A dear friend of mine in Carbondale who works in hospice and I were talking about the nature of loneliness. I find it somewhat ironic that I have felt far less lonely since I took off on this road trip alone than my last two years in Arizona.
She talked about the loneliness of dying people and how nothing external seems to help someone who has that particular heartache. She told me about a man in her hospice care who has just about everything you think that one would need stave off loneliness: family around him, good friends who bring food and care. But his wife had died some years prior. He pined for her and nothing could replace that specific companionship and so he was engulfed in loneliness missing his wife. Family and friends brought temporary solace, but they were no replacement.
I find it surprisingly easy to not be lonely while traveling. Internetz helps, partially because I can stay informed and connected through social media, but also because I have friends and acquaintances all over the U.S. If I am feeling lonely, likely I know someone within an easy drive and I can schedule to visit. Perhaps I’m lucky in that – I’ve lived a life with a lot of variety and tend to be fairly social. It seems that on the road, one can be about as social or hermity as one wants. There are lots of social RV groups and meetups (there’s some large gatherings right now in Quartzsite, Az) and a lot of networking.
At some point the body gives and traveling becomes more and more difficult. What to do when that happens? I’ve thought a lot about the possibility of getting older alone it scares the crap out of me. There is no “cure” for loneliness, but the proximity of friends and good family can help. Various friends and I have talked about creating an intentional community so that we can help each other and be physically close to each other as we age. I know that this is happening in a lot of places already. We each need to have a “3am person” – someone that you know you can call at 3am for help and they will be there for you. For a number of years I’ve fantasized about having a few acres of land, and friends put their tiny homes there. We each have our own living spaces, but easy to visit and be each other’s “3am person”.
Perhaps part of this road adventure for me is to find where I might want to have those acres, or look for that kind of community. I know that the reality is that you can’t really just go out and bump into the right combination for you, but there are definitely people and places that ‘click’ when you come upon them.