move forward? And to where?
What am I doing?
This was the epicentre of my first time feeling truly lonely on the road. The rug had been pulled out from under me emotionally, and physically. I was empty.
Learning to be Alone
Through the illness and recovery, I learned to be alone again. I became comfortable within myself, for lack of social stimuli and urban bustle. This was a true gift; and I came to treasure my isolated retreat in paradise so much that I ended up returning a few months later. I learned to relax into the languid pace of life in the Caribbean, and to be kind to myself in the process.
Loneliness is Unpredictable, but also Rewarding
As I said earlier, I’ve felt lonely in the loving arms of others, as well as in the empty arms of a tragic paradise. You never know when it will strike, but there’s always something to learn from it. By exploring your emotions – which are heightened when you travel – you can discover a lot about yourself, your world view, and what you want out of life.
Knowing this, you can take on the world…one experience at a time.
Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo; a girl who sold everything she owned to travel the world full-time. She is an international freelance writer on the topics of travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design. She marries these modalities with her free e-course: How to Travel Full-Time in a Financially Sustainable Way. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter!