A few months ago, a friend of mine passed up on attending her favorite band’s last live show because all of her friends were busy or broke, and she thought that going alone would be boring.
Sadly, this is perfectly normal.
There’s a toxic idea in Western society that we need company to fully enjoy ourselves. But I call bullsh*t.
I recently returned home from a three-month solo trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Though I already had a few friends living there and quickly made new ones, I spent the bulk of my time on my own.
I went to music festivals and markets alone, took picnics and countless walks alone, and explored art galleries, coastal towns, and the city’s central business district alone. I took myself on way too many coffee dates. I got into the habit of leaving my phone behind when I left the house or during my lunch break, so that I was really alone on these little dates with myself.
And I loved every minute of it.
Yes, sometimes it was scary. Sometimes I saw couples or groups of friends walking hand-in-hand or laughing together, and I couldn’t help feeling a bit jealous.
But in these rare times, I needed only to find someone else who was alone, like me, and strike up a conversation. I met many wonderful people this way, having lots of good conversations I would never have had if I had been with a friend. At one event, I sat at the same table as someone who, it turned out, lived a few streets away from me. We ended up taking the train home together, and met for coffee later that week.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking, oh, she must be an introvert. Not to get all special-snowflake, but I’m actually an ambivert (one who is sometimes an introvert and sometimes an extrovert) leaning toward extrovert. And while my introverted side definitely encouraged my extroverted side to enjoy these “lonely” excursions, I do not believe that one needs to be an introvert (or an ambivert) to enjoy and reap the benefits of aloneness.
When we spend time with ourselves—and I mean really spend time with ourselves, not lie in bed scrolling through Instagram—we discover so much about ourselves and the way in which we relate to the world. Alone, we indulge our curiosities, pandering to our whims and intuition. We learn to listen to the quiet inner voice that tells us where we really want to go, what we really want to do—even how we really feel.
Exploring a small town alone, I surprised myself with the shops I was drawn to browse in and the streets I wandered down. Not bound by conversation, I could choose a book from a shelf in a second-hand bookshop and read an entire chapter, or several pages at random. Free to my own devices, I could randomly decide to jump off the train at the next stop, or to ditch one event for another, or to stand and watch a street musician for half an hour.
Aloneness is far from boring. Aloneness is exciting, aloneness is freedom. Aloneness is an adventure. Aloneness is where you build your character and grow your soul.
Below are a few of my favorite quotes on appreciating aloneness.
May they inspire you to cheat on your friends and family with yourself once in a while:
“By the way, do you know the joys of being alone, walking alone, lying in the sun alone?” ~ Freda Kafka
“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people—it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” ~ Parker Palmer
“There’s a lot of wonderful time to be spent discovering yourself. Fill yourself up with love. Become a whole being on your own. Go on adventures, wander around the city at night, sit in a coffee shop on your own, write on bathroom stalls, leave notes in library books, dress up for yourself, give to others, smile a lot. Live for yourself and be happy on your own.” ~ Emery Allen
“Lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely can be healing if you let it.” ~ Tanya Davis
“When you walk alone, eat alone, take trains and planes alone, you just learn to believe that the kindness of strangers is sometimes more valuable than the insecurity of long-lasting relationships.” ~ Iona C. Casapu
“You hold wildflowers and blue, deep woodlands within you. You breathe substance, growth, and darkness: You are nature in its wildest form. Do not be afraid to explore your own wildness and come home to the sonnet of your soul. This is your calling, your passion, your purpose. The only true voice you will ever hear clearly.” ~ Niti Majethia
Author: Aimee-Claire Smith
Image: @yourdailyreset/Instagram; Author’s own
Editor: Callie Rushton