The luxury of solitude


Disconnect to reconnect. That’s the essence of the luxury holidays that garner my attention. The luxury of space to do things, the luxury of time to yourself, the luxury of solitude – to remember what makes you, you. That’s the ultimate luxury holiday in my mind. Alone time to reset my mindset and get the ducks lined back up in my head. Separate myself from everything so I can re-evaluate, reassess and reorganise. That sounds like an awful office holiday, but these things happen organically when you’re alone.

“The sort of solitude I prize decouples me from all deadlines, and leaves me floating in a warm and amniotic present.” – Will Self

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” – Pablo Picasso

Being alone is a lost art nowadays. The general societal view of being alone is associated with being, well, antisocial, a loner or weirdo, that there must be some negative reason for a human being to retreat into a dark corner away from the everyday. But more and more, people are coming to realise the benefits, advantages and, to be honest, sheer joy that you can experience when you choose to have some alone time.

That’s probably the crux of the issue, the difference between being lonely and being alone – choice. Being lonely is not something that’s chosen, you’re not in control, but being alone, well that’s the luxury of having a choice. And it’s been found to have many health benefits, too.

“It is only alone, truly alone that one bursts apart, springs forth.” – Maria Isabell Barreno

There are many physical and mental positives that can come from solitude. When you need to get a job done, sometimes you just need to shut yourself away from distractions so you can concentrate. But equally, alone time means you can let your mind wander – let thought patterns flow and grow and go to places you hadn’t thought of before, finding new solutions, different angles and more creativity to help you reach your full potential. Privacy leads to better performance and productivity. It lets you plan and postulate, get your head straight and sort the mess on your desk. So imagine your desk isn’t in front of you, but a beautiful view or a cosy woodburner, a green field or a nature-filled woodland. Imagine what your mind will do.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.” – Anne Lamott

Give your mind the freedom to enjoy escapism and you’ll feel a lot better. Embrace the nothingness, the lack of things to do and the non-routine, instead consciously accepting that solitude equals freedom. Do what you feel like doing whenever you feel like doing it. Go with the flow and listen to your bodily cues. It’s not often you can get away with doing nothing. But actually you’re not doing nothing. You are actively relaxing, making the effort to have some downtime and the reward will be all the more evident when you go home. The luxury of solitude will give you that clarity.

“There is a difference between loneliness and solitude, one will empty you and one will fill you. You have the power to choose.” – AVA

You’ll understand the studies that show how being able to tolerate being alone leads to a happier life – you’re more able to deal with stress, you’ll be more satisfied and apparently experience less depression – but I think it’s all about balance. Don’t punish yourself for working too hard or for taking a holiday. Learn to accept that some things are necessary and some things are luxuries, but that the two can overlap. Solitude is a necessary luxury in a busy life and one you can’t afford to miss out on.

“Solitude is the soul’s holiday, an opportunity to stop doing for others and to surprise and delight ourselves instead.” – Katrina Kenison

Even the dictionary definition gives the example, “she savoured her few hours of freedom and solitude”. It gives the opposite of solitude as ‘company’, which reminds me of the age-old phrase, ‘misery loves company’. It is not an exact fit to this story, but it does help define the difference in being alone and being lonely again. Solitude is related to beautiful words such as peace and quiet but also more negative connotations such as isolation, desolation, lonesome and reclusion. It’s up to us to decide which our holiday becomes.

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.” – May Sarton

A secondary definition of solitude is ‘a lonely or uninhabited place’ and associates words such as wilderness, rural, middle of nowhere, unspoiled area; now they’re words we can get on board with.

A luxury glamping holiday is the perfect way to enjoy solitude, with the comforts of home out in the back of beyond, the solitude without the loneliness, the luxury of time to yourself in a comfy place you’ve chosen to stay in.

“By my intimacy with nature I find myself withdrawn from man. My interest in the sun and the moon, in the morning and the evening, compels me to solitude.” – Henry David Thoreau

So go it alone. Have a holiday that’s rich in time, nature and freedom, treat yourself to the luxury of solitude and get more done for yourself than you ever thought possible – by doing lots or nothing at all. Just do it on your own.

