The other day I was discussing prospective travel plans with my friends. I am always thinking about where to go next and one girl, that I was meeting for the first time, exclaimed: “I don’t understand how you can travel like that on your own. I would never do it! I mean, nobody wants to be alone like that.” This just confirmed what I knew for a long time: people are afraid of doing things on their own and the idea of being in a strange land without any friends nearby can be terrifying. Oh well, nothing new here…
The next day I went to grab lunch with a client and he noticed that some people were on their own. This guy, being quite a social animal, couldn’t understand how these people were comfortable having a meal by themselves: “Look at these guys, don’t do they have someone to spend their time with? What weirdos.” I never understood why being by yourself in a café, a restaurant or shopping is seen as such an unacceptable behavior. I also never get why people always assume that these people are there because of their lack of options and not because they want to. Well I am lying, I get it! We are social beings, we need friends and family around us for support and sharing experiences. But since when did “being alone” become a taboo? Even seen as something completely bizarre?
When I travel on my own I just wish that you could see people’s faces when I tell them that I am traveling by myself and by choice, because I enjoy it!! They usually assume that I don’t have friends or that I am downright weird, but what are these people so terrified of? When you spend more days on the road than back home. When you work as a digital nomad. When most of your business connections are created online. When you write for a living… then you can bet with me that you will spend a lot of time on your own. At the beginning it can be a bit strange, but after a while you will get used to it: to be alone with your thoughts, to schedule your days as you please, to create your days as you want, to listen to whatever music you desire and without hearing your co-workers rants about their in-laws.
Of course it can get lonely sometimes, specially at lunch, but you have the freedom to invite whoever you want to lunch with you, don’t you? It is not a vow of silence, you know? I always enjoyed to spend time on my own. I always liked to do things at my pace and I never had much patience to entertain people while I am working, reading or chilling. I’ve always been comfortable at being silent, I never felt the need to talk just for the sake of making small conversation.
People nowadays are so distracted, they are such junk information consumers that they need to be constantly entertained. “If you don’t stare at a screen while you wait for the train then what the hell do you do?” Well, I don’t know… Maybe I just chill and stay there observing people, just like people used to do before smartphones. Remember those days?
People jump from one entertainment to another, they need to be away from their thoughts as much as possible, they need to be bombarded with stimuli in order to feel something, because being on a train watching the landscape go by is too boring. We need to slow down. We need to get more in touch with your feelings and thoughts, I don’t care if you are an extrovert or an introvert, everybody needs some “me” time and it doesn’t have to involve locking yourself at home, watching TV shows and eating greasy food. I hate to do that! I don’t even own a television set!
For me it is a lot more natural and acceptable to grab my skateboard head to the beach and spend some time reading, writing or looking at the waves, and the seagulls and the clouds. I end up meeting other people as well, either they are on their own or not. It gives me energy, it makes me feel alive. This is also the way that I disconnect from my work (I usually spend +8 hours p/day in front of my laptop, it can get tiresome), but also how I organize my thoughts and see things clearly. Talking with other people doesn’t solve it, getting drunk to forget, neither. Alone time is my magical solution. How To Be Alone I suppose that being alone became a social stigma because it doesn’t look cool, right? Well, this is the result of the tendency to project or own tendencies and fears onto others. People who are more fearful of being alone are more eager to criticize and find it weird that people do it willingly. These people who are incredibly uncomfortable and almost disgusted by the idea of being alone are also the ones who cannot be in solitude with their minds.
Criticize me if you wish, but people who don’t spend time on their own are people who don’t know who they are and what they want. Being alone with your mind is one of the best things for your soul. The possibility of organizing my thoughts, of letting the mud to settle is one of the pleasures that I find in being by myself. Another is the freedom that it gives me. I do what I want, when I want and how I want. I walk at the beat of my own drum and I don’t have to check with others when I decide to move forward in business or to the next destination, – this is why I am not predisposed to have a boss or work under someone’s rule, once you go this way you can’t go back. But let me quickly address the biggest fear that people have: traveling alone. Yes, it does get lonely at times. Yes, sometimes I wish that I had someone to share this moment with or this meal or whatever… But other times I thank the gods of travel for being on my own. Believe me, if a 6 hours layover on Sheremetyevo Moscow Airport is hard, specially after you had a 9 hour flight from Bangkok… I don’t even want to imagine it with someone else.
Even though I do admit that it can get lonely at times, I never had the feeling described on the great documentary “A Map for Saturday” where if you look at a monument and you have nobody to share the view with… then it sucks. Are you kidding me? I mean, Haad Yao Beach is one of the best beaches in the world either I am by myself or not, waking up on a bungalow in the middle of the tropical jungle is awesome every day, the Kremlin and St. Basil Cathedral are stunning and you don’t need anyone else at your side to realize it. It is not because you can say “Wow, this looks great!” to your friend that the landscape will look better. It will be awesome either way. The feeling inside you won’t change if you express it. And this is why I don’t let certain natural negative factors stop me from doing what I want. Certain lonely days, some depressing dinners won’t stop me from seeing the world or walking my own path. Actually I always do what I want to do either I’ve someone at my side or not. That for me is freedom and I don’t sell it short.
By this I don’t intend to denigrate people who don’t like being alone or to say that these people have no substance. But I do say that someone who never spent some time alone or traveled by himself for more than 1 or 2 days is missing a vital part of life and of what it means to be a human being. After a while the self-conscious feelings will dissipate and you will have an hard time not meeting new people and making friends left and right. I can honestly say that the last trip I did to Thailand it was virtually impossible to spend time on my own. Yeah, I am not an hermit and I actually like people.