It’s important to get away by yourself now and again – #Viajosola or no #Viajosola…
When I booked a walking holiday in the lovely Peak District by myself, the news was received with a surprising level of, well, surprise. “Oh – alone? Couldn’t anyone get the time off to join you?” came the quizzical responses. “Wow, you’re brave!” said others. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting such confusion about my trip. Lots of people travel alone. Often to far more adventurous places than, like, Derbyshire.
I was between work contracts for a week and had always wanted to do an outdoors-y holiday. I had visions of traversing wind-swept copses, of watching the sun set over fields of gently mooing cows. Perhaps it was a romanticised vision strongly influenced by Jane Austen novels, but the point is, I wanted to do it – and I wanted to do it alone.
So I borrowed a pair of hiking boots and on a sunny April morning, off I went. When I stepped down in a little town called Grindleford, I stood and watched my train leave the station, until I was totally alone, and made my first step of my first walk of the holiday. It felt momentous and totally adventurous.
The scariest part was watching all signs of civilisation disappear round a bend as I left the road behind and crossed a turnstile to head up one of Derbyshire’s majestic hills. But after that, it was easy. As I stopped atop a peak, admiring the stunning views, I realised that not having someone to do something with should never keep you from doing something; unless it’s tandem cycling, I suppose.
“The notion that only men need alone time is just one of the many reasons why we need to dismantle this bullshit gender binary”
While my trip was no epic, Eat Pray Love adventure, my short sojourn was also a real confidence booster. Over those few days I did a number of things which we generally do with other people like eating out and shopping. I came to realise how little we as people spend time alone and how used we are to doing things with others.
Women in particular are socialised to seek out and obtain self-assurance from the company of others (except for eating salad – which, of course, is an entirely acceptable thing to do alone), until I think we come to find the notion of being alone intimidating. Small things like, say, being the first to arrive at a bar, can seem scary.
Meanwhile, we’re told that most men need time to themselves to perfect their man-cave and the women in their lives must cater to this requirement by giving them “space”, both literally and emotionally. Well, I call bullshit on this nonsense and (perhaps more importantly) so does contemporary psychological thinking.
I’ve asked many of my female friends and many of them attest to the need to have regular alone time, without which they burn out, while plenty of my male friends are much happier with company, having no need for a “man-cave”. It’s not a gender thing – it’s a person thing.
“Alone time isn’t just about relaxing, it’s about creating time to do things which are important to you. No one else will hold you to account for not working towards your own personal goals – except yourself”
My trip away resulted in another personal revelation: that I wasn’t making time for solitary activities which are important to me, such as creative writing. As a bookworm child I spent a considerable amount of time alone, avidly reading and writing stories and poetry. I was eventually inducted into the many rituals of female socialisation, and as an adult have been fortunate enough to surround myself with many ass-kicking friends who add immeasurably to my happiness.
But I stopped writing creatively – for years. Only recently have I started to reclaim that creative time. So, alone time isn’t just about relaxing, it’s about creating time to do things which are important to you. No one else will hold you to account for not working towards your own personal goals – except yourself.
Going away for a few days shouldn’t be considered brave. You have to challenge that little voice that is used to looking around to check what everyone else is doing. The notion that only men need alone time is just one of the many reasons why we need to dismantle this bullshit gender binary, so people can be doing more of what they want and less of what they don’t.
But that’s a whole other article. For now, suffice it to say that there is such a thing as your no-friends-zone, complete with mooing cows and Austen-esque vistas. And it’s waiting for you out there. Get to it.