I’ve always loved traveling alone. Hell, I’ve always loved being alone, and I still do.
I don’t know why I love being alone so much. Is it that I learned, while young and insecure, that if I spent time alone, nobody would be around to judge me? Or is it that I will always be a control freak at heart, and I don’t have to cater to anyone else’s desires about what to do if it’s just me? Well, yes.
But I’m also a big, fat introvert.
I lived alone for 10 years before moving in with Peter. 10 years of bliss. 10 years of eating, drinking, watching, listening to, and doing whatever I wanted. Cleaning when I wanted (which was basically never). Decorating how I wanted. Having a drunken one-woman dance party in a candlelit living room whenever I wanted. Also, annoying my friends because I would “never come out” to the bars, or wherever, just because hanging out at home alone sounded so much better. And that had everything to do with me, and nothing to do with them – but that’s another post I’m working on, inspired by this incredible book.
I went to Amsterdam recently for a conference, and decided to spend the entire week, since Atlassian has an office as well as a corporate apartment there. I went by myself, and interacted with coworkers during the day but spent my evenings alone. I wandered around endlessly, walking over 30 miles in the six days I was there. I visited restaurants, bars, frites shacks, beer shops, gardens, houseboats, and cafes (not coffee shops). I had many people walk up to me and start speaking Dutch, only to have to interrupt them and exclaim “American, sorry!” I sat outside at bistros watching boats go by on canals, bought expensive cheese sandwiches, and took photos of the locals. I got to know bartenders, and told them all about the food and cocktail scene in San Francisco.
I had a fucking blast. And when it got too dark to be out tipsy and alone, I went back to the apartment and binge-watched House of Cards on Netflix via super-fast corporate apartment wi-fi.
See? Alone is awesome.
But the day before I was due to fly home – which was also the only full weekend day I had to myself – I started to get bummed out. Homesick. “What the hell is this?” I thought to myself. I wandered around Europe by myself for three weeks, once. I’ve camped by myself. I LIVED ALONE FOR 10 YEARS AND LOVED EVERY FREAKING SECOND OF IT. But I found myself missing my house, my dog, and of course, my guy.
My first theory was this: The joy of solitude is starting to fade with age. And if that’s true, then… well, shit. so my new theory is that the joy of solitude isn’t fading, it’s just being encroached on, bit by bit, by other, equally important aspects of my life: attachments to loved ones, and the life I’ve built for myself.
This is actually a great argument in favor of the theory that attachments cause suffering. I was having a blast in Amsterdam, and that joy was dulled by a sadness caused by attachments. I don’t deny that. In fact, in a way, I embrace it, because it means I’m doing something right in my life. I have an incredible partner, home, and life to return to (when I’m done meandering around gorgeous European cities by myself, that is).