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Learning to Be Alone
04.25.17
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Laugh it the Fuck Off Month
Laugh it the Fuck Off Month

For my 30th birthday, I took myself to London.

I spent four nights in one of those pod hotels, where all the furniture is constructed out of one giant piece of plastic and the room key comes out of a vending machine. I went to museums alone and walked around my favorite neighborhoods alone and tried on clothes I couldn’t afford, all alone, and spoke only to baristas or bartenders or people who wanted me to buy things. My last night, a bit worn, I watched groups of humans talking and touching, and the empty space around my body felt like a heavy, wet coat. When I finally found a place for dinner, I was escorted to a booth tucked into a corner with a curtain that the waiter zipped closed, “for your privacy,” but mostly because I probably killed the mood.

People aren’t that comfortable with solitude.

The idea of peace, of being able to simply be, is a preoccupation of our connected world: we’ll pay people to hide our iPhones and force us to sit in silence, so foreign is the concept, so fetishized the ideal of the solitary figure on the mountaintop. Today, aloneness isn’t only physical; it’s also the untethering of the electronic connections that perpetually bind us to the rest of humanity. I’m not talking about between being single or in a relationship, or the lack of friends or a community. There’s a chasm of emotion between being alone and being lonely. As Maria Popova wrote, “This crucial difference between aloneness and loneliness, in fact, is not only central to our psychological unease but also enacted even in our bodies — while solitude may be essential for creativity and key to the mythology of genius, loneliness, scientists have found, has deadly physical consequences on our risk for everything from heart disease to dementia.”

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In a 2014 study at the University of Virginia, researchers put college students in a room for 15 minutes and asked them to occupy themselves with their own thoughts. 67% of the men and 25% of the women were so miserable that they elected to give themselves painful electric shocks rather than just sitting inside their own heads. The modern brain lacks chill.

When was the last time you found yourself with a stretch of uninterrupted solitude? When did you go so far as to seek it out, to revel in it, to wash yourself in the details of quiet, the way the rain looks outside the window, the yawn of space at your table, the glass of water? Aloneness requires a gradual unspooling of your defenses, like shrugging off layers when you enter a hot room, letting your skin breathe, pulling away the armor that stands between you and the world. It’s Georgia O’Keeffe, alone in her desert; it’s Virginia Woolf’s room of her own.

Time spent alone is essential to carving out a sense of self without the noisy bargaining of others instructing us how to be. It’s how we learn self-reliance. Solitude is great for creativity, too, and for regulating emotions. Child psychologists encourage caregivers to provide toddlers with solo time: kids need that space to learn independence, to figure out what feels good and bad, to self-soothe, to practice imagination. I cold-turkeyed my aloneness with a post-college road trip, driving myself around America for three months with only my own thoughts for company (do not recommend).

Still, if you’re one of those people who’d rather fire electricity through your body than sit alone in a coffee shop — especially if you struggle with anxiety or depression, which can make alone time nothing short of excruciating — here are some ways to start cultivating the awesomeness of you.

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Aloneness, baby steps.

  • Take yourself to a movie, preferably a matinee.
  • Go to yoga or spin or Zumba. Try extra hard, or leave halfway through: no one is watching you anyway.
  • Take a bath but leave your phone and your book on the other side of the door. Time yourself. Start with 10 minutes.
  • Go for a little walk.
  • Wander around a library, or through a museum. Touch whatever you’re allowed to touch. Try to just look at one thing for an extended period of time. It’s nice, isn’t it?

Aloneness, leveled up.

  • Coffee alone is good, dinner alone is better. Sit at the bar, or at a table where you can see other people. Just saying the words “table for one” can be immensely liberating.
  • My friend Logan travels alone all the time. She loves it. “It’s my favorite way to explore,” she says, “totally at my pace. Wandering around a neighborhood, stopping at a cafe, getting a haircut, maybe — these are my favorite things to do abroad, but they don’t quite work with another person. I’m a people pleaser, and when I’m with with other people, I spend a lot of energy making sure they are having a good time. Traveling alone means I only have to please myself.”
  • It may not be possible for you because rent is terrible and we all have obligations, but if you can spend some time living alone – even just a few months! – you will learn more about yourself than you could in years of therapy. Your funny patterns and habits, the way your voice sounds in an empty room, the things you like to eat late at night, how you arrange your throw pillows — all of these add up to a person, eventually.

How often do you spend time alone? Do your crave it? Fear it? Avoid it at all costs?

