Loneliness Unplugged

I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing?

Loneliness eats away at the tissue of your heart, isolating you quickly, fully, suffocatingly. When you’re at the bottom of the well, despair shuts out the light creeping in from the top, so that the darkness blinds you to the sun’s rays reaching down to warm you.

And when you’re at that point, where is the catalyst to shake you awake, to remind you that your friends and family have been there the whole time, hard as it might be to see them through the lens of an increasingly lonely iWorld?

Peace Corps work is hard work, as is any that demands not just your mind, but your heart, self-worth, and every last nerve. When you reach your breaking point, you want to shut down and build walls to hide behind. That’s when the loneliness wins, when it settles in your bones, crippling you from the inside out.

I’ve felt that way, escaping into a world of Netflix and pretend that all your problems don’t matter. In a world where we shut off when we tune in, loneliness is cheap and ubiquitous. It’s as inescapable as afternoon rain in the tropics, but colder, subtler, and more insidious.

I try to always have an answer, to see the world as a child would, with the curious eyes of one that hasn’t been jaded by politics or hate, but answers to problems like loneliness must be felt. This is a wall that cannot be climbed except by standing on the shoulders of loved ones.

In that way, the answer is obvious. Unplug, reflect, tune in to each other, and ignore the vibrating notifications that don’t notify you how your soul is. Remember that we are meant to be outside, to get dirt underneath our fingernails, to hold hands with one another while walking side by side.

After a Netflix binge that lasted too long, I got up one day and walked outside, talked to my neighbors, got rained on, goosebumps forming in the fog of a raincloud enveloping me, followed by a hot walk up a steep hill, sweat beading down my back. And it was so good. The answer to my loneliness had been waiting for me just outside my door. I just needed to turn the knob.

Advertisements

Traveling Solo: The World’s Longest Slumber Party

Everyone: “Don’t you get lonely traveling by yourself?”
Me: “HAIL NO!”

I recently returned from a long-term trip (journey? junket? vacation? trek? odyssey? 😉 ) only to purchase a cheap one-way ticket OUT a few months later. But while I’m here, stuck in trip limbo, everyone asks me the same questions. One of the most recurring aims to discover if I become lonely or tired of traveling by myself when abroad. In fact, I find the reverse to be true.

I don’t stay in hotels when I travel. I rarely have the money. Hotels happen when either a) I splurge for a holiday or b) I miss my train and am haplessly wandering, wondering where I will lay my head next (or possibly c) someone else is paying….but let’s be real). Instead, I stay in hostels, I couchsurf, I WWOOF, I (will) housesit, and, ever so fitfully, I sleep in airports. I lay my head next to other people’s. Because for me, traveling is one long slumber party.

CHEESE PARIS FROMAGE O LA LA!

You shouldn’t have to ask why this picture is here. Cheese is always relevant.

 

So it makes sense that I’m never lonely while on the road. Sleeping in communal spaces forces you to be sociable, whether you are naturally or not. This I quickly discovered on my trip, when, early one morning (or late one night?…) my bunkmate arrived, proclaiming “I think I’m underneath you”, much to my dismay. Whether you like it or not, and chances are it will be a mixed bag, sleeping communally is not a lonely enterprise.

Though I may have highlighted some of the awkwarder circumstances of life in hostels etc., I wouldn’t travel any other way. How else would I have met an Indian with whom I could discuss the idiosyncratic intimacies of our intricate lives, or the Germans that kept me dancing all night, or the Ozzies with whom I had SO many inspired conversations (and beers)?

You simply don’t meet the people I met at hotels. Those empty simulacra of lived travel consist merely of cubes with beds; they are devoid of the excitement, energy, and purpose bubbling up in the hostels of the world. There’s a reason the song’s not called Heartbreak Hostel. You fall in, not out, of love at hostels.

Paris Amour

The City of Love….and Lights

 

There were even times when I spent a day entirely to myself, to recharge my battery, and avoid burning out on too much talk. Those days, I appreciated my return to the hostel (or courchsurf, etc.) even more, as I knew I was coming back to a community with a similar agenda. I’m not saying people at hostels are all the same. Far from it! But there is an ethos of solidarity at the most timid of hostels. I’ve even heard of hostel owners forbidding guitars because of too much good spirit (though that may have been the result of one too many Jack Johnson songs).

So, no, I am most definitely not lonely when I travel. I’ve got a whole world to explore, with others on their own odyssey to share it with.