Being Alone: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Doing It By Yourself
I feel sorry for the word ‘alone’; it gets such a bad wrap. Associated with childhood fear or the impending doom of life as a cat lady, the word fills most of us with anxiety when really it should be cherished, like anything else precious and rare. Here are some of the ways you can be alone, from someone who’s done exactly that.
adjective & adverb
having no one else present; on one’s own.
There is a glorious key word in the definition of alone that tends to get overlooked – ‘present’. Because not having someone physically or virtually present allows you to be truly present. And unless you’ve been living under your couch for the last half decade, you will have heard and read a lot about the importance of being present in the moment, present within yourself. Have I said present enough?
Being aware of how you feel in the moment, and why you’re feeling what you do, is essential for self-improvement. Self-awareness is the key to a better you.
Unfortunately, it is very hard to be self-aware when we’re distracted by a) the people we know and love; and b) the people we barely know, but see daily through social media, who, because of flattering camera angles and a carefully curated shot, always seem to have greener grass.
So for an express route to getting to know ourselves – and be our best selves – we need to get away from our daily realities, and go it alone for a while. And I don’t mean going out into the wilderness to meditate for a week (although if you want to do that, go you good thing!); I mean leaving your comfort zone and challenging yourself, by yourself.
Go for as long as you can. If you are a 9-to-5er, save up that annual leave and go somewhere far, far away (I chose India). Go for a minimum of two weeks (I was lucky enough to go for eight months). And if you’re relatively free of ties, do one better and move somewhere else.
Be alone from home
The most important part of this journey is actually making the journey, to as far away as possible (whether it’s distance from where you live or distance from what you know). I wanted to get away from Sydney to focus on my writing and break away from the very cosy bubble of my life.
I did some research (but not too much!) on places known for their relaxed vibe and creative culture. Bali, Vietnam and India came up a lot. I chose India, because it was the furthest away, I knew no one there, and I had been avoiding it for years because I cry when old, rich, white people need help to cross the road, and I wasn’t sure I had it in me to see suffering on a daily basis. (You don’t see suffering on a daily basis, by the way, not the way we understand it, anyway).
“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” Ellen Burtyn
So, find what you need and go get it. Is it a physical challenge? A mental challenge? A creative challenge? All of them? Figure it out, jump online, or go to a travel agent, and book. And if you don’t know what you want, just go anywhere that excites (even scares) you. Most importantly, before you go, don’t research it too much. Don’t plot and plan. Getting in touch with yourself will not happen on a prescribed route. Take wrong turns; stumble onto self-revelations; get lost; get found.
Be alone from your computer and phone
Never have we ever been less alone. We are the first generations to have our lives dominated by social media and we’ve been sucked in. These days, our parents and even grandparents have a social media presence. We’re all goners. Which means we’ve got everyone, everywhere, all the time.
I’m not saying totally disconnect from the online world for the whole time you are gone. Don’t do that to your mother. But set yourself a limit, say one to two hours a week. Don’t gasp – a few short and sweet stints are better than one long one, so give yourself 30 minutes, say four times a week, or some other variation. Just don’t check work emails, and try not to go on Facebook or Instagram for the purpose of trawling through people’s pages and ‘lives’ – because the whole point is that during this time, you are living only your own.
Be alone from your partner
If you’re in a relationship and it’s the only reason holding you back, or the idea of being without your partner for a few weeks scares you, then you might be in co-dependence territory.
When it comes to relationships, two halves don’t equal a whole; two wholes equal a partnership. To be truly happy in your love life you need to be truly happy within yourself. And do you know how you can get there? I may have said it once or twice. Go away, alone!
The exercise helps build trust between you and your loved one: trust in your devotion to them and trust in their devotion to you. And if that isn’t the end result, it’s better you find that out now. My partner and I did 13 months long distance, and it definitely wasn’t easy and by no means a required length of time to build trust. But any length of time apart will show you that you can get through a lot. Our relationship and love for each other has never been stronger.
Alone from your friends
If you’ve travelled both solo and with others, you’ll know that travelling as a couple or group often makes you less approachable to others. It’s nothing personal, but it feels easier to approach a solo person than a group.
One of the most rewarding things about travelling alone is making new friends. Because when you travel by yourself, you are never alone (unless you choose to be). You meet amazing people along the way, who can teach you a lot about yourself because there is a lack of familiarity and usual context. Who are you without your friends and family? Who are you in a new city?
The bonds you form are not ones based in history or convenience, but in deep commonality. You will find people who love you for who you are when you’re honest and vulnerable. That is an amazing feeling many people don’t get to experience out of fear. So, take the leap. Face the fear. Leave your world behind and discover the world within you.
Samantha Stroop is an avid writer, rhymer, traveller and world-class air musician. She has studied in both New York and Sydney and writes across children’s fiction and adult nonfiction. Samantha currently lives abroad, and is working on her first children’s novel. Find her on Twitter @SamanthaStroop