I’m scared…and I feel lonely.
It was my first time in Vietnam. Having traveled on my own before, I couldn’t help but wonder why Vietnam was so different than expected.
The fancy Airbnb I had booked was a run-down apartment in the middle of nowhere. Getting food was frightening; the only way was to weave my moped through the onslaught of aggressive drivers. And back home, the only companions I had to keep me company were cockroaches, mold and water stains.
I was alone and it reminded me of China.
So when I complained to a friend in Singapore and he offered to immediately buy me a ticket out of Vietnam, it made me cry.
I cried because while it might’ve been a small gesture to him, to someone who had been feeling down and lonely, it was exactly what I needed. That empathy is something I’ll always be grateful for.
And over the years when I look back at that time, it makes me think about how prevalent loneliness really is. It doesn’t apply to just solo travelers, but to most people around the world.
The feeling is just more obvious when you travel solo because you lack someone to share your experiences with, but there are many of us who feel equally lonely because we’re trapped at work at home without someone to talk to.
Most of us are scared to talk about our feelings, to be vulnerable because we don’t know what would happen. We’re more concerned with how others see us than we do with our mental state.
And it makes me really sad because it’s something I can really see and relate to. I can’t count the number of times I’ve felt like I couldn’t be honest or genuine about how I feel because I was scared too — what would my fans think if I made a mistake? How would my readers respond if they realized I was just as lost and confused as they were? Would my generous patrons stop supporting me if instead of life lessons, I start writing about my vulnerabilities?
These questions cross my mind at least a dozen times a day.
And I can only imagine the kind of loneliness and desperation world-renowned celebrities like Anthony Bourdain or Robert Williams would feel. These iconic figures people look up to and aspire to become are in reality the loneliest; the pressure they get from social influence is so immense that they don’t, can’t, find anyone to really confide in. And that’s so sad and unfortunate in every way.
There isn’t really a lesson or moral to this story, just an ask.
There are people, unknown to you and around you who are suffering. Those of you who’ve been through it or can relate will understand. But for anyone who doesn’t, I only ask this: if you’ve got some extra time this week, even just a few minutes — text, call, email, or even phone someone just to see how they’re doing and let them know you’re there for them.
And better yet, if you’re willing to, confide in them your own vulnerabilities to first build trust and allow them to confide in you.
It might not seem like something worth doing, but you will be making a huge difference. For those of us who’ve been through it or can relate, it’ll mean the world to us and a reason for us to stay strong.