Embracing my alone

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Here in your alone, you will find yourself, a person you may have never thought you were. A person who is capable of so many things you may have never thought possible. The answer always lies within you; your happiness, bliss, joy and nirvana are within you naturally.

-The Difference Between Lonely and Alone.

Behind the counter, the Aegean attendant smiled at my request to check in two bags.

“Are you traveling in Greece alone?”

“Yes, sir!” I beamed with some pride.

“Wow! That’s brave. I don’t think I could do that!” he shared.

In that moment, I squirmed a little; I wondered if he knew something I didn’t. Was it particularly dangerous for a lone woman to travel through Greece? Was I more of a target for theft? Should I heighten my guard?

Given that I had experienced two weeks already on and off with friends as travel companions, I was sure that was not it. From what I could tell, Greece is like walking into a large family reunion celebrated by tables and tables of delicious home-cooked food in a stunning setting. I felt comfortable, welcomed, and appreciated.

Maybe what he was doing was revealing a moment of raw honesty: that traveling alone is scary because it can be lonely.

This lonely vs. alone comparison has come up for me a lot here. I will be the first to admit that I’ve always struggled with being alone. I consistently surround myself with people, have an active social life, have had a history of always having a roommate (until recently). I don’t see this as a flaw per se, but I have wondered if there’s a reason this is my go-to.

This trip has helped shed light on the matter. There has been a correlation for me between being alone and the questions that emerge.

Am I comfortable in my skin?
Can I be with the quiet?
Do I like myself?
Does it matter what others think of me?

The most challenging moments would come up around dinner. Walking along restaurant lined paths, lit candles on the tables, incredible sunset sinking in the Med, hands being held, sessions of dreamy eye-gazing, the evenings were truly the most romantic times in Greece. At first, sitting across from no one was hard for me. I’d lose myself in my iphone just to cope, texting, uploading photos to be seemingly entertained.

But then, something shifted.

Although there were certainly moments I felt lonely, I began to embrace my alone. I enjoyed the world I was framing in my way as I snapped photos. I rested in my breaths as I rediscovered my yoga practice. I treasured serendipitous encounters with others who shared themselves with me. I sat easily. I smiled often. I liked being with me.

It may seem silly that it took a journey of many miles and days to come to this discovery. But, man, was it ever worth it.

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