"Alone" but never "Lonely"
Letter #6: How the word "lonely" hasn't been one of the adjectives I've used for myself in years, and why I'm so comfortable traveling alone.
When I was younger I was a serial monogamist. One loving relationship would end and, shortly after, another would begin. Each special and fun in their own way, always with an opportunity to learn something about myself.
But that’s changed as I’ve gotten older. I can’t even call myself a serial dater. My romantic connections are few and far between. In an act of rebellion when I moved to NYC, I got a tattoo of a singer sewing machine with the words “True Love” scrolled beneath it. I guess I wanted to prove to myself—and anyone else who might glance at the back of my neck—that I was always going to put myself and my love of art first. It may have been because I tend towards shape-shifting when in a relationship, losing grip on my identity from one person to the next. Or maybe because I forget to love myself when I’m so focused on loving someone else.
Either way, NYC was a fresh start for me to focus on the life I wanted to build.
Don’t get me wrong. Falling in love is the most electrifying feeling in the world. You’re invincible, the sole object of your lover’s entire universe. A feeling I wish I could’ve bottled up so I could take a sip every now and then to remind myself of its spell. And being in love and maintaining that love is a whole other game—but that’s not what this letter is about. Because being alone is pretty great, too.
Over the past 10 years I’ve been running solo. Perhaps I could blame it on NYC being a difficult city to date in, with all these career-focused individuals and the reluctance to settle when “THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER OPPORTUNITIES!” And then there’s the laziness you develop from the constant overstimulation and commuting, leading you to avoid traveling outside your borough, and definitely not to across the Hudson River to New Jersey.
But the truth is I became so comfortable in my alone-ness. I took myself on weekly dates to my favorite restaurants, to movies, and for picnics in the park. I became my own best friend, with the city of New York being a close second.
There were several years there where I desperately wanted to find my person. And sometimes I still have those pangs of yearning in my chest—especially on the plane ride home for Thanksgiving, when I see all the couples returning to spend time with their families, together. Ouch. A couple glasses of airport wine in and I’m shedding tears of pity for myself.
But I made a decision around age 30 that I wasn’t going to wait for someone else in order to live life to the fullest. That’s when I started traveling solo. There are too many places in the world to see, and life is not long enough to wait around and hope it happens to me. Slowly, over the years, I stopped feeling lonely.
Do I prefer traveling with a friend? Absolutely. Some of my biggest laughs and most enriching experiences occurred while traveling with my best friends. But I’m a highly driven individual and sometimes I can’t wait for someone else to coordinate schedules and book the same flights as me. That and…I enjoy my solitude!
Whenever someone asks how I do it, I explain that:
When you’re alone in a foreign country, you observe so much more about your surroundings. Your senses are heightened because you’re not focused on the person across from you. You’re on your own schedule, doing whatever you want , whenever you want to do it. An open book on the open road.
I’m a very intuitive and expressive person, so my greatest concern is whether or not my companion is enjoying themselves. If that person is removed from the equation, I focus solely on my own enjoyment.
I’m sure I’ll get hella lonely at times over the next several months of solo travel—so PLEASE come visit me!…But I knew I couldn’t wait for my life partner to embark on this lifelong dream of mine. It’ll allow me to look outwards, making new friends along the way.
I hope to find a deeper understanding of myself and learn to give myself more grace than I did in my desperate 20’s. And, most importantly, I can’t wait for the meaningful connections I’ll make along the way—especially with both the residential and stray dogs I find.
Am I alone? Yes. But rarely, if ever, am I lonely.
P.S. I have travel itinerary I can share with you if you would like to consider meeting me along the way!
And I realized today I should share upcoming plans so my readers know where I am heading. I’m currently in Los Angeles, CA, having just visited San Francisco, CA, Carnation, WA, and Portland, OR (letters to come). I leave for Honolulu, HI on January 28th.