How To Travel Solo… And Not Get Lonely
By: Emily Hopcian, Medellin and Cape Town alumni 2017
Let’s face it. Exploring the world and building meaningful, transcendent communities often seem like contradictory desires.
When we travel, we’re in motion. While we move from one place, one experience to the next, we cross paths and share conversations and stories with many people, yet often never long enough to move past the introductory stories, to dig deep and get real.
While we’re in motion and eager to explore the world around us, we also realize part of the adventure is being in one place and among people long enough to create something more valuable. We crave connections that challenge us; encourage conversations and experiences that move us; and ultimately last beyond our travels.
It’s challenging to find and build a meaningful tribe on the go. That’s not to say it’s impossible.
So how do we do it?
Meeting people as you travel
For me, the hard part has never been meeting people. Hostels, group tours, cafes, bars and meet-ups are all great places to connect with fellow travelers. However, I’ve found travel relationships can spark quickly and fall flat or fizzle out even quicker. When you travel, you meet all types of characters. And let’s face it, we’re not all looking to get the same thing out of our travels.
When it comes to building community, we not only have to be in one place, or multiple places together, long enough; our travel interests and goals must also intersect. Not everywhere, but somewhere.
Traveling with friends
What about traveling with your hometown tribe? In my experience, there’s a certain level of magic required to make traveling with friends a reality — as schedules, budgets and travel interests must align. Coordination is tricky, especially with time and money at play.
So when traveling with friends doesn’t pan out, rather than sit at home and wait for someone to hit the road with us, we book our flights, pack our bags and take off on our own adventures.
There’s unmatched freedom that comes with solo travel, and we often grow from it as we find ourselves along the way. But we also grow from being around others — from having conversations, sharing experiences and learning about ourselves and the world around us through those interactions.
Traveling with a community
Humans are social. We survive and thrive in tribes. We want to find people we relate to, people that inspire us and add value to our lives and be in community with them.
So how do we explore the world, and build an authentic tribe that inspires us?
For me, I chose to live with Unsettled. I chose to come together with a small group of artists and entrepreneurs, travelers and explorers. Over the course of a month, we worked remotely together; explored the city, history and culture that surrounded us; and shared honest conversations and experiences.
I spent March in Medellín, Colombia with 21 individuals who ranged in age from 24-44 and came from Sweden, South Africa, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, England, Holland and more.
Within hours, these 21 strangers became friends; within a month, they became family.
I felt blessed to be surrounded, inspired and supported by them in Medellín and am grateful that our relationships continue to blossom even though we’ve left Medellín and are off on our next adventures — whether that’s sinking back into life at home or venturing on as digital nomads.
The beauty of Unsettled is that it removes a bit of the “guess work” in building a tribe as you travel. If you feel inclined to embark on an Unsettled experience, you feel that way for a reason. The values and the essence of what Unsettled is all about speak to you. They did for me. They did for those I was traveling in Medellín with, too.
This means that from the start, while there were many differences among our group, we also shared some key similarities. We are like-minded in our desire to travel and explore, live intentionally and be in community with people who seek the same things.
That foundation made for open and honest conversations from day one, and those conversations don’t simply last a month. I’m finding that people continue to dig deep and get real beyond the temporary goodbyes. Technology can be a beautiful thing.
It’s tough to not physically be surrounded by my Unsettled family every day, but as Selena, a fellow Unsettled participant and one of my new best friends, pointed out during our last week together, it’s good, comforting and inspiring to know that we all exist, that we’re all out there in the world living our lives in meaningful ways. That thought — the idea of our Unsettled family out there conquering the world however that looks for them — continues to inspire, excite and give me energy.
Emily Hopcian is a writer and content marketer based in Bariloche, Argentina. She is currently Storytelling & Content Manager at One World Play Project. Check out more of her writing at emilyhopcian.com.