Two days ago, I went on an overnight business trip. It was all top-secret government stuff (no, seriously) and they took away our cellphones and Internet access for the whole time. So, it was just me and about eighty Koreans in a remote hotel by the ocean. Everyone was friendly enough and even though I speak Korean and the people I worked with spoke English, it was still a pretty lonely time for me. It got me thinking about why.
Probably the loneliest I’ve ever been was one summer in high school. I had had a girlfriend in another town for a couple months but she broke up with me since we lived really far away and since I didn’t have a license, we could never see each other. Still, I liked her and when I heard she was going to a certain summer camp, I decided to go too. None of my friends were going but I had it all worked out in my head, how we’d meet up again at camp and fall in love all over again.
I arrived there and met her before too long. I said hi and she said hi, then walked away with her friend. I was crushed. Suddenly, I was stuck at a week-long camp without knowing anyone at all. They put me in a room with five guys who were all together and while they were nice, they were their own group.
What I really wanted to do was just make a break for it. I looked longingly at the outer fence. The camp was about 100 kilometres of wilderness from my town, but if I could have just made it to the woods, I would have been totally happy walking home by myself (although insanely cold and hungry). (Postscript: I met another girl there and so the last half of the week was salvaged.)
I know everyone is different, but for me, being lonely is more than just being by myself. I can travel and hike by myself for a week in Korea and be perfectly happy. The same would probably be true in Canada, the US, England, maybe even France. But if I were to go somewhere I didn’t speak the language or where the culture was very different, I would get lonely quickly. When I went to Cambodia with my cousin, I was there a day before him and while that day was pretty good, I would have gotten lonely pretty quickly if I hadn’t met up with him. Some adventures are best shared.
What makes me the most lonely is being isolated in a situation that is uncomfortable or where I am trapped. What about you? When do you get lonely?