Author Meghan Nesmith is a writer and editor living in Toronto. Illustration by Juliana Vido; follow her on Instagram @julianavido.

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  • Maria

    I usually travel alone for work, last time i spent three months alone in Shanghai, walking alone, eating alone, taking pictures, going shopping, I LOVED IT. I felt so empowered and free, it was the best feeling ever.

  • Annie M.

    A few years ago I traveled alone to Paris for a week, and what seemed extremely daunting and lonely to start, turned into one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. After I cried over a bottle of wine in my airbnb the first night, I realized that for the first time in a long time, I didn’t need to be “on” for anyone and it was EXACTLY what my anxious mind needed. I could just BE. From that point forward, I’ve (generally) been super confident about doing so many things on my own, which I’ve found to be important for living in NYC, and now I appreciate having friends around because I want them around, rather than feeling like I cling to them like swim floaties to feel like I can simply survive.

    • Elizabeth Van Schaick Armstron

      I went to Paris for Xmas when I was 21. I was doing a Junior Year Abroad in England at the time. Paris itself is just legendary and glowing… but the trip was mixed for me — partly great, partly sort of romantic, and partly terrifying and anxiety producing. Maybe that was just my condition at the time. I was glad I went. It was where I wanted to go, and none of my classmates wanted to go, so I did it alone. At times it was weird and I felt extremely far away from my home and connections, but I still treasure the experience. I did go back the next spring, with someone, and that trip was also both lovely and sad for other reasons. What a place to take traditional black and white photos!!!

  • I have always liked being alone and consider myself very happy for a lifestyle that makes it possible 🙂 I also cherish good company, but would feel overwhelmed if always surrounded by people (am very new to all the smart phone possibilities and not an addict)

  • Tee

    Whenever I’m in public alone (store, museum, waiting for my boyfriend outside the men’s washroom) a distrustful-looking employee always approaches to ask if need help or tell me that I look lost. I don’t *think* I scream loiterer, so what gives!?

    • chirp

      that happens to me all of the time and i’m brown so…..

      • lateshift

        happens to me all the time too…ugh. It’s like: if I want your help, I’ll come ask for it. (fwiw, I’m not brown. Or, to be more precise, my hair and features are – it’s pretty obvious from one glance that my ancestors weren’t European – but the skin isn’t.)

      • Alexandra Sterling

        happens to me too. I’m a hijabi and people respond as if Jihadi Jane is lurking…

    • My white teen son is well treated when he is on his own, but in a group of teens – well, baby’s first cop experience! Put that one in the baby book. If 58 year old me is well dressed, I am left alone. It I’m in high schlub, I get shown the door.

  • streats

    I’ve been taking myself to dinner alone on my birthday for the last few years and it’s honestly the highlight of my year. The first year it was because it just so happened none of my friends were in town, and between studying for my design degree and working two jobs, I decided I deserved a treat even if it meant sitting alone. It was wonderful. The freedom to order what you want, take your time, not feel the need to make sure everyone else is having a good time, and not having to make conversation. I was hooked. I turned 30 last year and I am so glad I fought social conditioning that dictated I should have done something big – instead I went to the same restaurant, ordered the same meal, and thoroughly celebrated me. People are kind of uncomfortable when they ask what I did to celebrate my birthday – even though I’m glowing when I tell them about my solo dinner, they think it’s sad and weird. I’ve spent a lot of my life alone – growing up I played by myself and in college I lived alone the whole 4 years including summers – so it’s never been unfamiliar, but discovering a way to really CHOOSE aloneness rather than it just happen to me, has been revolutionary for me. This year I’m taking my first solo vacation, to Japan and I can’t wait.

    • Elizabeth Van Schaick Armstron

      Oh my gosh! I went to Japan by myself about 10 years ago — Tokyo and Kyoto. ( I did visit my sister and her family who were stationed in Korea on another leg of the trip.) In Japan, except for a couple of short organized day-tours, I did my own thing, including shopping for fabric, looking for kimonos at a flea market, finding places to eat, checking out an awesome stationery store, visiting some sacred sites and figuring out the subway or bus on my own. I now look back and wonder how I did that, but I am so glad I did!! I did it mostly because I am headstrong about certain things, and I knew I was fascinated with the things from that country and I wanted to do, and no one I knew would be free to go. I did it anyway, and it was much more relaxing and satisfying to go where I wanted and spend as much or as little time as I wanted exploring a place. I would really love to hear about your trip. When are you going? Facebook me!

      • ihaveacooch

        this is my dream trip! i’d love to do Japan solo.

