Appreciating SOLO Time

Self-discovery is a journey

When I look back I have always being a loner… I like spending time by myself and with myself.  Always had. At times friends and boyfriends would complain about me being reclused and moody, and I always admitted to it, never fought it or felt insulted. It was true, I could recluse myself into solitary to study, to soothe my mind, to nurture my soul. I just need time alone.

I have always been surprised how after 20 years of leaving my home country, my friends (my closest friends) are the ones I have back in Panama.  Those amazing 13 women were, are and will be one of the best gifts life has given me, and thanks to WhatsApp we are constantly chatting, giving advice, reprimanding, complaining, encouraging and congratulating each other.  Of course, I have made friends since coming to the U, but 20 years later there are just about 5 people that have been close enough to call them a friend.

When I turned 35, there was a major shift in me. I started reading self-improvement books, marriage books, communication books, mindfulness books and with this new information I was learning, I became aware that me being a loner was a trait of my personality and most importantly I learned to embrace it.

So what are the things that I enjoy doing all by myself? Here are a few of them:

Watching a movie: I work next to a movie theater and ever so often I try to treat myself for an early afternoon movie on Fridays.  Maybe it happens once every two or three months but when there is a movie (especially a rom-com girly movie) I go in, popcorn in hand, and have a blast all by myself.

Having a meal in restaurants:  I know it’s not easy to see people eating by themselves, but what if that person is choosing to be alone?  In my case, there have been so many times in which I have been eating by myself, in a nice place, watching people walk by or just observing the restaurant.  I remember when I was in college I would go to this cafe for lunch and sit by the window just watching people walk by, I enjoyed the meal, the view, and the loneliness.

Traveling:  Walking into an airport is instant relaxation for me.  I like going to the airport at least 2-hours before my flight and sit in a food court or Starbucks and watching people walk by.  Also been by myself in a long flight (8 or more hours) is therapy to me.  Watching movies, reading, writing, or just plainly thinking, enjoying the constraint of not been able to go anywhere for the next 10 hours. Princeless.

It is my experience, now at 39 years old, that taking the time to get to know yourself better is pivotal in our continuous self-improvement.  We need to decipher ourselves and embrace our own thoughts. We are all different and when I am walking in a mall and I pass by a group of friends, I smile… my lonely trip is their group trip… and we are equally enjoying it.

First time traveling solo…

traveling solo

When I was 16 years old my parents offered me the opportunity to go to Bournemouth, England to study English and I happily said yes.  The English course would take 4 weeks and after its completion, I would fly to Rotterdam, where my cousin was currently living, and stay with her for a week or so.  Once I arrived in Rotterdam, I and my cousin started planning out what I could do during the day while she and her husband were at work. She proposed for me to go to Bruges, Belgium for the day by train, my cousin would drop me off at the train station and after a 2-hour train ride, I would arrive at Bruges.  I was anxious about going by myself to a new city, but I felt confident with my improved English skills and felt genuinely excited to go.

I arrived at Bruges train station around 10:00 a.m. It was February so it was cold, although not freezing.  I walked from the Train Station to the City Centre to the Markt guided by the city map my cousin had given me. I walked the Historic Centre and through the channels by the lake. I remember vividly standing at Rozenhoedkaai for what it seems to be a very long time, looking at the water while seating on a bench, with my thoughts overfloating me.  I felt the excitement of being in a new place, of discovering the beauty of this amazing city, the freedom to walk at my pace while taking pictures and enjoying the peace within my silence.

After having a long lunch which consisted of Belgian waffles and a Coca Cola I continued to walk along the water, looking at my map while following my instincts, buying Belgian chocolates and small souvenirs and after eating fries with mayonnaise (European style), I walked back to the train station to find myself back in Rotterdam.  

During the years to come (24 years since then), I have had the opportunity to travel alone many times, Syria, Greece, London, China, among other places.  Always finding the perfect moment in which amazement meets self-enjoyment and happiness shows up, but I always go back to 16-year old me, sitting on the bench looking at the bridge in Bruges, Belgium and I cannot help but smile, knowing its true that old saying… To remember is to live again.