“What’s the sense in being lonely?” I asked myself.
After 10 months of traveling India, Indonesia and Central America as a freelance writer and yoga teacher, I was still unwilling to learn the language of loneliness. I knew the importance of allowing my gratitude and presence to flow into each and every moment, yet this new sense of heaviness didn’t seem to fit into my “happy-life equation.”
My resistance showed up in my body. I acquired a bacterial infection, I felt fatigued, and my immune capabilities dropped. I acted surprised, as I saw this loneliness—my foe—boldly making itself known from the darkness, dimming my light. But I knew I’d be fooling myself to say I didn’t anticipate its arrival.
I remembered the first signs of this sense of loss, the often painful side of the wanderer’s path. Emptiness tapped on my shoulder for the first time around the six-month mark of traveling. As my family left Costa Rica, a flicker of hesitation passed as I set out to discover my path in yet another foreign country.
When we feel like we’re floating, the desire to root down to the earth and build outward from the home within our hearts can overwhelm us. We often call this homesickness, loneliness, or simply feeling sad.
This insistent pang, longing to be understood—whatever we call it individually—comes and goes like the coming tides, bringing up forgotten shells filled with memories of rejection, fear and disenchantment. Travel seemed to lose its sense of innocence as my emotional baggage resurfaced and accumulated.
I felt more depleted from conversation, unable to connect in the same enthusiastic manner I had months before. In the beginning of my journey, I felt energized by traveling, finding it easy to spark up a conversation with a merchant on the bustling streets of Mumbai. Almost a year later, I retracted inside of myself, seeking alone time and avoiding new inputs.
So what happened?
If we believe on one end of the spectrum that everything happens for a reason, that the universe has a plan for us to discover and live out, loneliness must have its purpose. On the other hand, if we believe in a strict, believe-in-only-what-we-can-touch concept of the world, perhaps we’d explain loneliness by some biological means. Neither explanation felt particularly reassuring.
It seems loneliness is just part of the universal earthly experience. We all feel it and can somehow label what it is, although we don’t (and probably never will) truly know what it means for each person individually. We can see loneliness in a stranger’s eye, we can feel compassion for it, and yet we can’t exactly pinpoint its nature or where it comes from.
So after months of attempting to drown out the sound of this underlying buzz, the loneliness started to creep out into my voice. It was eager to make itself known to every new friend, so I tried equally to silence it.
Ironically, it was desperation that finally led me to relief. I decided to turn the lights on and investigate the depths of my loneliness, consciously choosing open-minded curiosity over apprehension.
For too long, I’d sat with this foreign feeling without trying to get to know it. I didn’t ask where it came from, I certainty didn’t try to befriend it, and in the rudest way of interacting with a new guest, I ignored it as best I could.
But loneliness is kind, gentle and persistent. She has many strong, beautiful qualities, but her communication is often lacking. Instead of reaching out, she waits for us to glance inward and spark up a conversation at her hang-out spot in the center of our hearts.
Loneliness doesn’t ask for much besides our company. We only need to sit and listen past the concept of sound.
As I communicated with the heartache which called from within me and heard no response for all those months, I understood it was undeserving of its bad reputation. Maybe loneliness scares us because it forces us to feel deeply. To integrate our experiences, take off our masks and gaze inward at our naked truth. To simply breathe.
We all need time to process, to pause the experiences and be with ourselves, resisting the urge to fill the space. With this new understanding, my intuition led me to a ticket home—in a beautiful eco-community overlooking majestic Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I still deeply desired to return to my family and old friends.
I set out to reflect, reunite and melt into being until it felt right to dive back into the open water of experience. While I now know we are home at all times, wherever the map indicates we stand, I deeply appreciate the sense of home that comes from my familiar connections. I honor my home in the silence of my being, generating the power to process a year of powerful revelations, relationships and teachings.
To feel lonely, we must first be blessed with a sense of belonging, derived from love, connection and community. In this way, I receive loneliness as a gift intended to remind me to honor my relationships, be free with my energy and recognize the yearning for love within each and every soul. I see loneliness as a misdirected yearning for connection.
There is pride in our loneliness. Let’s embrace, feel and seep profoundly into this emotion as a testament to our innate desire to connect.
As strangers, when we feel lonely, it could be that we are more together than ever. When we truly befriend loneliness, we break down the false walls that separate us, tune back in and converge with the universality of our source. Amid this intangibility, loneliness grounds us.
Author: Shoshanna Delventhal
Editor: Nicole Cameron