It isn’t a feeling people usually willingly force upon themselves — but Dillon Hill, a content creator from Sacramento, Calif., did just that.
Best known for his viral MyBestFriendsList story in which he dropped out of college to help his best friend, who faced a terminal cancer diagnosis, live his best final year by ticking off his ultimate bucket list, Hill is now in Vancouver working on a new documentary about loneliness and is hoping it will help inspire others to face the issue head-on.
It’s simply by chance that Hill wound up in Vancouver. After a recent breakup, the 21-year-old decided he wanted to shake things up and get out of his comfort zone by living in a new place and finding a way he could make a positive impact on the community.
Not knowing how to choose where to go, Hill threw a dart at a map and it landed on Vancouver. So, on Jan. 1 he packed his bags and headed to Canada — leaving his friends, family, phone and social media behind.
When he got to the city, he began searching for a way he could make a difference. Hill said he was often pointed in the direction of the Downtown Eastside, but after talking to dozens of people, non-profits and news organizations he found what stood out for him the most in each conversation was the issue of loneliness.
Alone in a new city, Hill, who describes himself as an introvert, said the issue resonated deeply with him.
“When I got to the city, I had a really hard time getting out of the house,” Hill said. “I visited the Vancouver subreddit looking for things to do— I saw a bunch of other people looking for opportunities to make friends… then I saw how isolating Vancouver can be.”
He wasn't the only one. Up to 46 per cent of British Columbians report feeling lonely, according to United Way Lower Mainland.
Hill said while researching he found that many programs to address loneliness in the city were geared towards extroverts.
“They’re doing a great job for that community, but it felt like they were lacking for people like me, introverts, where simply hosting a ‘get to know your neighbour event’ wouldn’t work – I would never go to that,” he said.
“I spoke to a lot of people and they know these programs exist but it just isn’t necessarily for their demographic.”
Hill decided to create his own event to help introverts like himself, and others feeling alone, take the next step in addressing their feelings and making new friends.
He said the free event, ‘Loneliness Sucks: A Boardgame Night for People Who Don’t Want To Go,’ is for anyone that feels lonely but has trouble motivating themselves to get out of the house.
“The goal is to acknowledge loneliness is a huge problem in Vancouver and do our best to overcome that by going out and playing some games,” Hill said.
“We will have a private table at Pizzeria Ludica to hang out for two hours.
“I’m a pretty introverted person before I leave the house I always have to do a ton of research on the location, who’s going, etc. It’s a really stressful experience, so it’s important to me that this event is easy to attend.
“I want the kind of people that think ‘that sounds scary’ to go. I’m like that, and I know it contributes to my feelings of loneliness.”
The event will be the last piece of Hill's documentary, which explores his personal journey of overcoming loneliness in a new city as an introvert, as well as how Vancouverites feel about the issue.
Hill said by putting himself into an isolated situation he discovered the answer to addressing loneliness is often within you.
“The problem with loneliness is, a lot of people think that there’s no solution. I realized that loneliness is sometimes a mindset and I was forcing myself into that mindset,” Hill explained.
He said the biggest thing he learned along the way, was that it’s OK if the usual scenarios people make friends — work, social events, sport, partying — don’t work for you.
“Just keep trying new things, and eventually one of them will work," Hill said.
“Part of the story is realizing that if you open up your arms and don’t be mad at the world, you’ll feel a little less lonely.”
The documentary will be released in April.
Hill is hoping to register Loneliness Sucks as an official charity in B.C. and continue hosting events for people who don’t want to go to them.
‘Loneliness Sucks: A Boardgame Night for People Who Don’t Want To Go'
When: Saturday, Feb. 22 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Pizzeria Ludica, 189 Keefer Pl.