It took the longest time for me to enjoy time alone. I took it for granted and it was the biggest struggle to claim “being alone” for my own. In this busy world where we rush and rush, I felt like I needed permission to do so—that I was letting down others if I didn’t keep up with the pace.
Related: 3 Simple Ways to Slow Down in Life
Of course, that’s all a myth. The only person I was letting down was myself, because when you don’t go on your solo adventures, no matter how small, the soul suffers. Once I learned to claim and appreciate alone time, life began to feel more full.
The benefits of alone time can’t be counted on your fingers or toes.
The benefits of alone time can’t be counted on your fingers or toes. The benefits lie in what you learn as you uncover the journey for yourself. Vacations, self-care and personal sanity days from the dramatic stuff of life are all preached in modern society—but it’s not only about that. You have to learn how to enjoy alone time because the opportunities are all around you every day.
Picture the mother who feels lost when she finally gets a day to herself or the rushed employee who finds a lunch hour and tries to read a book after the longest time. That mother might as well be locked in a padded room, and that employee might as well be reading hieroglyphs. It’s hard to recognize the benefits when you’re not seeing clearly, when you’re distracted with worries or other concerns.
The benefits of alone time include decreased risks for depression and major diseases, not to mention a boost of creativity and the ability to focus. Personally, I could never explain this itch I had when I was around people and by myself, but that could also be the blessing/curse of being an ambivert: one who is an extrovert and introvert.
My itch turned out to be a thirst for wanderlust. After high school graduation, my friends and I planned our first road trip that final summer, but it never panned out. So I chose to take matters into my own hands. I did a bit of soul searching accompanied by some research, chose which road trip route appealed to me the most and set out on an adventure along the road. On my own. I knew if I wanted to make this happen, I needed to do it with or without a companion. Luckily enough, I felt both in company and alone among other solo travelers on Route 66, where I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, took endless photos and learned about the stars from other solo travelers.
I felt the unification of ending and beginning in those stars and on the road. I felt empowered in a way I never had before.
You can be with others and still feel alone, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. As I watched the landscape change around me, I thought of how it had adapted to changes over centuries. Soon I would face changes, too. Big life changes come for us all, but there are no road signs. We create the milestones.
That’s the beauty of it for me. The fact that I curate my solo adventures, but I also happen upon unexpected adventures that make me appreciate my time on Earth more. Some of the hacks to enjoying my alone time that I picked up on the road include:
1. Breathing Into Excitement
Crowds still feel overwhelming for me, like moving through a throng of people in the market of a new city. I have to find my bearings first. The anxious thump of my heart reminds me that while I’m nervous, I’m also excited and making memories. I breathe into excitement.
Sometimes that also means practicing mindfulness exercises that fit easily into my day and focusing solely on my breathing. The connection to my heartbeat reminds me that I carry home with me.
2. Finding My Stomping Grounds
Much like haunting your neighborhood coffee shop, every solo traveler must set up a base of operations outside of their hotel. I pick a relaxing spot, where locals in the community frequent, and sit in the middle of the chaos for a cup of tea or casual bite to eat.
This has been the best way to strike up odd conversations and learn more about places I’d never thought to check out. This ritual is also a gift to myself, where I make myself sit down and enjoy much needed me-time. Although I’m off exploring, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of wanderlust.
3. Simple Routines
You’d think it’d be a hobby to bring me comfort, but it’s in the little routines of life. When you’ve been out of your comfort zone and exploring the world, you appreciate the finite details of another’s way of life.
You start to notice your own way of doing things. At first, you annoy yourself. I hated the way I had to neatly fold and unfold my clothes, yet I’d make a huge mess with art supplies. Soon, the unfolding of my clothes, the brushing of my teeth or the washing of a cup was treasured time to myself. I got to know myself in a whole new way—it’d been in front of me the whole time.
When I learned to enjoy my time alone, I realized that I was seeing myself and my world with fresh eyes. It’s tough at first to be alone with yourself without feeling lonely.
You’re really your own best company and there’s freedom and centeredness within that experience. Don’t be afraid to embrace it.