The following is a blog written by Thilini Weerakkody

I am introverted so, when discussing situational preferences, I usually state that I love isolation—and for the majority of my life that has proven true. I have always thought loneliness to be an unassuming, soothing presence, but when living alone in a foreign country, I’ve found solitude makes a more sinister company.

Without a support system and people to connect to while abroad, loneliness wears new clothes of fear and unease, making it unrecognizable to me as someone whose idealized being alone most of her life.  When I first made my transition from Negombo, where I was safe and loved, to Galle I felt that loss. The first day I arrived in Galle, the entire city was dreary and drenched in hard, violent rain, but as I took in the scene, I simply felt excited for what my life for the next two months would hold. As soon as I was dropped off and left alone in a small, one bed room apartment with a single window and a cold, red cement floor, that feeling vanished and the concept of being alone suddenly lost its charm.

I wasn’t supposed to be alone in Sri Lanka. There was a misunderstanding for I was expecting to live with one of my family friends and simply organize my own meals, but instead I was by myself with no food, water, or Wifi and a single, blurry map of the area to guide me. This situation was what I’ve been idealizing about my gap year since finalist weekend—to be alone, fending for myself, eating the food I want, going where I want and not being accountable for anyone—but here I was, “living the dream” and it sucked.

Eventually, I got a hold of myself, went out in the pouring rain, got water, food, and found the way to work. After a week, I was familiar and confident with functioning by myself, but I felt that I had spent too much time with this new loneliness. I found myself sitting on my chair a lot, with my elbows propped up against the table, sitting, staring and doing absolutely nothing. I ate meals by myself on that same table in silence every day and laid in my bed at 6:30pm in the darkness, trying to fall asleep out of sheer boredom every night.

It sounds a little depressing and, to be honest, it kind of was, but I am glad that I underwent that experience because it showed me how much I love and need people in my life. After two weeks, I made a transition to live with a “host family” of sorts and I’ve been feeling so much better because now I have people to love and talk to. I am still the same person. I still need and engage in alone time, but now my days are filled with reading Lord of the Rings in my room in the company of Pouss, the house hold cat who has taken to sleeping on my chair or bed, eating my meals with my host sister, Nipuni, while we watch the latest episode of Ugly Betty, and having pleasant conversations with my host mom over afternoon tea before I lie in bed and listen to music in comfortable seclusion. Before, I never really appreciated how warm, beautiful and vital it is to have people to talk to, engage with, trust, and rely on, in addition to spending time alone, but after this experience it’s something that I will never forget.

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