- 100 years of loneliness
Loneliness is a very ugly word. It brands you. It attacks you from two directions – if you ARE lonely, something’s wrong with you. And if you FEEL lonely, then something’s wrong with you as well.
In the world of today it is best not to be lonely, but to love loneliness when it happens, since otherwise you lack self-reliance and dependent too much on people. The problem is, if you LOVE loneliness it’s not loneliness anymore. It becomes your own time, seclusion, calmness – call it what you will, but not loneliness…
Many years of psychological studies did not change the fact that people become depressed, commit suicides or, at best, remain in their private black holes as a result of the feeling lonely. These are the facts, but what is most interesting to me is the situations that are usually associated with loneliness. One of the 3 most frequent comments I hear with regard to my travels is:
“I WOULD FEEL SO LONELY… How do you cope with it?”.
- My NON-lonelines
It’s funny how often people worry about loneliness while travelling. Especially when it’s about places where there are no people and where you went voluntarily, not because your plane crashed there or because you were confined to them – but because you MADE A CHOICE.
It’s your meeting with yourself, nature and silence. Your separation from topics that don’t really interest you (another cat to save, another plate of food, another friend whom you haven’t seen for 100 years, another newborn child) and which are the part of the social history of your friends in which you participate. You look through these stories, you smile, or not, and you think “what does it matter?”, but an hour later you are doing the same thing.
Do I feel lonely sometimes? Yes, I do.
However, I don’t feel lonely when separated from people. I didn’t feel like that when I was in the Columbian desert, Amazon Jungle or on Sulawesi, about the existence of which I learned a month before going there.
My everyday work is working with others and for others. What makes me happy is being with my friends and sharing the world with them. I constantly listen and talk. And the more I listen and talk, the more I feel I’m getting lost. I miss silence. When there are no words is when I exist the most (yes I know – some people who know me know are smiling – yes I do talk a lot – but I like not to talk even more). I miss the time between words since this is the time which is most easily postponed, again and again, and then it becomes your habit so much that you start thinking that maybe it’s not that important at all. The number of thoughts, subjects and matters to consider is so great that before you manage to process them, your time is up. Again, you failed to meet… yourself.
It requires a true effort to interrupt the dialogues, monologues, discussions and fights that I have with the whole world and several particular individuals. I’m a task-oriented person so for me it’s quite a challenge not to approach myself as a task. When I let go of my to do list, that is, everything that I have to improve, change, develop, supplement and learn – then I can simply be. As my teacher says: Let yourself be as you are… And when I manage to do that, I feel that I’m in a good company, me and myself. Loneliness comes later, when you come back to the transparent everyday life, to thoughts, objectives, challenges and social order.
- When you meen peole and still feel lonely
At home friends are always within arm’s reach. 60% of them are within a few kilometers and another 10% within a couple more. That 70% of my friends is a lot more people than I met on the Guajira desert, while travelling from Toraja to Togean Islands or even in the small town in Panama, the name of which I don’t even remember. Does that 70% of people who are near me guarantee the lack of loneliness? Sometimes although everyone is present, in reality they are not. I can call every one of them but even if they pick up the phone there is no guarantee that they will be in the same emotional space-time. Maybe you know that feeling, when you really want to talk and no one is answering. NO ONE! Is this some conspiracy? Usually my iPhone’s battery dies after 3 hours because I talk so much, but IN THAT VERY MOMENT no one is calling.
And suddenly the phone rings. “ I felt in love! I’m getting divorced! I hate my job! You won’t believe who I met yesterday!”
Although there is a person on the other side of the line, there is not enough space between us: for me and my reality. And there is no space in me for their reality either. We are close, yet so far… Sometimes things just are like that. Seldom, but it happens.
Then I can choose one of the two things:
- The black hole of loneliness
- Accepting this situation as a gift and realizing that I need to have a conversation with MYSELF
- The more, the worse
Right now there is this big discussion going on on the topic of how people choose virtual world and seclude themselves from the real one. Psychological studies don’t confirm that at all. What they show is that the more active we are in social media, the more active and closer our “real” relationships are. Our virtual contacts are just an increase in the number of likes that we can and want to give to other people.
Social researchers demonstrated that out of 2 people, where one has 100 friends and the other 600 friends added, the one with the larger amount of friends is going to feel more lonely on Saturday if they crave company. Where are those 600 people from Facebook? When we have several hundred people added as friends we might expect that some of them are going to reach out to us on Saturday evening. Some of them may sense telepathically that the world is falling down, but usually they don’t…
- The journey is never lonely
When you decide to travel without a group you create a relationship with your own self, because you know you’re alone. You need to COME TO TERMS WITH YOURSELF! During such journey you cannot leave your own self. You need to be with yourself, comfort yourself and take care of yourself.
The moments when I felt alone during my journey happened when my thoughts remained with my work, friends, restaurants, books, clubs, familiar places, the scent of favourite candles at home, the taste of bread from the neighbourhood bakery, etc. Returning to familiar, obvious and comforting people, things and places in our thoughts is a kind of habit. I felt lonely because I were with things and people who weren’t there. Such longing makes us separate ourselves from what we have NOW, from the scents, colours, people and places that we can experience NOW.
THERE IS NO magic trick, there is only work on making a habit of returning to the NOW and being open to what is currently available.
