Confronting Loneliness Head On

Hard as you can, you can’t outrun loneliness. And while a long hike or a good book may keep it at bay, I’ve learned that it’s not until you look it in the face and accept that it’s there, that you are really able to move on.

Loneliness is something that resurfaces constantly when you are a traveler, living in another country. Understandable considering you’ve uprooted your entire life and have left everything you’ve known from your family and friends to your eating schedule, behind.

I find it especially acute this year, despite it being my second year abroad, because I live alone. And the post-holiday loneliness was proving to be a beast that I could not outrun. It wasn’t even on my heels. No. It was on my back, breathing in my ear, taunting me, weighing down my steps, hard as I tried to move forward. Insert image here of what loneliness looks like for you. For me it’s a hairy green monster with huge claws and a sarcastic grin.

How do you shake off something that’s hundreds of pounds and clinging on to you with an vise-like grip? You don’t. You stop and you first acknowledge it. You acknowledge that it’s there and that sometimes it’ll come back. You acknowledge that it’s part of the burden of being a solo traveler. You acknowledge that it’s ugly and that it’s hard to deal with and that you want to run away. Run back home to the things that you know, to the people that you love.

And then you accept. You accept the fact that this was a choice that you have made. You accept that this is one of the many concentrated life lessons that you learn when you land in another country.

When that happens…when you accept that sometimes things just aren’t easy, things get…well, easier.

Loneliness then turns into solitude. A healthy solitude in which you are once again comfortable with being on your own.

I think the most important thing though, when confronting loneliness and dealing with it in a way best for you, is remembering that it will pass. That as hard as it clings on to you, eventually the grip loosens, and it fades away for the time being.

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5 thoughts on “Confronting Loneliness Head On

  1. gabyshinkim says:

    También he estado por esos tiempos! Mi familia vive en el otro país mientras que yo vivo en Seul y es duro, pero como tu dices aprendí a disfrutar la soledad y al final es la parte esencial de la vida que tenemos para toda la vida. 🙂 muy linda publicacion, gracias!

  2. Michelle Hatzel says:

    I can see this wisdom fitting very well into many contexts. With the holidays having just past, one of my friends was reflecting on how this season was a series of confrontations with her old beliefs that everyone has family, and everyone feels loved by that family. She said that she was frequently being reminded of how we can be alienated even when among people whom (one would think) should love us. She paired this reflection with having also discovered that many people say their favourite Christmas memory is deeply connected to opening their own homes and hearts to people who would otherwise spend the day alone, people who weren’t family or even close friends. It reminds me again that our sense of belonging is something we give ourselves by offering inclusion to others.

    Very nice post.

    • BuddhingTraveler says:

      Thanks for such an insightful comment. It reminds me of a quote by the Buddhist priest Nichiren Daishonin which roughly paraphrased says that by helping to light the way for others, you can light your own path. Thanks for reminding me that when we open our eyes to those around us and give a little to someone else, we also give something to ourselves. I’ve forgotten to do that recently…

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