There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. I know. I've dabbled in both waters for years.
I love being alone. I am an introvert and as much as I adore people, I need a fair amount of time away from them. In fact, I am writing this in my tent instead of under the gorgeous mango tree because I need a break from the constant stream of people present at this camp.
I could go on and on about why I enjoy being alone so much. And it is not just because I am stubborn and like getting my way all the time (which is a great benefit of traveling solo).
I find when I am in the silence of my rented room, sitting on my single bed, I can explore the depth of my thoughts without fear of interruption. Some people process life by talking about it. I process life by spending hours in a quiet place, pen in hand, watching my train of thought wind wildly between seemingly unconnected stops.
When I am alone, I find it easier to quiet my mind and overcome my anxiety. I get less panicky. I get less paranoid. And when depression comes it doesn't last nearly as long, because when I am alone I can sit with the darkness and analyze every aspect of it until it gets tired of the interrogation and leaves.
I love being alone, but I am not a huge fan of the loneliness that tends to come with it.
I hesitate to connect being alone and loneliness so intimately. I have met many people who are mostly alone, but not at all lonely. And I would argue that most of the world is never alone, but constantly lonely.
That being said, the two have become intimately connected in my life. And after all, this is my blog.
I am the type of person that loves being alone, but I am not the kind of person that can exist completely independently without getting lonely. I love people too much.
I love people. I love connection. I love love.
I am full of love for so many people and I know that there are countless people out there that love me as well. But whether it is love between myself and a family member, a friend, or a partner, it is hard to maintain when you live as I do.
Space is definitely a factor. The longest I have lived anywhere since graduating high school is 10 months. While distance may make the heart grow fonder, it also makes maintaining any sort of relationship incredibly difficult. And while my love for the amazing people I have met in my life may grow, so does my loneliness as I continue to live apart from all of them.
But it is not just about physical distance.
I have been in Costa Rica for less than a month and I would say that I have already met inspiring people that I love deeply (it's not hard, my love is pretty cheap). But I am no less lonely.
Because when you are an eternal traveler, you live with an eternal wall. No matter how open you are to love and connection, there is a vivid awareness that everything is temporary. And it is hard to submerge yourself if you know you only have a few minutes left in the water.
I wish I could end this article with some inspiring words about how I have solved this dichotomy. I would love to say I have found a way to be true to myself without experiencing a deep and painful loneliness, but it's just not true.
Then again, I'm not even 23 yet, so I still have plenty of time to figure it out. I'll let you know when I do.