Traveling long term can get pretty lonely.
It can be hard to talk about that sometimes because everyone tells you that you’ll be constantly surrounded by people and make friends everywhere you go.
Whilst it is true that you meet many amazing people when you live a transient lifestyle, it doesn’t replace the human need for a deeper connection. As more and more faces flash through your life, it can feel like traveling is just about adding more and more people to the list of those that you miss.
For people that crave deeper human connection, living on the road can take its toll.
That doesn’t negate all the new experiences that you have. I have met some truly gorgeous souls on the road, who have taught me so much about the world, and about where I fit into it.
I have eaten hot stew and fresh-baked bread on a rocky beach with a man that lives on an otherwise uninhabited island with his wife and child. I have shared a dormitory with homeless people in a budget hostel in Glasgow, paper peeling off the walls and mould thriving in a damp corner of the ceiling.
I have stayed in mansions with people so wealthy that they only discovered a whole new room in their house after more than a year of living there. Together we have ridden their horses through sprawling grounds, watching fat Coypu paddle happily through one of their lakes.
People addicted to heroin, helicopter pilots, farmers, ‘hardened criminals’, Buddhist monks, circus performers, politicians, strippers… I have been so lucky to connect with and learn from such a range of different people.
I am also lucky enough to share the road with the man I love.
We made our off-grid home in a converted Peugeot Boxer, and I am so lucky to have him by my side. But it should be no surprise that no one person can meet all of your social needs.
I still get lonely. Lonely for my family. Lonely for my childhood friends. Lonely for people who understand me on a deeper level than grabbing a coffee or sharing a few meals. I get lonely for a place where I belong, and I still crave a connection to a safe and loving community.
Here are a few ideas about how you can create more community and human connection when travel is a way of life and not just a holiday.
You can use the Workaway website to find host families who will exchange food and accommodation for 5 hours of helping them a day. If you are looking for cultural exchange and to meet like-minded people, try to find a family looking for help rather than a big farm or riding stables.
There are other free websites, but they have less hosts. I won’t recommend any specifically here because I haven’t used them. One potential problem with Workaway is that some hosts are looking for free labour rather than genuine exchange. Read reviews and the profile, and you should get a good idea of what to expect.
You can also use the website as a way to find travel buddies or just to meet up with other people on the road. When visiting my mother in law, I reached out to a lovely couple from Argentina who came to stay with us.
One of them had worked in the slums so dangerous that no police will ever enter them. He told me about the day a young child had approached him with a toy gun and threatened to blow his head off. Then the sickening moment when he remembered that none of these children had access to clean water or electricity, let alone any toys.
2. Connect online
I used to be really resistant to connecting with other travelers through Facebook groups like Vanlife Europe.
I thought real, hearty connections should be organic and happen naturally.
Don’t disregard Facebook groups for travelers altogether. I have met some really wonderful people online who have given me invaluable support and advice throughout my journey. It can be really nice to have someone to turn to for tips, and to follow one another’s journeys.
You can also post your location in a Vanlife Facebook Group and see if anyone nearby would like to meet up. You will probably have a lot in common with people that have chosen the same way of life as you, and you’ll certainly have some hilarious stories to share.
My little ASUS vivobook is perfect for connecting on the road.
It’s survived being dropped on the floor 3 times, it’s easy to type on and it’s really compact. It’s not the most powerful, but it’s a great affordable option if you aren’t running heavy software.
3. Be flexible in your plans
If you are too determined to stick to your plans, you can prevent yourself from making meaningful connections.
If you meet someone on the road that you really click with, don’t be afraid to put off that drive South you had planned and take the time to travel together for a little while. Plans are great if they give you a fun direction to aim in, but they shouldn’t deprive you of experiences because you are too fixed in your ideas.
After all, how can you possibly plan for the millions of experiences that you don’t even know exist yet?!
4. Get a seasonal job
Seasonal work can be a really cool way to connect with people. I don’t need any work on top of the paid writing that I do, but I still pick up seasonal work with horses or in bars sometimes. This winter I plan to do a ski season.
Working a seasonal gig can give you a sense of camaraderie and belonging, and the bonus is you’ll probably leave with a lot more money than when you started.
So long as you can resist spending all your wages on apres-ski of course.
5. Attend a festival or retreat
Some of the most meaningful friendships I’ve made on the road came from my time staying at Plum Village Buddhist Community in France.
Over a year later, I am skyping with a group of women I met there every week. Well, every week that I remember which day it is and what planet I’m on – I really do lose my sense of time and place after so long on the road!
Festivals and retreats are great places to meet like-minded people. Dancing, singing, meditating, and eating with kind people was a balm for the heart that no doctor could prescribe!
I have found yoga a really good way to reconnect with myself too. I absolutely love the Yoga with Adriene youtube channel which is free to access and not intimidating for beginners.
Here is a lovely foldable travel yoga mat I recommend if you want to practice yoga on the road. But don’t forget you can always just start stretching on the grass in the summer or use a foam camping mat if you already have one!
Leaving behind my old job and setting out into the unknown was the best decision I ever made. I am so much happier and healthier now than before, but it doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t cry out for a place to set down some roots sometimes.
As much as I respect what my heart is telling me, my bones are telling me something else. I know it’s not quite time to settle down yet. There are more people to meet, more hidden beaches to discover, and more grey clouds to chase into the hills.
Wherever you are reading this, I wish you all the health and happiness in the world.
If this article resonated, you might like to check out The Highly Sensitive Nomad book.
You might also like to read:
- Full-Time Vanlife As a Couple (Uncensored!)
- How to Travel Without Any Money
- How To Become A Successful Freelance Writer
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