What’s the longest amount of time you’ve spent alone? A day? A weekend? During college, I spent a semester in France. I arrived before classes began not knowing a soul, and for three days I wandered the cobblestone streets of my adopted city alone in a jetlagged haze. I made friends once classes started, but I still spent A LOT of time alone that semester. At first, being alone made me feel restless and insecure, but gradually, I settled into myself and discovered the perks of traveling and dining solo. I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to linger at the Louvre, order a side of pommes frites or call it a day.
Recently I read about a woman who took alone time to a new level. In 2012, Felicity Aston become the first woman to ski across Antarctica solo, enduring a 59-day, 1,000-mile journey with nothing to keep her company but her own breath and an endless white snowscape. “…the being on my own part was the hardest thing I’ve experienced in my entire life…Those first few seconds after the plane left me, I was struck by the full weight of my aloneness, and the responsibility that came with it,” she said in an interview.
While Aston is grateful for the experience, it’s not one she wants to repeat. Ever. In fact, she said it took her a year to feel like herself again, especially in social situations. “With no other people around, every single emotion I had would be immediately, intensely expressed…my emotions swung so hard and fast that it made me feel as though I was going mad,” she said.
For some people, being alone comes naturally; for others it’s an acquired taste. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel to Antarctica to savor some alone time (your backyard is a great place to start!).