How to Stop Feeling Lonely When You’re Always Moving

how to stop feeling lonely

The more you travel the less chance you have of fitting in. Most people you meet when you’re traveling can’t relate to you because their culture, language and experience is so different from yours.

Some other travelers, expats and people who live overseas, who you think are adventurous kindred spirits are just other people who don’t fit in at home so, like you are moving around looking for a place where they do belong.

Being an expat makes you part of an elite group who work and socialise together. But  you still feel alone and wonder why you don’t have any real friends.

1. Stop feeling lonely by choosing who to spend time with, don’t just spend time with people because it’s easy

I’ve been in Australia four years and I’ve only made a few good friends. I hide behind my computer and don’t go out so I don’t get rejected.

When I arrived I joined a group of surfing mums but they evicted me from their group. I was slow to leave, clinging like a limpet to their company, needy and unwanted.

We met at the beach weekly where they discussed drinks they’d had with each other or trips they were planning with each other. They never invited me along. But whenever I come across someone who appears not to like me I try my hardest to make them like me. To win them over.

These women were not impressed and eventually they found a way to exclude me from their group. To cut me out and cut me off. The group leader told me I wasn’t welcome any more. Then I ran into one of her cronies and she told me too.

2. Accept that some people don’t want to be your friend and that’s a good thing

I cried. Right there at the public pool while my kids were in their swimming lesson. Right there in front of her because I couldn’t understand why they didn’t want to have me around. I couldn’t believe that my company was so bad that they couldn’t stand to be around me.

Most of all I couldn’t believe that I had wasted nine months trying to make friends with these women who so obviously did not want to be friends with me.

Or that I had cried in front of them because right up until then I had worked so hard to fit it, to make sure they didn’t realise I was a misfit but I now I was crying, red-faced and ugly, finally giving them the excuse they had been wanting.

My bully was a Swedish woman who moved here long ago, her friend was an expat too. But that experience with her and with some other women has convinced me to keep my head tucked under my shell. One more straw may break me.

3. Notice when you’re putting up walls or making choices that are making you feel lonely

The more I move the harder it becomes to make friends, the stranger I become and the more I have to tell people that I can’t seem to settle down. I am a woman who has lived in eight countries and visited over 40. One for every year of my life. Travel is my life philosophy.

All the activity involved in traveling, moving and settling somewhere new means you never feel bored or lonely. It gives you get the sense of instant intimacy with people you’re thrown together with without the need to really be intimate.

So if you are not good with intimacy, if you are afraid of getting close to people because you’re scared they’ll hurt you or if you don’t think you’re worth getting close to then expat life works well.

Every time you go somewhere new you will have instant friends. Any time you feel threatened, either because the acquaintances you’ve made are getting too close, or because you realize none of your new relationships are true friendships then you can move on and start all over again from scratch.

Endless travel and the expat life is really a great way to avoid intimacy if you are not good with that.

Which is probably why I keep thinking about moving again but know the best thing for me to do right now is put down roots.

Have you ever experienced expat loneliness? Is being an expat a lonely way of life? How do you avoid loneliness when you travel? 

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  1. Sylvia March 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    You are really writing from the hard these last few days Annabel. Remember me? We met briefly at the Problogger conference. As an expat myself having lived in 8 countries, I can so relate to this article. It does get harder when you live somewhere longer even, because you keep losing your good friends and can’t bear to start the whole process again with small talk and trying to make new friends. I have been in Singapore now for more than 6 years and many of my good friends have left. I so recognise that feeling of wanting to move on too. I’m like you. I spend way too much time behind the computer and online, as I kind of prefer it go going out. But I too get a bit too isolated and have forced myself to be more sociable. Sport (tennis) is good for that as well. Let me know if you like to chat some time or do a Google hangout to vent or just socialize :) And if you are ever in Singapore, come and say hi!

    • Annabel Candy March 20, 2013 at 8:52 am - Reply

      Hi Sylvia,,

      Ooh course I remember you – it’s great to see you here again.

      That is such a good point aboout experienced the pain of being separated from friends due to travel and so not wanting to make new friends to avoid that. I guess that’s anoother wall we put up.

