When are you going to find a nice man.
The words echo inside my head and make my skin crawl every time I have to endure another conversation with my mother who questions all the reasons behind my singledom. In truth, being single never really bothered me until I moved to Belgium. Suddenly I was surrounded by couples who only did couple things and talked about their lives as couples. My friends would decline nights out because they had dinners with married friends or had to go out with the boyfriend. Then came the Facebook updates. In a span on 3 months a handful of my friends started to post updates: we’re engaged! we’re buying a house! we’re pregnant! And me? I was 27 years old in another foreign country (5th one I’ve moved too) trying to figure out my life while going it alone
A lot of people I talk to always tell me I’m brave. Brave to have dropped everything three times in my life and moved to a country without any real plan or idea how it would turn out. Brave to have done it all by myself (albeit with a lot of help both emotional and financial from my parents). It all started at 18 when I announced to my parents that I would be going to the University of Ottawa, 5 hours away from my hometown of Mississauga. Then again I announced I would be doing an inter-university exchange for a year at the age of 20 in Paris. Then there was my 3 month move to Panama City at 24, my move to Bocas del Toro at 26 followed almost immediately by me traveling alone for 12 months in Santiago de Chile. My last move was to Brussels in 2014 and I am confident enough to say that it certainly won’t be my last move.
My country-hopping might seem brave, but it at times can be incredibly lonely. Slow travel makes it almost impossible to date or form a strong bond with anyone. It also makes going it alone almost inevitable. All my relationships in my 20s ended because I moved and long distance just didn’t seem to work out. My friends are all scattered across the world, and although it might sound like a cool concept to have friends around the globe, people tend to forget about you when you aren’t around. After all, they have their own lives to attend to.
It would be a lie to say that that travel is never lonely. Belgium amplifies these feelings as most Belgians are homebodies with a strong connection to their family and friends. Their circles are big and they have had friends since they were little. My time in Belgium has made me miss sitting around with a glass of wine while having a chat with a friend who really knows me, or smelling my mother’s cooking billowing from the kitchen or even having a couple get-together with my close friends and a significant other. Let’s be honest, going at it alone isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, it can also have a dark side.
So how do I cope?
“Me” time. I constantly remind myself, that time is so short so I shouldn’t waste it being negative. I probably will not be single forever. I will eventually settle down, gain some bosom friends and have those couple get-togethers that I crave. This is the period of my life where I can be completely and utterly selfish. If I don’t want to go somewhere I don’t, if I don’t want to wash my dishes right away, I leave them in the sink and if I want to sit at home eating cereal for dinner while binge watching television, then there is no one around to judge me for it. This also means I can decide my path with relatively little constrictions – if I want to move to Rio, then all I have to do is pick up my stuff and move. No one is holding me back, but myself.
Don’t let the fear of being alone hold you back
One of the reasons that women do not travel alone is because of loneliness. Being alone can be scary, but it can be incredibly liberating. Whether you’re traveling for one week or moving abroad, going it alone allows you to be selfish and in control. In truth, the feelings of loneliness come and go, new people arrive in your life and leave pieces of themselves – memories that never fade away. In lieu of a boyfriend, close circle of friends or family, you’ll have adventures, unforgettable memories and a new outlook on life. It can be truly empowering to wake up and say this is what I want to do and having the ability to do it. And if you don’t like it, then you also have the ability to move on and try something new.
Loneliness sucks, but it is a part of life even when you aren’t traveling. At 28 I do not have a boyfriend, my family lives far away and my circle of friends is quite scattered. But I learned Spanish in Chile, went scuba diving in Brazil, got my divemaster in Bocas del Toro, landed a job in Belgium that sent me China, dove in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, spent a month eating my way through Buenos Aires and so much more. Being alone has taught that I need to be happy by myself, learning how to take care of myself: eat healthy, exercise and travel. And you know what? I LOVE traveling alone, especially slow traveling while I am single. I am learning to just be happy with myself. Alone. Because in the end if you aren’t happy with yourself, do you really think you’ll find that happiness in someone else?
So travel alone and embrace the loneliness. Push past it and make peace with it.There is so much waiting out there for you and it would be a shame to miss it all. And that is why I slow travel and am content with going it alone