      • Fabi

        Ahhh! I am loving these comments! So late to the game but I MUST add my own. I travel alone and treat myself to nice dinners whenever I can! While I initially thought it was perfectly normal to hop on a plane and go on improv trips for one, I was shocked and felt almost forced to feel bad for myself when I saw people’s reactions after telling them I was doing it solo. Most showed disbelief which would then turn into either pity or a “wow, you are so independent” that somehow didn’t quite feel like a compliment, haha. I even let myself feel sad at some point because I felt I was expected to. But nuh-uh, I like myself and my thoughts and I grow so much and I’m soaking it all up. Perhaps there is such a thing as enjoying alone time a little too much?

      • streats

        Sorry I only just saw your reply! I went to Japan in May/June, for 3 weeks – I did Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. It was so so so incredible. I’ve never travelled completely alone; I’d physically travelled by myself, but I’d always be staying with someone or meeting friends etc once I got there. This was the first time I spent a whole trip solo. I thought I was going to find it difficult; I consider myself independent and in my element in new places, but I am the kind of person who has little irrational anxieties about things going wrong or getting upset over trivial things out of my control. But it was an absolute breeze. It helps that Japan is incredibly safe, so after a few days once I realised this, I was able to let my guard down a bit and really enjoy things like being out by myself in bars or walking the streets in the evening or not having to clutch my bag close to me on every subway ride.

        I am quite adventurous and spontaneous anyway, particularly when it comes to things like food and exploring, but in Japan I was really able to let loose and just do whatever I wanted to. It was quite strange because in some ways, I was preparing to accept that some things are out of my control and that things might go wrong or happen unexpectedly, but on the other hand, I *had* to be in control of everything – where to go, where to stay, where to eat, what to eat, who to speak to, etc – because nobody else was there to make any decisions! I totally agree with you about spending as much or little time as I wanted in a place. My first day in Kyoto I had planned to get up early and go to the Fushimi Inari shrine, but in the end I was like nope, actually I’m gonna sit on this veranda and read my book for 3 hours drinking my iced pour over. Whose gonna tell me otherwise??? It was amazing not to have to answer to anyone, and even though there were times I’d still have little stresses, like being “late” for the train I was planning to get, I’d catch myself and say, hold up, you don’t HAVE to do anything, like, it’ll be okay, just get the next train, jeez calm down? Hahaha. Since coming home, that has been one thing that’s stayed with me – I’ve gained a lot of perspective and have mellowed about about the small stuff that used to send me into 5-minute tailspins. It was an amazing way to learn to give myself a break, which has been important because I am so indecisive and want to do everything, I forgot that it’s okay if I change my mind sometimes, or do nothing.

        I had learned a bit of basic Japanese before I went and that really helped, not just in terms of communicating, but in encouraging me to try things simply in order to get the chance to use my language. People were quite amazed that I was travelling alone, and even though I occasionally got a panic of “oh crap, should I have told them I’m by myself?” it would pass when I realised I was completely safe. I would absolutely recommend it as a place to travel solo. I miss it and I can’t wait to go back – I would even consider living there for a short stint. Aaah.

    • YES. The revolutionary power of choosing aloneness!

    • Rosie

      to “CHOOSE aloneness”… that is truly inspiring. xox

    • snakehissken

      I did this for 30 as well. It’s so nice not to have to worry about anyone else and just spend the whole day catering to my own whims.

  • It took me a while to learn to be alone but after you managed doing it. It is so nice! This was definitely a great post as so many of us can learn to be alone a little bit more.

    xx Nicki
    http://www.morningelegance.de

  • Aydan

    being alone is so so so important! I am truly a social butterfly, but sometimes having that alone time is so grounding! I took myself out on valentines day to a play and it was one of the most magical nights I’ve had! I’m going to a play tomorrow night alone and used to frequent concerts alone at a nearby theatre all the time in my old neighborhood. Sometimes being anonymous and being part of the crowd can feel good…and then you have your friends (and family) to bring you back to your reality!

  • Melissa

    “a booth tucked into a corner with a curtain” sounds like heaven.

    This is so beautiful. I can’t stop reading it. “Aloneness requires a gradual unspooling of your defenses, like shrugging off layers when you enter a hot room, letting your skin breathe, pulling away the armor that stands between you and the world. It’s Georgia O’Keeffe, alone in her desert; it’s Virginia Woolf’s room of her own.”

