Solo Travel: How do you escape holiday loneliness?

Last Updated on December 29, 2013 by Christine Kaaloa

Everland Christmas, solo travel and ways to escape holiday loneliness

Solo travel: How do you escape holiday loneliness?

The holiday season can be a solo traveler’s nightmare.

I think you can figure it out why.  Everyone thinks of holidays and special occasions as days to be spent with family and friends. Not alone.

Well who made up that dumb rule?

You’re alone and want to enjoy your single, solo life like it’s daily business, but the holidays won’t let you escape its stronghold.  You must have loved ones and a warm hearth to take you in. Stores and movie houses close with the few exceptions of grocery marts. Folks drive or fly home to spend time with their family and everyone else, either celebrates in restaurants, bars or at friends’ parties.  The city streets are quiet.  You are left alone with your fun-loving self,  the punishment of silence and a closed door with a sign reading:

” Sorry, we’re closed today due to Christmas/ New Year’s/ Thanksgiving…  “

Yup, holidays are be the roughest time of the year for solo travelers.

How to escape loneliness during the holidays

How do you Escape Holiday Loneliness as a Solo Traveler? Photo credit:  Petr Kratochvil at Wikimedia Commons

This past Christmas, high on holiday desserts, I posted an Instagram photo on Facebook. It was from my Christmas buffet with my family. But as soon as I posted it,  I thought about my fellow solo travelers, expats and those, who didn’t or couldn’t spend their holidays with anyone.  I could very well be in their shoes at this time of year and there were moments when I certainly was… alone for the holidays.

Everyone perceives solo travel as lonely, when it’s actually not. But during holidays and birthdays, soloists can feel the pinch. What kind of consolation could I possibly extend to solo travelers, who might be experiencing loneliness over the holidays? What tips could I offer on how to escape holiday loneliness for solo travelers?  I’ll share five ways which have been effective for me.

Five ways to escape holiday loneliness as a solo traveler:

#1.   Experience the holidays where you’re at

If you’re navigating a foreign country over the holidays, then this is your chance to celebrate the holidays as you’ve never known it.  Jump into the local festivities and celebrations or simply sit and observe the customs and rituals performed. Remember that not all holidays are celebrated as a national holidays, nor are they celebrated in the same manner or fervor as where you’re from. Some holidays like Christmas, actually loses its importance in  countries of contradicting religious beliefs, which makes it a perfect way to ditch the holiday and continue your sightseeing plans (as landmarks won’t be closed).

Thailand, Morocco, Maldives, the Bahamas and Turkey  are countries that don’t celebrate Christmas and much of Asia, celebrates Chinese New Year in February as the real New Year.


#2.   Smile, say “Hello” and Talk to a Stranger

Nothing will drive loneliness from you  faster than when you’re finding a way to make another person feel better.  Whether adding humor to a stranger’s day, offering a sincere compliment (such as  “You have beautiful earrings“) or even flashing a grin, you’ll feel miraculously better knowing you’ve nudged a stranger one step closer to being a friend.

Being a solo traveler, you can’t always change your solo status, but by focusing on others (versus dwelling in self-pity), you can help yourself  feel less alone.  Everyone needs a human connection to feel loved and valued. By creating it, you’ve filled one of your most basic needs and warded off feelings of isolation.

Note: Additionally, making eye contact is very important too. Did you know that the worst thing you can do to panhandlers and beggars is to not look at them when they speak to you? Feeling and being treated like you don’t exist leads to the worst type of loneliness there is. If eyes are the window to the soul, then sharing eye contact with others is to recognize their existence.


#3.   Skype

Sometimes, we just need to see a familiar face. When we do, there’s no distance too long or more affordable than Skype. Skyping is one of the most inexpensive ways to place a long-distance phone call or video chat. Just load $10 on your account and you’re good to go for hours and hours… and hours… if not days.  When I lived Korea and traveled to India, I’d Skype my family or call their the home phone from a free WiFi signal at a cafe and my iPod Touch or laptop. If you’ve neither devices, then hit  the nearest internet cafe.


#4.  Celebrate yourself: Plan to be extraordinary

So you’re not going to hit the party circuit during New Year’s Eve and won’t have friends to celebrate your birthday with. That’s the perfect motivation to be even more extraordinary and unique. Dig deep into your creative brainstorming and unleash the bucket list. Think of something you really want to do to celebrate you and the fact that you are the party!  Spend a night at a temple, treat yourself to an amusement park…

My 40th birthday promised to be a potentially deflating one. I was in Thailand, alone and had no clue what I wanted to do. I cringed at the thought of updating my Facebook status with: “Ringing in my 40th birthday by being drab in Thailand. ” That  wouldn’t do. I remembered friends in passing, mention how many folks went to Thailand to get scuba diving certified for cheap. And that became my extraordinary adventure. Anyone can get drunk at a bar. I celebrated my birthday by getting diving certified.


#5.   Make a friend

For those who really need to spend the holidays with a companion, I’ll say this… make a friend. It’s not as hard as it seems. Start chatting with a person (ideally, another solo traveler) and if they seem cool to you, give them an open-ended invitation to join you for dinner or in your day’s itinerary.

