Posted in Prose, Travel Writing

Unconventional Types of Loneliness: A List

You know that adage about how Inuits have 47 different words for ‘snow?’ I think about that sometimes when I come across a feeling that can’t be explained, or one that doesn’t seem to fit into an appropriate category. Maybe we just don’t have a word for it in my mother tongue. Or maybe the closest word just falls short? Such is the case with loneliness. Wouldn’t you agree?

It’s such an intricate feeling, it can encompass so many different experiences. Loneliness isn’t always a sad feeling, and it isn’t even always experienced in solitude. It’s possible to be lonely in the middle of a room full of people, or on the happiest day of your life. It transcends.

A few months ago I came across a post from Mari Andrew, one of my favorite writers on Instagram, where she outlines different types of loneliness (I’ve included her greatness at the bottom of this post). I loved it, like I do with most of her stuff. But one type of loneliness that she included just hit me right in the gut: “Loneliness of needing to verbally process with someone who is trapped in another time zone.” This! This.

Being an expat for the past four years has led me to this type of loneliness more than I care to admit. It happens whenever I have a big ‘can of worms’ of a topic that I need to delve into with a trusted confidant, and all of those beloveds are only available in a WhatsApp message or a video chat, residing six hours in the past.

Until I read this line from Mari, I hadn’t realized that this feeling could even be categorized as a permissible type of loneliness. I weighed this feeling, and was shocked to see how many other tangential types of loneliness came flowing out of my head and onto a page in my journal. So I’m sharing the list with you in full, with a tip of the hat to Ms. Mari Andrew for her catalyst to my inspiration. Maybe the next time you’re feeling lonely, you’ll remember this list, and feel a bit less in-solitude . . .

Unconventional Types of Loneliness:

  • Table for one at the breakfast buffet loneliness.
  • Thanksgiving in South Africa when it’s just another Thursday loneliness. See also: 4th of July in India loneliness, also Inauguration Day 2017 in Dubai loneliness.
  • When you accidentally wake up at noon on the first beautiful Saturday in months loneliness.
  • Watching the plants on your bedroom windowsill slowly die because it’s the dead of winter and they aren’t getting enough sun and neither are you loneliness.
  • Walking your dog on a Friday night and seeing a large group of students in different costumes walking down the street and trying to figure out the theme of the party they’re going to loneliness.
  • The first time your debit card gets declined in public loneliness.
  • Showing up to a protest by yourself loneliness.

Hailing the taxi home from ComicCon by yourself loneliness.
  • Monday morning when you work from home loneliness.
  • A long weekend away with a big family who speaks a language that you don’t understand loneliness. See also: Laughing along at a joke told in a foreign tongue that you don’t speak but you laugh along anyway loneliness.
  • The only pacifist on the hunting trip loneliness.
  • When it’s winter and you’re walking alone through a gentrified borough of Brooklyn at dinner time. And you’re seeing families milling around their kitchens through the bay windows of their brownstones, warm light is cast on to the sidewalks that you walk on, and your feet are wet through your boots loneliness.
  • Finding yourself scrolling through the online profile of the famous girlfriend of your high school boyfriend, and realizing that it’s not him you miss, it’s the fact that you’ll never be her loneliness. See also: Questioning your own self-worth after working for quite some time to cultivate it loneliness.
  • Walking in to the hotel room where you’ll be staying alone for the week and deciding which side of the double bed to sleep on loneliness.
Birthdays in another country loneliness.
  • Leaving a movie you just saw in theaters by yourself and having no one around to dig into it after the fact with loneliness.
  • Seeing the wedding photos of two people who will always have way more money than you do loneliness.
  • Driving alone when a song comes on the radio that reminds you SO viscerally of a once best friend that you haven’t spoken to in the better part of a decade loneliness.
  • Being on a boat of any kind by yourself, especially if it’s a boat with lots of other people, loneliness. (Trust me on this one.)
  • Picking which stranger to ask to watch your belongings while you take a dip in the ocean during a solo trip to the beach loneliness.
  • When everyone at the restaurant where you work goes to hang out after your shift and you find out a few days later that you weren’t invited loneliness.
  • Seeing a really cute little kid playing all by themselves apart from the rest of their classmates loneliness.
Being in Times Square when you kind of have to pee loneliness.
  • Seeing two best friends whom you don’t know joyously reuniting at the arrivals terminal loneliness.
  • Observing two lovers passionately bidding each other farewell outside of the security line at the departures terminal loneliness.
  • When you’re so perfectly contented in your solitude and then all of a sudden the moment becomes so delectable, so ideal, so joy-inducing that all you want to do is to share it with any number of people that you really love but all of whom are geographically far away loneliness. (See also: Knowing they would cherish the moment just as much as you, if only they were there, loneliness.)

Mari Andrew’s post from September of this year; the inspiration for this list.


Stories of travels, of tribulations, and of learning to tell the difference.

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