STORY BY GIOIA McGUIRE
PHOTOS BY AMANDA DEL CID
There’s something oddly serene about being alone. Suddenly you can sit back and watch the world go on around you without the pressure of commenting on someone’s hair or making polite conversation you don’t really care for. You can find a place to sit, somewhere quiet or somewhere in the middle of it all and just…be. The great thing about it is once you remove yourself from a group setting, it’s like you become invisible; a fly on the wall of life.
I’ve always valued my independence. From a young age I would play alone, creating imaginary worlds and relishing the alone time I would have away from noisy friends and naggy parents. As I grew older and grew into a social butterfly, my alone time dwindled.
In the last few years I began to realize the importance of decompressing after a long day of work or school or life and how amazing it felt to get away from it all and be alone.
Before I go on, I should point out a very important difference. Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. Being alone should be embraced and encouraged and not chastised or ridiculed. Being alone has the ability to liven you and fill you with a greater sense of being. It’s the time to sit down with yourself and check in.
I started small with solo coffee shop trips, where I would grab a seat and stay put (pretty normal for most) and then took the leap and blossomed to dinners and movie nights all by my lonesome, and I’ve even traveled alone (the most rewarding of all alone time experiences, in my opinion). Of course I had to endure the blank stares of pity from onlookers and the downright confusion of the hostesses who looked at me like I was a helpless stray dog on the side of the road, but every moment was worth it and every second of self realization and inner thought I remember more vividly than some of my best days and nights and not because most of those nights included copious amounts of liquor, well maybe, but still! You get the point.
As college students we spend more time than we even realize doing things alone. Driving to school, walking to class, sitting in class, leaving class, getting food, finding a place to study, studying, driving home, the list goes on. Point is, whether we realize it or not, we are singular, independent beings. There’s a reason we’re told to put ourselves first and listen to our hearts and go with our guts. The common denominator is yourself. Plus, we spend more time talking to ourselves than we do out loud to others in our entire lifetime. Even as you read this, you’re also processing and conducting a whole inner conversation with how I write, how my tone sounds, if there’s a spelling mistake (there isn’t!!), whether any of this you actually care about. It’s the conversations in our minds where major life decisions are made, feelings and emotions are worked through and the counsel of your inner self meets to discuss. Once you open the door to this level of independence you grasp the inner you by the horns and say “Look at me! I can dine and go to a movie and fly to Timbuktu if I f*cking wanted and guess what, I am alone but I’m sure as hell not lonely!” Because nowhere does it say you have to do anything in a group setting. (Other than the first 5 birthdays of your life. Unfortunately, that’s written in some “How to ruin your child handbook” moms read when inviting people you HATE.)
Back to the important things, traveling alone is arguably one of the most if not the most rewarding experiences you will ever have and I have experienced it and spoken to people who have too and it’s unanimous. There’s no one to whine about what to see or where to eat. No one to b*tch about what 10,000-year-old statue to see or museum of used tissues to walk through. The culture around you goes unseen and forgotten but alone every sight is worth seeing. Going alone eliminates pressures and compromises.
Some of my most precious moments of growth have been while traveling alone. Arriving at the airport with excitement and nervousness at what lies at the other end. Waiting in lines alone can seem dull but are excellent opportunities for copious amounts of people watching. There is something empowering about trudging your luggage, stowing your carry on, getting your seat and wondering who you’ll have sitting next to you. You relinquish all control to your surroundings and travel steps, (dealing with the airport, TSA, boarding etc.) yet you also have the most control. I did whatever I felt like doing and met people and made connections I never would have if I hadn’t been solo. I’ve heard many other accounts of spur of the moment trips to New York that began as nervous wrecks of “What the hell am I doing?” to wandering into a bar in the Financial District of NYC where people became friends for what could be for life. Trips to Thailand on a whim and landing in Bangkok with no idea what direction to go in, cross country treks that rewarded these alone time travelers with so much more than spontaneous moments of bravery but lifetimes of experiences only they can share with themselves and hold close as finding deeper meanings about life and the amount of control you truly have.
Get to know the inner you, you may find you have a lot in common and in the end you’re never truly alone. There’s always someone on the other side of the wall, on the other side of the phone, and most importantly on the inside of yourself.
So to the hostesses and onlookers of the world alike: no, I’m not waiting for anyone, I wasn’t stood up, I’m not weird or strange, and no I do not want company because I have found some of the best company within myself and so should you.