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Wander Well: Navigating Mental Health on Solo Journeys

Loneliness, FOMO and burnout: the unseen aspects of solo travel and how to overcome them


By Clare Ong


Photo By Miranda Ceron

Solo travel is nothing like a romanticized 15-second TikTok or a cheesy self-discovery montage from a rom-com. You can feel lonely, exhausted, and homesick. Nevertheless, these feelings, and overcoming them, are what make solo travel so life-changing. 


Solo travel is unique and freeing. It has allowed me to explore places at my own pace and budget, turn strangers into friends, and grow more independent. 


Solo traveling can feel lonely at times, from solving problems by yourself to simply not having anyone to talk to over dinner. However, there are endless opportunities to find communities abroad: other travelers, hostels, group tours, or even through social media. 


I’ve found comfort in strangers who were often more than willing to lend a hand or offer a recommendation. 


Even if you don’t make any friends, devoting time to self-discovery can be equally, if not more, fulfilling. In quiet, unsuspecting moments of alone time, you are given a chance to reflect and grow. 


Overcoming these challenges makes you more mentally resilient. 


Remember: you can be alone, but not lonely. 


When I was solo traveling, I struggled with self-doubt. I often compared my experiences to others and felt stressed over the need to see and experience everything. FOMO followed me everywhere.


Travelers around you might be going out for a night, but you feel like staying in. People may be going on fun excursions, but you don’t have the budget for them. You see jam-packed itineraries and vlogs on social media and feel like you aren’t doing enough. 


However, remind yourself that you can’t possibly do everything there is to do. Instead, focus on being grateful for the things you did do. Take advantage of the freedom to do whatever you like!


Travel burnout is especially common on long trips. It’s not just sightseeing or physical activities that tire you out; adapting to foreign foods, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, or relying on Google Maps to guide you can become mentally exhausting. 


I’ve felt guilty for feeling tired and homesick while traveling, thinking I should quit complaining and maximize every second of my trip. 


However, this feeling is normal, and I’ve found that returning to things that make you feel comfortable can help you overcome travel burnout. 


Having an unadventurous and dull day? Let yourself forget about sightseeing, sleep in, and don’t schedule any plans. 


Bring yourself back to reality and everyday life: call friends or family, clean your living space, and clear unread emails. Gain some peace of mind and get back in touch with normalcy. 


Indulge in the familiar. Eat comfort meals, watch your favorite TV show, or even revisit a place you’ve already seen.


Solo travel is challenging, and you need to protect your mental health while doing so.


To all my fellow or aspiring solo travelers out there, be kind to yourself and be proud of yourself!

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