An Absolute Beginner, no practice, no experience, not even a regular cyclist! I must be crazy :)
Stephen Peel

Stephen Peel

Cycling Around the World

Loneliness, going Solo

Reading about other solo travellers and how they deal with loneliness, I find that most of these travellers already have an element of liking being alone for short times. To be with themselves and their own thoughts for a while is important, and with some saying they have always been loners. They actually like and appreciate alone time. Maybe not for months or years on end though.


Of course, there are those that feel they will just meet people all the time and get on with everyone, and with that attitude, they just might.


There are others who have never been alone while travelling but feel they will never feel alone on a long trip, so when those people actually do find themselves alone, some don’t like it, it is a shock. 


The romance died a death within days, and that's fine, they have given it a shot and can stop wondering and have learned a little bit more about themselves in the process.

People are mostly good, and most people who interact with you first will mostly be wanting to sell you something or want something from you, and a few will have a real interest in what you are doing, but that's OK, as not everyone has the time and lifestyle you have. 


For most people around the world, making money to put food on the table is the most important thing, so don't take it too personal when someone you have been chatting with for half an hour, suddenly asks you for something or tries to sell you something. This will happen to you all the time and instead of getting offended, just move on. Eventually you will be able to pick up the signals and move on much quicker.


I love alone time and would go as far as to say that I need to be alone from time to time. Although alone time is good and I like to get my fix, I don't like to overdose on it. I feel everyone needs alone time, to spend just a day or two or more, by themselves.


If you love photography and wildlife, you already have a great start at keeping yourself busy travelling. Video and photograph everything you can, this might be the only chance you get. Create a detailed diary you can look through in the future and share with others. Upload the day to social media when you get a signal, and even looking for a place to get a signal can keep you busy. 


I have followers on Social Media that I can interact with. Sure, they may not be close family, but so many do actually have an interest in what you are doing, and will interact with you in a friendly way, and I consider many of my followers to be really good friends now. Video chat with a family member or friend when you get the chance too.


Staying in a hostel is something I have never done, and given my age I don’t know whether I will be able to either, unless I can get a separate room on my own or the dorm is not full. I know many people swear by hostels as a way of fighting loneliness, but these are usually young people mixing with more young people. If travelling continually, stopping for a few days at a time in nice places you arrive at will help too.


A couple of years ago I was going through a bit of a bad time and I just had to get away to be on my own, it had been hard to get any time to myself for some years, and it was making me feel pretty low, so I booked a week in Egypt in a nice hotel on the coast where I could just chill, be with my own thoughts, and away from everyone else. I thought I would just relax on this short trip and read a book or two, then come back refreshed. That didn't quite work out like that.


Minutes after arriving in my hotel, I sat at a poolside bar for a cold one, and in no time at all I was chatting with another guy who was doing exacly what I was doing, having alone time. Shortly after that we were talking to 2 other guys from the UK, and that was that, we were a gang for the week, and had the most amazing time. I hadn't laughed so much in years, and actually had pain in my ribs as a result.


My lack of real alone time had built up to me wanting as much of it as I could get, and that dream I had for so long about how wonderful it would be to cycle completely around the world, became my goal. And then it became a reality, and I set off on August 1 2017.

 

So how do I feel now that I have been on my solo tour for over 3 months

This last 3 months has been a life experience in so many ways. Regarding loneliness, I have had days were I felt I was going to go crazy, I was just so lonely.


Setting out from Cheshire in the UK and the 14 days it took me to reach Portsmouth was OK, I spoke with lots of people who were interested in what I was doing. I have a sign on the rear of my bike with my website address and information on the charity I am supporting, and this has helped a lot.


People would read it and come over to me to talk, and I had never experience this kind of thing before, so it was really nice. I even found that some days it would add hours to my day, just chatting, and although I was alone in the cycling, and again alone in my tent, I didn't really feel alone much.


As I entered France at St-Malo, I was setting up my tent, when I was invited to a BBQ by some lovely French camping couples, and of course I accepted. After that first day, I crossed France over to the coast at Saint Nazaire and really started to feel a bit lonely at that point. 


I think it was because there was nothing geared up for tourists, it was very rural. It was a public holiday time too, so everything was closed. I went through whole towns and saw nobody, they were like ghost towns. So spending the day on my own, then again at night, was starting to make me feel this was what I was going to expect a lot of.


But I had a feeling that if I can keep to the coast as much as possible, I am likely to find more people to interact with, as more places will be geared up for tourism. And along the Atlantic coast of France down to San Sebastian in Spain, it was so much better for me than being inland. I also like being near the coast anyway as it happens.


But I was then about to spend 3 weeks crossing from San Sebastian on the north coast to Valencia on the south coast, passing through Madrid to do so.


This was where I really felt very lonely. Between San Sebastian and Madrid, I virtually spoke with nobody, as not many people spoke English out there, and I didn't speak any Spanish, so it was to be expected. 


For days on end I was completely alone all day, and again all night, and I wasn't like it. I liked some days, but other days were really quite painful. Again though, I did expect to feel lonely, maybe just not that lonely.


But then I hit the coast at Valencia, and even though I was still on my own, I didn't feel lonely because there were other people around and plenty going on. The rest of my cycle until Australia will be coastal, and I'm so glad I chose to do it that way. 



What would be different from solo or with others


There is no way I could have cycled up through Turkey to Georgia and around through Kazakhstan and central China, I think I would go completely bonkers as a solo traveller. With someone else it would be much different though, and much easier.


I met quite a lot of people cycling in couples or groups, and talking with them it is clear that it a completely different experience. Cycling with another person, you can push each other on, cook together and chat, know there is someone else around during the night, argue with each other if you have to, but you will also be able to share moment and the whole experience.


Having someone around to watch the bike while you go to the toilet or in a shop or to sort things out, would make things easier. 


But cycling solo has benefits too. You can choose the route you want to go, at whatever speed you want. You don't get into any arguments either. You do everything you want to without negotiation. And you get to spend time to be with your own thoughts, and maybe even learn a bit more about yourself too. I know I have.


Going solo is not for everyone, in fact I think it is for a small percentage of hard core cycle tourists, or simply those who love being on their own for very very long periods of time.