Solo Supplement: How to avoid loneliness on a solo break
Last week I went on a solo break to the Lake District, one of my favourite places as regular readers will know. I like to take a few solo breaks a year, and this is my third in 2018. I find a change of space and environment, and freedon from regular commitments, helps to recharge my batteries. It also means I have more time to get some writing done, or work on a self-improvement project, be a tourist and, basically, please myself. And am I lonely? No – because I’ve learned to look on my solo breaks as a TREAT. Here are my top tips.
In Solo Success, I said that loneliness is a state of mind, not necessarily to do with living or being alone. The Government has recently launched a Loneliness Strategy to combat epidemic proportions of loneliness affecting people of all ages and status. Ironically, in our age of social media connectivity, many of us feel disconnected, internally and externally.
Once, on being dumped by a boyfriend, I felt discarded and lonely, so my knee-jerk reaction was to book a week off work and fly to the sunshine to get my head together. The resort – nay the whole island – was awash with lovey-dovey couples, which only served to emphasise my singleness and solitariness. Instead of buoying me up, the whole week sent me further down into the dumps.
1: Never plan to go on a solo break when you are feeling lonely. You will feel lonely wherever you are, and coping with a change of scene may make you feel worse.
Avoid mistakes with the location or the hotel. I make sure that I book somewhere that meets my own personal criteria or needs. I know what I want and what I want to avoid. These days I return to certain places again and again, because I know I can trust them to deliver. In the Lakes last week, I was allocated the same apartment that I stayed in last year. It felt like coming home: there was the empty birds’ nest above the front door lintel waiting for the Swallows to return next spring; there was the plug-in nightlight. What’s this got to do with loneliness? Any environment that makes you feel that you don’t fit in, that you’re an outsider, is likely to create feelings of loneliness.
2: Choose a place that you know you love, that you can trust, where you have previously had a good time, and that you want to explore more.
What are you going to do on this solo break? Is there a specific reason for needing to get away from normal, everyday life? Do you need to devote time to something important? This year, my solo break in the Lake District was planned as a much needed writing break, combined with the opportunity to get out into glorious natural landscape. But what would still be available on the tourist agenda in mid-November? Would a lake steamer cruise still be in the offing? Would there be a cultural event to put in the diary? I checked in advance, obviously.
3: Research and plan what you are going to do, at least for part of your trip, and book where necessary. Don’t be left twiddling your thumbs and let loneliness sit on your shoulder.
This time last year I had to cancel a planned trip to the Lake District because I had the flu. This year, a few days before my departure, I was given an opportunity to take part in a course, starting the next day. I signed up, knowing that I would have to re-arrange the balance of my priorities for the short time I would be away. Then, on the same evening, I had an accident that injured my (already dodgy) knees. On the verge of departure, my writing aim PLUS my mobility were compromised. Some changes were necessary.
4: Leave some room for flexibility in your plan, so that you can adjust/rearrange to meet new circumstances before or during your break. Don’t tie up all your time so that you avoid all unnecessary social interaction.
Finally, are you willing and ready to be sociable while you are away on your own? At the very least, to talk to people who you meet while you are out and about and get into conversation. To chat to people. If you are feeling very brave, you might want to check online to see if there is a Meetup Group (or equivalent abroad) for something in which you’re interested, in the place you are visiting. Just because you are going away on your own, and you’ve got stuff planned, you don’t have to be alone the whole time. I realise that this is the ultimate test of confidence, and that real time fear can scupper good intentions. But give it a try.
5: Be present and react to your surroundings and the people sharing them with you. We are social animals. Every day is enhanced, and loneliness avoided, by and through the quality of the social connections you make.
Give yourself a treat – a solo break treat, without feeling lonely.