By Female Traveling Ornithologist
This post is about changing your mind. Feeling lonely or even anxiety as you are experiencing everything on your own as a solo traveler.
Maybe you know the feeling already.
The trip, the people, the weather is nothing like you expected.
You are stuck in a foreign country for several more weeks, and you are considering rebooking your flights or cancelling your project. You tried it your way, and everyone else seems fine, and maybe you feel like you’re the odd one out.
Everyone feels lonely from time to time
When you are thousands of kilometers away from home, the food is weird, Wifi connection is poor and you just want to see you mum or dad or maybe just your bed at home.
I have felt lonely from time to time during my travels, most recently in Belize and Guatemala.
I had a lot of expectations about how social life would be during my internship at T.R.E.E.S and at the animal rescue center, ARCAS. During my internship, we were very few people. We were all tired from bird banding from 5 am to 10 am, followed by data entry and some days the Manakin monitoring program.
I was expecting to be hanging out in the common area, talking every night, playing games, having a beer or two once in a while. But everyone were just relaxing by themselves in their own rooms.
People have different expectations, and it was okay for everyone to rest in the evening and watch Netflix or read on Reddit all night. But I didn’t expect to watch three seasons of The Crown during my internship in Belize.
I was feeling lonely and like I didn’t fit in. Maybe it was because I was European and hence didn’t understand the jargon or the jokes.
At ARCAS, I had noone to talk to because everyone were chatting in Spanish to each other and the employees at the Center. I didn’t know any Spanish and I was struggling really hard.
Loneliness or feeling like an outsider
When you are having these thoughts, you need to look into yourself and think, why am I feeling lonely? Or sad? If you are missing people to talk to, maybe you need a change in environment.
At Bellas Backpackers in San Ignacio for instance, I met three amazing people in the kitchen. Two German girls were cooking in the crowded communal kitchen, and I didn’t know anyone and was hanging around. But then I sat down with them, they offered me some food and we had the most exciting evening I have had in weeks. Talking for hours, having a drink and laughing at each other. Maybe we got along because we were not Americans, Canadians, Australians or British?
In the same hostel in my dorm, a Dutch guy had just arrived from the Netherlands. He was also traveling solo like me. He was very quiet and just relaxing in his bed, getting the hang og the climate and the vibe of the hostel. I invited him to my new ‘European gang’, and later we all discussed our plans.
I was heading to El Remate for a small retreat and to replenish my energies. One of the Germans and the Dutch guy decided to meet me in El Remate a few days later, and we had a blast!
About wanting different things from your time abroad
At Bellas Backpackers I also met a Polish girl from the USA. She was feeling anxious, since her traveling partner was not as adventurous as her. The Polish girl wanted to see EVERYTHING! The German girls and I spoke with her, invited her along, and we spoke about how it’s okay to want different things.
When you arrive in a new country, you can have different reactions. It is okay to change your plans along the way. Remember, it is YOUR money, your LIFE and your TIME. You are responsible for making your travel the most enjoyable as possible.
It is okay to feel anxious, scared or homesick. But it is okay to change your mind or go bungee jumping, if that is what you want to do!
I wouldn’t change my stay at T.R.E.E.S nor ARCAS for anything in this World. These experiences made me stronger. I met amazing people from all over the World, I worked with the most amazing and dedicated staff and animals in both places.
Listen to your gut, and change things if you feel unhappy. Ask the project leaders or staff for help or resources if you are feeling down. Call home and talk to your boyfriend, husband, sister, grandmother or a doctor.
Consult a doctor if you are accutely depressed or fearing for your own mental health!
It’s okay to retract and sit for yourself and read a book or listen to music, if that’s what you want to do. Noone is asking for you to be extremely outgoing or hangout every day. The common area could also be a place where you could meet new people, and make new friends and maybe plan together!
© All photos are my own and may not be used without permission.