      Yes, a Google hangout would be great :)

  2. Oh gosh yes! I so relate. And yes, I can be found hiding at my keyboard, communing with all my friends around the world in short bite sized pieces without fear of rejection :)

    • Annabel Candy March 20, 2013 at 8:54 am - Reply

      Hi Johanna,,

      Lol, well you know what they say about addiction – recognising it is the first step for getting better :)

  3. Sharon Duarte March 20, 2013 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Gosh Anabel, I cannot believe some women can be so mean and so “prep school!” So nice to know there are other women out there like me…I thought it was me just me, having just moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, everyone I meet is so settled and established. Making friends is very hard. PTA I thought may be the doorway but, the group seems to know each other from pre prep,( now Form 3, 8 years of togetherness) they gossip together in Portuguese and I find myself out on a limb. So as you say, on the computer I go and find a blog like yours..phew! Even started my own..what a learning curve that is and keeps me busy!
    I find it harder and harder to get myself out each day..everyone seems to have a purpose but me. Perhaps this is why there is a longing in me to go back to my home Country and feed the roots that were planted there before I am too old to enjoy it! I need to stop moaning and learn to enjoy museums etc. on my own..OK here goes ..POSITIVE ATTITUDE starting now + blog.

    • Annabel Candy March 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      Hi Sharon,

      It is hard but keep trying different groups I knoow there are lovely people there who wouuld LOVE too meet you. Or even start your own group on MeetUp. The first year is hardest and lonely in a new place but it gets better.

      Loving your poositive attitude and loooking forward to reading your blog too. I’ve met some fab people throgh blogging and I know you will too.

      Online friends can’t replace friends who live nearby but they’re a great addition to the mix.

  4. Cate March 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel
    I spent my childhood moving from place to place… and loved it. I never had trouble making friends and joining in. It wasn’t until we hit Australia and we got stuck and stayed still that I met those people like your surfing ‘friends”. Result: I lost faith in friendship for quite a few years. Even now, I am slow to give that extra bit. But I do have some amazing friends from high school days (oh, a long time ago) and we would walk on fire for each other even now. Meantime,, I too have my key board and some interesting long distance ‘friendships”, and, to be honest, who could be bothered with mean minded, mean spirited types. Their loss. I’d love to meet up with you one day. Hang in there.
    C xx
    ps once you turn 50 everything gets so much bettter :-)

    • Annabel Candy March 24, 2013 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Cate,

      It’s true we only need a few good friends and the old ones become more precious with time. Really? It gets better? I am looking forward to that :)

  5. Rita Vail March 24, 2013 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    Annabel – I have been an avid reader for years, but I seldom comment. But this time I have to respond. I am 65 and my four daughters are all raised now. I want to point out to you that you are in the very middle of a very intense period in life with the ages that your kids are right now. What y ou are feeling is totally normal and it will pass. Hang in there. It ain’t easy, but when it is over, you will look back in wonder.

    I love life a lot more now that the hormones have calmed down a bit. And now that I have fewer responsibilities, I can do what I want, like sell my house and everything in it to travel, which I just did.

    Right now I am in the Puna district of Hawaii and I think you would love it here. I am not able to be here full time yet, but it feels pretty homey to me. Tonight I went out by myself to hear a bunch of old rock and rollers play cover songs and I knew all the words, so I could sing along, even though I cannot sing on key to save my life, so I had to leave them a good tip. But I danced for three hours straight for the first time in years.

    I hope to meet you someday, because I know I would like to be your friend. You have inspired me to write with more guts. I may not know you, but I can say that I really like you. You crack me up.

    Thank you for sharing

    • Annabel Candy March 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Rita,

      Thank you so much for your kind and wise words. I am wondering if it’s the hormones I need to look into that.

      I am really happy I crack you up and love the sound of your singing, dancing evening – may there be many more like that.

      Hawaii sounds fantastic I hope to make it there one day and it would be brilliant to meet you too somewhere in the world :)

  6. Barbara March 25, 2013 at 1:19 am - Reply

    I mentioned in my comment recently about taking anti-depressants. It was definitely a hormonal issue. Yes, you should get that checked. It will f*ck with your head like nobody’s business! I had over 12 years of peri-menopause, which is worse than actually crossing over, I swear. Nothing seems normal, you snap at the strangest times, want to crawl under a rock, go through an emotional roller coaster daily. Been there/ done that.
    GO NOW…get the hormones checked out. You’ll be glad you did!

    • Annabel Candy March 28, 2013 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Barbara,

      Blimey, what a journey you’ve had. I’m taking your advice. I had a blood test today :)

  7. The lack of “real roots” is a problem for many people who keep moving around, and I am feeling it now that I have to decide where to live, or where to go next. The roots you once had in your birth country are often no longer there, and even if you’d go back, fitting in is a problem because … well… you don’t “fit” anymore. Making friends is harder because you need kindred souls, and often the kindred souls are the other global nomads who don’t stick around a anywhere long either. I don’t know the solution, sadly.