“The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” – Voltaire


Comments (16)

  1. Ellen says:

    It’s such a brilliant quote that I’ve already chalked it up on the blackboard in my kitchen: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes … including you.” – Anne Lamott.

    At one place I used to work. I shared an office with the IT guy. Of course, a lot of the time he was off on a rescue mission and over the years I learnt his mantra and repeated it. “Switch off – have a cup of coffee – and reboot.” It was so successful, probably about 90% of the time that he began to fear for his job.

    Though I think that it works less reliably with humans, their problems are often far more complex.

    • Katie Chown says:

      Thanks, Ellen.

      Love the story about the IT guy – a mantra we could all live by!

      Yes, if only it was that simple 100% of the time for us humans.

  2. Vernon says:

    We get it badly wrong so much of the time. There’s almost a stigma to being alone. It’s as if society is saying that you’ve failed if you are sat on your own. People are all too willing to point the finger and shout “Billy No-Mates” accusingly. I travel a lot for business so my partner has to stay at home and get on with her work. Very occasionally I get a slot of two or three hours where I can go to a museum or go for a walk and it’s actually really good. Instead of worrying whether my partner’s enjoying it, how long should we do this for and what are we going to do next I can actually focus on what’s going on. Once you start travelling in a group you usually end up settling for the lowest common denominator. Obviously I’ve chosen to spend most of my life with a significant other but I can appreciate the advantages of solitude.

  3. Moya Finn says:

    As Greta Garbo famously said, “I want to be let alone.”

    She’s often famously misquoted as saying, “I want to be alone,” which annoyed her.

    Would we have preferred her to say that she wanted to be alone? Sometimes it seems a lot more exciting to be happy with your own company.

    • Katie Chown says:

      Nice quote, thanks! Could’ve added another paragraph on the nuances between the two phrases. Would being left alone lead to loneliness, as sometimes you can be in a room full of people and feel like the loneliest person in the world.

  4. Grace says:

    What an interesting piece! Deserves a much wider audience. It’s got a lot of important things to say about our worrying need to be connected from dawn to dusk whether it’s with people or in cyberspace.

    • Katie Chown says:

      Thank you Grace, I’d love it to be seen wide and far – it was interesting to write! I often notice how addicted I am, checking my phone every other minute – I need a digi detox to enable my solitude…

  5. Jen Scott says:

    I think solitude can be very underrated. I love being with friends and being around others, but I also appreciate time on my own, more so as I’ve got older. There’s truth in that notion of ‘disconnect to reconnect’, to get away and get back to nature and just switch off for a while. I like that you’ve shown both the physical sense of being alone and the mental aspect – freedom of mind and quietness is pretty rare these days when we all seem exhausted, over worked and very over stressed. Great quotes you’ve included, I especially like the Barreno and Lamott ones. Fab post, Katie!

    • Katie Chown says:

      Thank you so much, Jen. I really come to appreciate all facets of solitude since living alone – going from party girl to being comfortable in my own company is real personal growth for me :)

    • Jen Scott says:

      Aw that’s really good, Katie. I’ve found that being on my own has done similar for me too. You come to rely on yourself, you’re more independent, you’re okay with going solo and you appreciate your own company. Personal growth, like you say!

  6. Emma Oliver says:

    Another one comes to mind – lose yourself to find yourself. It reminds me of various films like the Reese Witherspoon one Wild. Getting away from it all and reconnecting with the world and yourself in a way that you can’t really do when you’re stuck in the cycle of day to day life at home and around others. I can see the appeal for writers too that go to their haven somewhere secluded with greenery all around to let the creativity flow. A good way to unblock ourselves perhaps. I think I could do with some of this. I get plenty of alone time but not somewhere that would be restful or energising in any way. A solo summer getaway, I like the sound of that.

    • Katie Chown says:

      Lose yourself to find yourself is definitely a Where Oh Where mantra :) My daily dream is a solo summer getaway with books and writing materials… sigh!

  7. Bryan Myers says:

    Man, I really needed to read this today. Solitude is such a big part of my life. And sometimes I get lost in ways that hold me in place rather than embracing it and making it a positive thing. This is really a beautiful and inspiring post. It helped me think a little better today, thanks!

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