And then the magic comes. Either that, or it turns out that the person sitting next to you is in the same role as you. They look at the same things you do and smell the same scents. Perhaps they are tired or excited. Even if they’re a complete stranger, there is a good chance that they are going to understand what you feel, what you say and what you want to say before you even open your mouth.
I once met a boy in Panama, Misha. Looking at his everyday life, it’s clear that he comes from a totally different world than mine – he was raised in a hippie community somewhere in the Australian shrubland, he is rapping (and he’s good at it!), travels by hitch-hiking and does a lot of other things that go totally beyond my aesthetics and sense of humour (for example, he travels with a costume of a big green frog and at each place he visits he walks around, takes selfies and even dives wearing it). But in Bocas del Torro during high season there were many Argentinians and Americans, all of them in either big or very big groups, and us. We were the only people travelling alone, both being on the road in order to fix our totally broken hearts, longing for conversations about something different than booze and parties and love of American hip-hop. Suddenly it turned out that there are two aliens in Bocas. We were so not in tune with the #alwaysDrunk atmosphere of that town that we were put together by our maladjustment and the fact that we wanted to be in that place but not with THOSE people. We created our own space, thanks to which Bocas stopped being for us a town of ever noisy American surfers and became OUR town. What I needed a lot then was someone operating in a similar mood of melancholic happiness and sensitive to shouts and noises with characteristic Californian accent. After Bocas I have never seen him again (although we are “friends” on Facebook). He was not my friend. And he never will be. However, he is a very important person to me, since for a couple of days we shared our silence and our alien nature.
Empathy is one of the characteristics that I value the most. If there are 1-2 people who enter my emotionspace even while they are currently in another galaxy, then I definitely don’t feel lonely. I can call them in the middle of the night (I know I can because I tried) and they are going to pretend that they were actually almost getting up.
It is good to come home and know that people like that exist. And one should also not be afraid to leave them. Why? Because, first of all, your aliens are always with you – they will really answer you calls, they are really going to talk to you and comfort you. And secondly, if you don’t want to wake somebody in the middle of the night, then with a little bit of openness you will find other aliens similar to you on the way. You will be put together not by how long you know each other, but by your common universe existing at that place and at that moment. Give yourself a chance to feel this, without anyone you know being nearby, and open yourself to a stranger next to you who is experiencing the same thing. Sometimes you might have even more in common with them than with your best friend whom you have known since kindergarten. You do not have to choose between them.
A friend always is, always will be and waits, and a stranger might become a new one.
There is always a good time to start a new story.
Don’t just believe my word. See for yourselves.
My biggest friendships have been formed during travels and meetings with strangers – and I have described them many times. Now I’m going to describe a week from the journey that was supposed to best the most lonely, since:
- I wanted it to be like that – I wanted only the company of myself, the sea and my laptop
- it was Venezuela and everybody told me not to get to friendly with people under any circumstances or I’d get killed before I even realized it.
So, I went to Los Roques, the most beautiful islands I ever visited, so that I could be alone and focused. And here’s what happened…
Jadira. I met her during the first 4 minutes after receiving the luggage. It turned out you don’t go the that island without booking and that there are no hotels there. She took a day off work and said she has to look for a hotel for me. 30 minutes later I had a place to stay. During my whole stay on the island she was taking care of me, giving me advice and keeping me company. She was very taciturn and in love with her dog, Princessa.
Jose. I met him when it turned out that no boat would go the the island where I really wanted to get. He was the only boatman who told me that according to him the conditions weren’t that bad. So we sailed. On the next day he invited me, for free, to another trip to show me where the fishermen live and prepare illegally (outside of the season) lobsters and snails for rich tourists. He showed me many islands and told many stories.
Julian. He is the funniest boatman I’ve ever met. He always travels with his beloved dog, Beethoven. When I told him that I came to be alone for a bit, he invited me to fishing. “I’m sure you’ll bring me luck,” he said. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked.“Just be there and don’t talk”. I could do that. We caught a lot of fish and for most of the time I was sitting on the other end of the boat and enjoyed the rare phenomenon of a storm.
Gabriel. He was the second person I met after Jadir. He learnt English and German by ear. He loves people, the world and Venezuela. His endless stories about the beauty of his country encouraged me to travel further. Getting to know him made it possible.
Amelia – a strikingly beautiful Venezuelan girl who travelled everywhere with her mom. She had a mission to take care of me, since “Venezuela is a very dangerous place”. During all the 3 days of my stay on the island they were constantly making sure whether I was safe and checking if I needed anything. We are still gossiping sometimes on whatsapp and they keep asking me when I’m going to visit them in Caracas.
Andrea. A glimmer of civilization at the world’s end. A jazz musician from Italy, who introduced a bit of magic by playing jazz on the piano in a romantic restaurant on a beach. He provided a lot of light and magic to anyone who was in Los Roques at the time.
I went to the farthest beach of the world to finish reading a book. I haven’t managed to do it since Charlie, a composer from Buenos Aires, couldn’t live with the thought of me living without water or food (which I totally forgot about) and shared with me not only everything he had but also some amazing stories and reflections on life. I love Murakami, but Charlie was better.
Jerome. My extraordinary French friend. I met him exactly when I was supposed to – when I was ready to hear one of the wisest pieces of advice and suggestions on relationships, freedom, life and work I ever heard.
Pilots. I met them on my way back, when I couldn’t buy a ticket to Los Roques.
My “lonely” moments in Los Roques.