I like people. I like spending time with people. And I really like watching and learning from experiences of others. But for someone who enjoys the company of others so much, I spend a large chunk of my time in secluded areas by myself. But why?

Part of that answer is because of the nature of my job. I backpack into remote areas of the country, searching for and recording natural sounds that are the pulse of our national parks. It turns out it doesn’t make much sense to have others tag along on these trips since people tend to bring along noise and distractions. Not good when you’re trying to capture the essence of wilderness.

However, there seems to be more to my solo adventures than the necessities dictated by my job. For instance, my last three vacations have been solo adventures into relatively remote parts of the world. Not just remote in a geographical sense, as was my trip to the Boundary Waters, but also remote in a cultural sense, as were my trips to the lower Rio Grande Valley and Costa Rica.

Visting the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Costa Rica forced me into a level of isolation that only a language barrier can provide. Additionally, I was a minority in these parts of the world, something I’ve rarely experience in my life. And the thing is, I knew this was going to be the case, yet I sought them out anyways, as a solo. But again why? Part of the answer is because I wanted the unemcumbered opportunity to look at cool birds. I also wanted to push myself past my comfort zone. But there seemed to be something else at play here.

The podcast ‘Why Oh Why’ by Andrea Silenzi may have offered some insight. On one of the episodes Andrea was seeking a deeper understanding of her own heartache and how to move on from a traumatic emotional event; in her case, the end of a relationship.

One of the experts weighing in on the matter suggested that Andrea might try and seek a new life challenge, possibly in the form of solo travel. She emphasized that taking on a difficult challenge might teach us a lot about our individual capabilities during these times. And that this might ultimately lead us to understand ourselves better and potentially the realization that we are stronger than we think and are fully capable of taking on and leading fulfilling lives on our own.

And for me, I think deep down inside, this may be my answer. I took on new challenges that were intended to test me. Challenges that tested my mettle. Challenges that forged new and positive neural pathways in my brain, pushing aside unwanted memories that I have no use or want for any more.

I also feel there was a final lesson in these adventures that I needed to learn before fully moving on from my last breakup. And that lesson was simply learning how to be comfortable experiencing life alone in any situation, difficult or easy. Any that’s really not stating it strongly enough. What I mean is learning to be comfortable AND thriving alone.

And that’s where I’ve found myself over the last six months or so. I know now that I can take on these challenges by myself and fully enjoy them along the way. I learned that I’m actually not an extrovert and that I’ve been trying to force that narrative upon myself for most of my life. Sure I thoroughly enjoy being in the company of my friends and family, but I need time to myself to recharge and become a better me. This has been a greater revelation than I ever thought possible.

And finally, I’ve learned that I’m ready to take on a partner. An adventure partner for sure, but also a life partner. I think I’m finally my best me, at least when it comes to dating and potential relationships. A version of me that is open and honest about who I am and what I want. A version that trusts my evaluation of my interpersonal relationships and is no longer willing to settle just to avoid being alone.

I say all of this and where do I find myself currently? Alone in Sequoia National Park, ready to conquer another solo trip into the backcountry (I am posting this after returning from my trip). But, I’m ready to see the world with others. So let’s take a trip and experience all that life throws our way! I only hope you’re ok with looking at some birds along the way.

 

Solitary happiness–it sounds like a contradiction in terms, an implausible contraption that will never get off the ground.

–Julian Barnes

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