    I am someone who loves being alone, but hates doing things alone (I know it doesn’t really make sense to me either). I have recently started going to dinner alone, which I kind of love. Waiters are usually super generous with their wine pours when you’re out by yourself. May be out of some kind of sympathy, but I am not complaining.

    • YES! on the wine pours. And the “mistakes”. 🙂

    • yes on the wine. have also managed to squirrel away a free cocktail or two. unexpected benefit. <3

  • Tessa

    I love having me-time! I go to places by myself all the time. It isn’t always the best, but I can’t live without my alone time either. It’s good to have some rest in your head 😉 Cheers! xxxx Tessa

  • Molly D

    I always say (think to myself) – “I am an introvert who hates to be alone.” As much as I honestly love and appreciate it, for me (single aka self-dater, travel for work, live alone, yet lots of friends and family and socializing) alone time is less of a novelty and more of the norm. I simultaneously profit from and resent my independence. It’s a coat that I wish was a vest!!

  • Adrianna

    I love being alone. I knew I liked my boyfriend when I was willing to sacrifice alone time to hang out with him.

    I live by “always alone but never lonely.” It’s frustrating when others project their fear of loneliness onto me. I’m perfectly capable of enjoying a museum or dance performance on my own, and don’t need a manager to literally ask “don’t you have a friend you could have gone with?”

  • Jessica Downing

    I’m the kind of person who absolutely loves being alone. I spend most of my time by myself, I probably only go out with a friend once every two months. That’s not to say I don’t like interacting with people, i love it, but I don’t enjoy spending a chunk of time with other people (other than my boyfriend). I’m going to Spain and Portugal in September by myself for 3 weeks and am considering taking a long weekend for my birthday in July and flying to NYC for a couple days to see some musicals by myself. Solo travel, for me, is the best and I love it. I’m going on a trip in June with my mom and sister to Guadalajara and am excited for the trip, but am nervous I’m going to be annoyed having to spend so much time with them even though I love them to pieces. My sister is the complete opposite of me, she can’t stand spending her free time alone and is constantly going out with friends and partying. It’s obviously not for everyone, but alone time is something I need to be happy!

  • I love being alone! Every year I take myself to the movies on my own, and I spent 3 months travelling on my own through Europe and it was incredible. I try and have a day alone, as unplugged as possible, about once a month and it helps me recharge and recenter

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  • Elizabeth Van Schaick Armstron

    This is a great essay. Experiences of being alone — the whole topic — is often fraught. Sometimes aloneness chooses us, and sometimes we choose it. Sometimes it is a growth experience, but sometimes it is a bit traumatic. There is sometimes baggage, there is sometimes great liberation… In different eras of your life, you may feel very different about it. I think a lot of people have a complex relationship with being alone. I have definitely had widely varying experiences with it, but I am proud to say I have survived it when I didn’t like it but had no choice, and have gladly used it to my benefit other times. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Kattigans

      This! “Sometimes it is a growth experience, but sometimes it is a bit traumatic. There is sometimes baggage, there is sometimes great liberation… In different eras of your life, you may feel very different about it.” I’m ping pong back and forth with this. I don’t even know how to fully explain how much I connect to this statement.

  • Aliki F

    Yes, yes, yes! I’m a firm believer in the power of solitude, and I’ve spent a fair amount of my time on this earth being on my own by choice. I loved this article though because it’s not only about spending time on our own but essentially alone with our thoughts, which i find infinitely more difficult. I’m still to go out once alone for dinner or coffee. I’m still to go to a movie alone and prefer missing yet another movie I’d like to catch because no one comes with me. I’d like to take these little steps to see if I’m cut for it!!

    worthlivinit.com

  • Kattigans

    This is a great piece. I much prefer to be alone. Even being in my relationship of 2 years has been a big adjustment for me. Having someone around that I have to answer to and explain myself to. That’s always been hard for me and sometimes causes me to have a very strong reaction against intimacy like that because it forces me to look in the mirror at things that maybe I can accept about myself but someone I love cannot. Really see my flaws if you will and confront them. I live alone now too and while I do enjoy it so far its also not like how I expected. I’m trying to accept that is going to a fluid experience and will be different at different times. If that makes any sense.

    • ihaveacooch

      wow i am totally going through this right now! i’m in my first serious relationship and it’s really taking a lot of adjusting to be around someone for an extended amount of time.

  • When I was 20 I took my self to France for a month more or less alone. I ate at restaurants, roamed the city streets, and flipped through my guidebook for cities to venture. It was really hard at first learning to enjoy my own company. It taught me that the joy is in getting deep with your own thoughts, and that drinking a glass of wine while nibbling away the night could be just as enjoyable as being fully occupied. Thanks to that trip I’ve learnt to always carve out time to enjoy being in a moment and listening to my own thoughts.