    • Annabel Candy March 28, 2013 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Miss F,

      I guess we are finding out tribe here. Maybe we should have regular Google hangouts so we can actually talk to each other :)

  8. Jo @ Jo's Health Corner March 28, 2013 at 4:34 am - Reply

    I so needed to read this to know I wasn’t alone feeling this way. I can so relate to everything you write. I’ve lived in several countries as well as moving around within the United States with my husband and my children.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Annabel Candy March 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Jo,

      Thanks for swinging by – hope to see you again :)

  9. Christie March 28, 2013 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post this morning. Although I haven’t lived in as many places, the feeling of trying to make friends with everyone hits home. I’m sorry to read of the outright rejection, that just sounds rude and I know that I would be hurt by that too. Thank you for posting. I have more to say, but I am having trouble articulating it just so. I fear I am in the process of repeating the acts of the surfer “friends” and have to spend some time thinking about this so I don’t repeat it.

    • Annabel Candy March 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Christie,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know it’s hard to express things sometimes, we are learning all the time. It’s just good to know that everyone here is working on getting better – that’s all we can do and having you guys here helps me too :)

  10. Daniela March 29, 2013 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    it’s a great post and yes, traveling/moving and good, longterm friendships are not the best/easiest combination. I started living in different countries when I was 18 and I’m not planning on stoping anytime soon. Sometimes, I get lonely and sometimes it’s frustrating that it seems that it’s always me who tries to stay in contact. If one more person says “sorry, I didn’t have time” I’ll start to scream! Everybody is busy and I still think its possible to say/write a short “hello, how’s it going, I was just thinking of you” while you wait for the tea water to boil (which I know is not very zen, as one should concentrate on the boiling water ;-)). But – there is always a but – I know who my real friends are – there are not many and there were some changes in the last 20 years, but there are some real, good friends who I can count on no matter what. And: I’ve learned a lot about myself – and still do. Realising who I am, what I like and what I’m interested in without being “constraint” by the places I’ve always gone to as a teenager, the kind of movies I’ve always watched with friends, the clothes I bought to fit it. I have to freedom to try everything – and I love it.

    • Annabel Candy March 30, 2013 at 7:20 am - Reply

      Hi Daniela,

      Great to see you here and love your positive outlook. I find that some people complain that I don’t keep in touch enough while others don’t care if I haven’t been in touch for a year – they are just happy to hear from me again – and those are the true friends – the ones that when you do see again you just pick up from where you left off :)

      • Daniela March 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm

        I’ve heard that several times, and now I have to ask you something: how does one stay connected with somebody if one dosn’t know things about their life? not just the big events like wedding, births, and so on, but the daily stuff which is the large part of our life. For me, part of a friendship is to share each others life, talk about things that matters to each of us. and – and I think that’s the most difficult part with long distance friendships – creating new memories. Talking over a cup of tea (at skype) is nice, but – admitttingly – after a while it gets boring. When you thing about your friends what do you remember? maybe long talks about stupid partners and discussions about child education, but also this one stupid movie you saw together or this one great concerts you been at her birthday. Memories you share. And for me, that’s also a way to not feel lonely when traveling/moving. I try to create memories together. Yes, catching up is great and good, but then let’s do something together – and not always do we need to be in the same place. Read a book together and chat on skype about it, sending a pic of something you know your friend will laugh about, send a cd you just found and love to share. everybody is “growing” and learning and evolving, if I can share my path and watch/experience the path of my friends, I don’t feel lonely.
        And if all that doesn’t help, and I still think that Murphy sucks, then I think about all those great memories I have by myself and it makes it worth it. Standing in the bus a day before christmas, which is just crossing the Seine at the Louvre, sun is shining, some gifts in my bag for loved ones. Tipping my toes in the ocean at a pub near cape town before a rugby match. Sitting in front of the Sydney Opera with a glass of bubbles in my hand. Standing in front of a special pic in the Musee d’Orsay and crying because it is soooo beautiful. Seeing giraffes running free in Zimbabwe. Watching elephants at a water hole at sunset. Yes, the life I chose sometimes sucks and is hard, and I have to explain myself to people I don’t even know, but – and that’s the thing, there is a BUT! It’s full of experienes, rich with memories, and oh so worth it.
        Obviously I’m not very good at making it short ;-)

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