It may seem forward and if you’re inviting someone of the opposite sex, it might be taken the wrong way. But the more often you practice solo travel, you learn to come out of your shell to talk to others. It gets easier to strike up  conversations with strangers, be direct about your needs and to make fast friends with a “no strings attached” sense. Tip:  Hostels and guesthouses are great places to meet people because it’s a social area and occasionally, you meet people, who are looking to make friends to do things with.


How do you escape holiday loneliness? What’s your advice to solo travelers?

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16 Comments. Leave new

  • I am going to Malaysia in February it will my first solo travel. Your these all tips are really help me to make my trip best and enjoy full. I appreciate your work on this topic. Keep doing it.

    • Christine Kaaloa
      February 21, 2014 12:40 am

      Awww, @Lee.. I dunno how I missed your response! Thanks and enjoy your first solo trip! It can feel both scary and exciting. Embrace all those nerves cause when you get back home, you’ll feel damn good and proud of yourself!

  • Great advice here — I especially love “Celebrate Yourself”! A little alone time shouldn’t hold you back from celebrating. Sometimes, its harder to get motivated when you’re by yourself and there isn’t someone next to you to share in the excitement, but take the first steps to get out the door and do something incredible with your time. (And you won’t have to consult anyone else about it!)

    • Christine Kaaloa
      February 21, 2014 12:39 am

      @Britany: Apologies for the delay and yes, I agree. One of the biggest obstacles is that it can be hard to self-motivate. That small step towards a goal can make a difference.

  • Thanks for this post, Christine: important lessons and reminders to be sure! There’ve been occasions I’ve deliberately put myself into cities or locations on Christmas and New Year’s Eve to photograph those locations when it’s quiet. It’s why I was really pleased (and lucky) to photograph Berlin in a snowstorm on a very quiet Christmas Eve. 🙂

    • Christine Kaaloa
      February 21, 2014 12:37 am

      That sounds incredibly romantic @fotoeins, even though you are alone. Berlin in a snowstorm- wow!

      • Hi, Christine. Romantic: yes. As you said, it would’ve been much better to have done this with someone else as equally crazy to go out into a snowstorm and photograph/see a few “empty lit-up” sights around Berlin. So, here you go:

        • Christine Kaaloa
          February 25, 2014 5:23 pm

          Gorgeous photos of that winter wonderland @Fotoeins! I’m sure that person would have been bitching, whining, shivering and groaning and you wouldn’t have gotten the awesome shots you did. There’s a blessing in being solo. When I shoot photos, I can’t do it fully with others…. especially when I realize I’m making them stop and wait for me.

          • Thank you, Christine! I’ll often spend an extraordinary amount of time when I’m stopped somewhere, and I’ll also stop to photograph the signage. That might explain why I travel alone most of the time. 😉

  • Yep, ya got THAT right Christine. Holidays can be mighty tough for solo’s any/everywhere, and especially when you’re far from home, in a strange land where you don’t speak the language. That’s why I’ve long (2+ years now) traveled with my childhood Christmas stocking – it’s small enough to tuck in my backpack, yet reminds me of my roots and many happy Christmases of the past.

    That said, you’re oh so right: “…who made up that dumb rule…” anyway? 😉

    • Christine Kaaloa
      December 30, 2013 11:52 am

      @travelinlass: Yes, agreed and I love that idea of traveling with something that reminds you of home and happy memories. Haven’t thought about something like that.It’s a good idea to add to this list. The foreignness of everything makes it tricky. When I lived abroad, loneliness would sneak up out of nowhere.

  • I’ve traveled a couple of times during Christmas and both times, I chose perfect destinations: New Orleans and Las Vegas. There was plenty going on in both cities to keep me active and interested as a visitor without feeling like a loser for traveling alone during the holidays (except for maybe a moment or two).

    You offer some good tips here,Christine. I especially like the “plan to be extraordinary”. On Christmas night in Las Vegas, I went ziplining for the first time. It was one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done, because I’m afraid of heights. It made it a very memorable Christmas for me. 🙂

    • Christine Kaaloa
      December 29, 2013 2:52 pm

      @Gray: It’s hard not to feel a bit of that loser and momentarily wallow. But you mentioned an awesome tip I forgot… choose an active destination with lots of celebrations you can engage in. I spent NYE in Korea solo because my mom got sick & had to stay in bed. Huge outdoor show… freezing but it was great to be a part of the countdown celebration.

      New Orleans must’ve been incredibly interesting. I also love that you ziplined on Xmas! Very original. You partied like a rockstar. Didn’t know Las Vegas offered that. I would’ve loved to do that with you. =)

  • […] Solo Travel: How do you escape holiday loneliness? […]

  • I had a chance to be with a special friend in Thailand for the holidays but I said no. For Filipinos, Christmas IS for the family. I know I’ll make do if I were traveling during this season, but as much as I have a choice in where to spend it, I will always celebrate it at home. 🙂

    • Christine Kaaloa
      December 29, 2013 3:03 pm

      @Aleah: I’m sure the chance to spend your holidays with someone special felt like a little nip of ‘damn’. Phillipines sound like Hawaii; we’re a family-oriented state =) A lot of Hawaii kids come home for the holidays.. no matter where they are. Hence, Obama and his annual visits during Xmas- NYE.