    • spicyearlgrey

      o m g im thinking of doing a similar trip and i have a question. were you along the entire time or did you make a couple friends along the way? i’m curious.

      • I made a ton of friends along the way. It was awesome, because I wasn’t fixed with anyone else, I could jump on an interesting suggestion or venture to a new city. My friends will tell you I probably talk to strangers a little to easily now 😀.

        • spicyearlgrey

          omgggggg that sounds so perf. one last q, did you stay in a hostel or airbnb? im thinking airbnb because im a more low key person and hostel sounds too intense to handle but also i want to make new friends?

  • I feel that if a woman is comfortable with her solitude, nothing will stop her. It’s a sign that she is comfortable with her true self.

    “The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.”
    ― Diane Von Furstenberg

  • ihaveacooch

    i did my first solo trip in the fall and it was amazing. i was free to do whatever i wanted and walk as much as i wanted to without anyone whining to me about it! as fun as traveling with friends is sometimes, i find it completely exhausting to be with people for entire days straight.

  • Sheila Callahan

    I went from my father’s house to my husband’s house. I divorced after 29 years, bought a condo and thought I’d start anew. That I did. I met the love of my life shortly thereafter and he moved in lock, stock, barrel and HUGE television 8 months later. We were together for 14 years when he passed away suddenly. Four years later, I have learned to live alone. Although I miss “companionable silence” and spooning, I have discovered that I truly enjoy my own company. That said, at the ripe old age of 68, I’m planning to pull up stakes and move to the beach – alone.

    • This is incredibly inspiring, Sheila. Thank you.

    • belle

      Oh man, good luck with the move! Living solo at the beach sounds incredible.

  • Lenam Mahj

    I’ve moved a lot, so I have gotten really good at being alone. Maybe too good at it. It’s getting harder for me to socialize in groups as I get older; and to make new friends. Sometimes I think it is a problem

  • Rosie

    This is amazing. I’ve been single for over a year, and before that I had been in a 4 year long, live-in relationship. I live alone now, and it could not be more
    incredible. I really have learned so much about myself, and now I can’t
    imagine living with someone else — a roommate or a significant other — any time soon!

    I recently made a bucket list, and one of the things is to go to a concert alone. I’ve wanted to do that for so long… What am I waiting for?!

    Sending love to all the independent ladies, single or taken. Being alone is so brave. I’m still working on it. Xo

    • concerts alone! so good. should have added that. easy to wiggle to the front of the stage!

      • Olichedda

        This is an incredible piece – thank you for sharing your thoughts through this essay, Meghan! This really resonates with me right now. I recently got out of a long-term relationship with someone i shared many of my interests with. I have been living alone (and did so in the time we were together) for a year and a half. I work from home as a publicist in the music industry, and already find myself attending client shows solo – no issues there when it is for work and concerts. Recently, I attended a Boiler Room party in Toronto, which has been an immense dream of mine to attend. Boiler Room (www.boileroom.tv) never does events here, and as this opportunity came up, I jumped on it. No one was available to attend with me as a +1, so I went alone and had zero shame about it. I danced for nearly 5 hours straight – no stopping – and in true Boiler Room fashion, danced on the stage – for three DJ sets, nonetheless. Nightlife and club culture have always been a supremely spiritual experience, and part of my life, so as this event was something I had been dying to do for years, it ended up being completely worthwhile doing it solo. As I was completely present during the event, it was transformative and something I’ll never forget. As someone who has also traveled alone, lived alone in another country, etc., this experience just taught me a few more significant things about myself.

    • belle

      Concerts alone are GREAT because you don’t have to worry about talking or socializing, and nobody is gonna give a shit if you dance or not. Highly recommend!!

    • abby

      Concerts alone are the BEST! I went to see Bjork dj at her art exhibit opening last year. It was the most interesting people watching experience I’ve ever had. I made a friend that was there solo as well. Concerts are a great place to stumble upon friendly chats because you already have something in common/similar taste! I’m an extreme introvert, but being alone in situations like that gives me a boost of spunky confidence.

    • Chelsi Campbell

      I went to my first concert by myself last month and although I did take 2 shots of tequila to help me stop being so self-conscious, it was still the best time ever and I actually had someone comment on how cool it was that I was “brave” enough to attend a concert solo. Definitely a huge confidence boost!

