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It’s liberating to be alone. Allowing yourself to detach from the frenzy that makes up your daily life is a valuable necessity. It provides you with the chance to move at your own pace, collect your thoughts, and lower your guard to be a little introspective. When you’re alone, you temporarily shed your identity because there’s nobody around to label you. This leads to no expectations and with no expectations to live up to, you could achieve unconstrained freedom.

I’m really comfortable in my own skin. I rarely feel self conscious when I’m out in public by myself. Over the years, I just became accustomed to not relying on others for my own happiness or success. Sometimes, I’m too independent (aka negligent) and don’t make much effort to recruit company for activities or strengthen relationships. But being more introverted than extroverted, I value the time to myself. I’m fine with partaking in activities stag, but I’ll admit that I had my qualms about traveling solo, especially internationally. Will it be safe in a place where I’m obviously a tourist? Will I get lonely not having anyone to talk to? Will I even have fun being alone for an extended amount of time?

After failing to enlist friends to come along, I ended up in Spain and Portugal by myself for two weeks. Even if I was 4,000 miles away from anybody that was familiar with my existence, it wasn’t intimidating at all. Even if I was the only Asian person around and couldn’t effectively communicate with any of the locals, I felt a liberating and carefree energy. I was able to curate an experience to my own liking without having to consider or consult others. Roaming around solo also provided me with more mental capacity to admire and absorb the beautiful details around me, which made me more appreciative of the places I visited.

Ultimately, I was going to discover my threshold for independence. There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely, as the latter implies that you’re seeking others for security and happiness. I’ve never spent two weeks by myself, so I anticipated loneliness to kick in at some point. Even in these bustling cities, I felt pretty isolated due to my lack of proficient Spanish and Portuguese. On an average day, I walked 10 miles, but I uttered less than 50 words. After a week without having a single in-depth conversation with anybody, I felt an ounce of loneliness starting to arise.

Dating back to Neanderthals, humans have always communal creatures. We thrive and yearn to be members of groups, rather than recluses. Because of this, being alone is almost seen as a negative state of being.

“Oh, are you’re eating lunch by yourself? Where are your friends?”
“Are you here alone? Do you need someone to keep you company?”
“I’ve been single for years. I’m hopeless.”

Adding to the stigma, our “always connected” society has conditioned us to continuously seek company. Either by double tapping photos or texting a friend, actions like these give us the impression that we aren’t by ourselves. I appreciate this technological benefit, but I hope that people don’t become more afraid por insecrure of being alone. Social media addiction is an actual thing and some people feel incomplete without their phones.

It was a refreshing two weeks where I had all the time in the world to think, and to be honest, I didn’t contemplate too much about what I left back at home. Rather, I was more concerned about where I was going to eat and how to get the right angle for my photos. Traveling solo brought a lot of peace and provided for a truly easy-going adventure. However, it did make me appreciate good company. I had an amazing time, but it could’ve been incrementally better with the additional one or two good friends to share in the experience. There were a number of moments where I wanted to share a thought, but had nobody next to me to receive it. One of my main goals in the last couple years is to be better with relationships and ironically, being alone provided more clarity on it.

If any friends want to travel, I’m always open to the idea.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.

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