Dealing with Loneliness: Do's & Dont's

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oneliness is inevitable when you’re traveling abroad, especially if your situation is like mine and you’ve gone away completely alone. When you’re abroad, loneliness can portray itself in different ways. Sometimes it the literal sense of the word; you have no friends yet so you’re spending more time alone then you’re used to, you’re friends and family are most likely in a different time zone so you usually can’t talk to them in the exact moment you’re needing that familiar voice on the phone. Other times, even once I had met some friends, I felt lonely in the sense that no one around me really understood me. I’d have friends to laugh with and explore with, but after a few months I’d just want to be with someone who understands the country I come from and what my habits are and why they are that way.

My Mistakes
  1. As I mentioned in another post, my introverted personality tends to keep me more secluded. I wouldn’t facetime home or text with friends very frequently.
  2. On days when I felt particularly lonely, I would stay home in my flat and watch Friends or Downton Abbey on Netflix, spurring on my nostalgia for home and letting the loneliness intensify.
  3. Then in the depth of my sorrow I would start to call my family or friends more to try to ease the isolation.
  4. I didn’t try to establish myself in a solid friend group. I usually prefer to be alone or with just one or two other people so we can all connect with each other. Often times I prefer to explore by myself so I can go exactly where I feel like going and stay for as long or as little as I like. I’m terrible at networking with random strangers or attending social events to meet new people. For me, there’s always just too many people usually crammed into a tiny space all shouting over each other trying to connect. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about these events! It’s just for me I tend to get quieter the more people there are present so I end up not really connecting with anyone unless someone is intentional about talking directly to me.
My Solutions:
  1. Very quickly I realized that regular facetimes with my family and friends lessened the frequency of days when I felt truly depressed and alone. That regular communication fed me the love and support that I needed to keep me confident and excited about being abroad.
  2. On days when I just wanted to be at home in California and all my inner voices told me to just stay in bed, close the shutters and put Netflix on in the dark by myself (I’m getting depressed just writing it haha) I would force myself to leave the flat. Sometimes I didn’t even know where I was going I just knew I had to be out and feeling the life of the city around me. Often times, I would find myself in Parque Retiro or on Gran Via mingling among all the other people, reminding myself of all the things I loved about Spain and how lucky I was to be there.
  3. I’ll be honest, by the time I left Spain I still hadn’t found a solid friend group that I would hang out with on a regular basis. I made a few great friends, but even then, I would still end up exploring on my own. And truthfully, I regret not being more conversational with some people and going to more social events or group tours with locals. How many friendships did I miss out on my keeping to myself? How many new places could I have discovered that someone else could have showed me? How many of my depressed days in bed could have been spent in cafes with good company? I’ll never know…..

I learned a lot of lessons from living abroad alone, but one of the ones that has impacted me the most is to challenge yourself to do things you may not be comfortable with. I pushed myself to speak in Spanish everywhere I went even though I was nervous and now I’m fluent. I pushed myself to explore everyday and now I know hundreds of spots all over Madrid to go to.  I pushed myself in so many ways, but I know I could have challenged myself further by going to some social events, saying yes more to people who invited me places or to their homes. I think what you have to gain from pushing yourself to try new things is far greater than what you have to lose. So be brave! Try talking in another language with the locals, ask questions, try new foods, go to social gatherings. Challenge yourself to do what you’ve always been hesitant about and let me know how it went!

P.S. check out my article Social Apps for Meeting People in Spain to read about some resources I used to make new friends and find local events!

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Comments (2)

Everything you wrote is 100% true and I know will be useful to others who are planning on studying/living abroad. Proud of you for pushing yourself and especially with speaking the language!!

Thank you, thank is so nice to hear!

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