  • Anna Praxitelous

    I, like your friend Logal enjoy travelling alone. Every year i visit florence (my favourite city in the world ) alone for almost 1 month. I enjoy meeting new people there and enjoy having time for myself. i am not saying is not always roses and sometimes you wish a friend was there for a drink..but for me time spend alone puts my thoughts in perspective and liberates me.

  • Gisele Modelli

    I think it’s a bit funny to tell or coach people on how to be alone- I mean, being alone is a natural state. Being alone to me has been a choice, after raising both my sons by myself. And hey, babe here is not sitting in a booth in a corner!!! I have a platinum American Express, thank you very much and I want to sit in a mid center table with a view! If somebody else is annoyed by my being alone, let them move! I have many single friends to go out and travel with, which I do sometimes, but NOTHING beats doing whatever the heck I want, whenever the heck I want. Period. By the way, I’m commenting from my vacation room in Sanibel Island, where I have been staying for a week, with myself…hahahahaaha

  • Nicole

    I am convinced there is nothing better than going to the movies alone. I can just sit in the exact emotions the film made me feel afterwards and it makes the entire experience feel sacred and unique. In a lot of ways, being alone is an this almost holy ritual and brings out the purest, simplest aspects of certain activities.

  • Jen

    The older I get, the more I realize that it’s important to be comfortable with yourself, independent of others. The upside, for me, of alone time is being able to choose when and where I do things; with others, there is always some measure of compromise and bending to another’s will. The downside? Well, I work from home and my husband travels a lot, so there can be times when the solitude is too much and I’m so desperate for human contact I will strike up conversation with anyone I encounter (including my cat)! I think, when the right balance is struck, aloneness is a necessary state of being.

  • Erin

    I am literally turning 30 tomorrow! Do you know how I’m celebrating? Taking myself out for a pancake breakfast, one of my favorite meals of all time. And I am so excited to spend it with me, myself, and I. This article is right on time. Thank you!

    • Em

      Happy day!!

    • Hannak

      Sounds lovely 🙂 happy birthday!

  • I crave my alone time. I spent a lot of time alone as a teenager so I learned to appreciate it early. I cherish my daily few hours of alone time before my boyfriend gets home from work, and we only started taking vacations recently. Before that I’d have semi-solo vacations – I’d visit my sister in France, but she always worked so I’d have the days to myself to explore.
    After a while I crave company but I am very happy to spend at a few hours alone every day.

  • jackie

    i love this article! i lived in a sorority house in college and always had so much anxiety anytime i was by myself. what would i do? who would i eat dinner with? would it be weird that i wasn’t with any of my “sisters”? it was almost as if being surrounded by so many people constantly made it 100x harder to enjoy being alone.

    after college, i was given the rare opportunity to live by myself. and at first the same thoughts ran through my mind- what would i do? who would i eat dinner with? would it be weird that i wasn’t living with any of my friends? now, two years later, i have learned the answers to those questions.

    i would dance naked. i would eat dinner naked. and no it’s not weird at all 🙂

  • Bo

    When I studied in Berlin for a year (alone), I travelled a lot on little weekend breaks, holidays etc. By far my favourite trips were the ones I did alone. I caught three increasingly tiny planes up to the Shetland Islands off the rough Scottish coast, hired a sports car and drove around the impeccably sealed roads, whereupon sheep have the right of way. Another time I flew to Lisbon and spent an entire weekend eating custard tarts. I went on plenty of other trips with people, but those two solo journeys have always stayed in my head as the ones I loved the most. No worrying about other people’s needs or the pace they want to go at, and I can do as much or as little as I please (I always get lowkey shamed by people when I come back from a vacay because I don’t “do enough”). Also, I discovered that I am actually fantastic company!

  • Lil

    I traveled alone for the first time last summer. The highlight of that trip was walking the streets at night and realizing that my closest kin was two states away. I wasn’t afraid of being mugged or something. The realization that I was a grown up and had been for a while now just kind of took my breath away.

    That being said, I love solitude. Only wish that our society wasn’t so weird about it.

  • Beasliee

    I love being on my own. But as you say, it’s when you have the choice to be on your own that it’s really pleasurable, rather than you are on your own as there’s no one to do something with.
    My boyf and I are about to live together in his place after 7+ years. We both live alone and although I am rarely at my own apartment (just 1 night this week!), I think me giving that up and us permanently living as a twosome is freaking us out a bit as we both recharge via alone time. We’ll figure it out somehow!

  • Nikka Duarte

    I am so happy the topic of solitude seems to be on people’s minds a bit more. I am kind of the opposite, I love being alone. I’m happiest when I’m by myself, planning my days at my own pace, doing whatever I want to do and though it works I know it can be unhealthy so I’ve been trying to intentionally build friendships and community. I haven’t traveled alone (yet) but it sounds amazing!! Are there any tips out there for people who love solitude but need to learn to prioritize relationships as well?

  • Maybe I have a hermit nature, but I often spend time longing to be alone. I am always around someone – I work from home and share an office with my husband. I also live near family that I see often. I do not fear my thoughts – in fact, I love listening to birds outside with uninterrupted thought. Alone is where I daydream, relax and find hope. Being alone with yourself is freeing, so take time to work on being happy alone.

    http://www.shessobright.com

  • MelanieYvette

    Love! I’ve been doing this thing I call “girlie nights” once a week since highschool. Fridays were my days back then. I’d go out with my friends on the weekends. They used to think I was crazy, but I loved coming home, doing nails, toes, hair and facials (yes, I was THAT girl) and watching some TGIF or TBS movie that was on. Now, I do it during the middle of the week, usually Weds. I take myself to dinner at a new spot in NYC (or wine if I’m running low on funds). I just bask in nothingness and people watch. I did this last night and it was so refreshing. Even when I’m in a relationship, I tell my boo that once a week I need an evening to myself. The last guy I dated showed support. It was Thursdays (Scandal night) and he knew after 7pm not to text me. lol. I love my girly nights and I think every girl/woman should have some time alone. It’s the best.

  • UMBS M.

    So inspiring. Always wanted to go on a citytrip alone but my friends thought it was “pathetic”. But I think it’s necessary every now and then.
    https://undermyblacksheets.com

  • Hannak

    I actually enjoy being in my own head quite a bit! As a child/teen (with endlees free time) I would sometimes spend hours just daydreaming, letting my thoughts flow and evolve, making up stories in my head… until I ‘woke up’ sitting at my desk realising I haven’t moved an inch or done anything in two hours. Then at night as soon as I was tucked in bed I started spinning my stories further. To me these plots and characters in my head were so vivid and so real that I would (literally) cry/laugh and would get nowhere near sleepiness for a few hours… (Can anyone relate to that?? I think it might stem from reading a lot as a kid…?) Anyway, life happened and now I usually get anxiety when I stay in my head for too long, thinking about current (political) situations, social issues… haha oh dear. Sometimes though when I get a moment alone I’m still able to let my thoughts flow in a good way (not in a downwards spiral) and I enjoy those moments sooo much!

  • Senka

    I was always a bit of a loner, and the older I get, the more alone time I crave. Which is not very hard to achieve, since I live alone. I have also learned to enjoy walks, lunches and other activities on my own. These days I am getting my apartment redone completely, from doors, floors to walls, so I had to temporarily move to my uncles home. It’s very generous of them to let me stay there with my two parrots, but at the same time having a “family” surrounding is a bit exhausting to me. I am too used to being on my own with my pets, and doing things my way. From walking around in PJ-s and bathrobe since I get back home, eating out and living of candies and fruit. Watching whatever I like and not socializing very much. They also smoke and I feel like the smell is everywhere. Not to mention the loud music. Also, I don’t pack lightly, especially if I need to work those days, so I feel like I brought more shoes there than they possess as a family. Needless to say I can’t wait to be back home, and I’m pretty sure they can’t wait for me to leave. 😀

  • Lauren Molinaro

    I’ve always lived by the Sartre quote, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you must be in bad company”. Learning to be alone is such an important part of being human and developing your self-worth.

    obsessedandoverdressed.com

  • Monet Eliastam

    Can there be an article called “Learning to Be with Other People” — I think I need that one more.

  • This is a tough one for me. I moved to a new city after college and didn’t know anyone. After two and a half years, I have very few friends and am not in a relationship. I often find myself doing things alone because I have to (if I want to get out) rather than because I want to.

    • Kiks

      It’s such a brave thing to do — a lot of people never have the guts to step out of their comfort zone like that. I moved clear across the country after I finished school, to a tiny isolated town where I knew no one. It took a long time to make friends and often I wondered why I had left my amazing circle behind, but I was living my dream of being on the west coast and trusted that things would fall into place.
      Now I am married (to a man I met in that tiny town!) but I look back on those years of absolute freedom and am so proud of myself for taking that chance and not clinging to what I had because it was easier.
      I hope you find happiness and peace in your surroundings; making a life for yourself, by yourself, is the best thing a person can ever achieve.

  • Liliana Afonso

    I spent my 30’s birthday alone in Milan! It was nice to read your story and had the same feeling than you.
    I went to a bar to have a drink with my phone prepared to check my instagram and facebook account, but to challenge myself there were no wifi!! I felt impotent there and complaining in my head why I chosen that bar!! After that i realize it was a beautiful training to be there with myself, enjoying my drink, without the false protection of a phone.
    I enjoy to be alone, and walk alone, but I think I need more of this. On the other side I am afraid I get used to be alone and don’t permit the others to get in touch with me!

  • G_

    There is nothing better than living alone, I’ve lived alone for over a year now after living with two flatmates for three years. I have learned so much about myself and how to be self sufficient and form a personality of my own without being influenced by anyone else. It is definitely something everyone should be able to do and is the best cleanse. The whole ritual of waking up in the morning making yourself some coffee, getting ready for work and cooking a meal makes me proud of myself and so happy!

  • Delia Folk

    Such a wonderful coincidence! I recently did a blog post on this as well. I thrououghly enjoyed reading this article, it’s important to be comfortable with this. My take on this can be found in the link below:
    http://www.deliafolk.com/home-2/2016/10/15/okay-with-alone-time

  • I personally love being alone. When you’re a single child, you learn how to be alone, and sometimes it’s gets tricky not to prefer to be alone! Being alone has its ups and downs for sure. I agree that it really helps you develop your sense of self, I know it has for me. And I love what her friend Logan said about exploring solo: it’s truly great because you don’t have to think about what anyone wants, but yourself. I love living in Paris on my own. And I think if I had been living with someone else, I know it would’ve been a very different! When I go out, I never have to plan anything, I just explore, and have discovered some really amazing, off the map places. It’s been great!
    All in all, being alone should be something we all do, it has great value!
    Meg @ its.meg-ramsay.com

  • Sarah Sickles

    Living alone was the best year of my life. I set my schedule as I wanted, wasn’t required to socialize, and participated in the most self-care I have ever indulged in in that year. I can’t wait to do it again <3

  • Clifford

    It seems like anybody can give advice. You have your own circumstances to live with. I worked as a salesperson usually sitting alone for fast food lunch for 23 years. I sold and installed window treatment products to either the wealthy retired or in poorer retirement committees. It was believed or assumed because i was self employed I was wealthy. So let’s give him a hard time and get money off or not pay. Overwhelming complaints. never a offer for lunch on us. Never a tip, although court summons were not uncommon. You can not win in small claims court so do whatever necessary to appease. The customer is always right. Eating alone those same people think nothing of sitting at your table, conversation always about there son/daughter grandchild the doctor or lawyer. My grown up kids just getting by. Hearing about others sicknesses can ruin a Whopper. Now the retirement loneliness, PTSD from Vietnam and the military experiences. I want a lost purpose back, a useful endeavor, I am like a begging dog who knows no other tricks. South Florida is an area where retirees went and the temperatures don’t allow day walks or sitting on a bench[there are no benches]. Restaurants are expensive, Senior centers not only do I sit alone, there is nobody else in attendance, as the senior live in committees that I have learned to abhor. I get a stipend from my military experience under the condition I can not work, like there are jobs or volunteer positions available. People seem to out number opportunities I stayed married through good and bad to avoid being alone, Kids have there own lives, TV is only a rash of commercials or canned laughter reruns. In real life cars don’t explode, getting shot you do not walk away. Friends, you are lucky to have one good one in life so my wife chose me! Still we need our own time alone. My 100 lb dog, who knew that she would grow so large. Stocks, bonds, gambles, hobbies. I seem to have did it all from gold coins to boats, airplanes, antique cars, politics, racing Standard Bred horses to safe cracking [no joke intended] A college degree before 21, a while ago being a mentor I was asked not to speak worldly truths to kids. My writing skills, like my patent ideas were stolen. Still I tried. Magic is a human endeavor, miracles are other worldly. We are given a conscious ability, a soul, a spirit. it is within our power to end it,still as we cannot understand where or why, or when we arrived, it is not feasible to end our lives by our own hand . Did I say it all? That anxious gnawing in my heart and chest. Am I alone in my own world? Has doing the right thing, avoiding prison actually placed me in one? Our only real freedom is thought, think about it !

  • Elisha Nain

    Traveling alone was probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my 20s 💖 now I want to live alone. I want to know what home feels like with just me in a space. I didn’t have my own room until I was 22 in college.