The Gift of Solitude
Today as I drove from Port Renfrew to Victoria on Vancouver Island, with endless old growth forest on my left and Washington State’s Olympic Mountain Range over the water to my right, I was reminded the many positive impacts long periods of alone time have on me.
I had just completed a six day hike along Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail. Easily the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done. It was my 20th solo trip in the last 25 years, my first was across Indonesia when I was 19. My days on The West Coast Trail were made up of 6-7 hours of carrying a 60lb backpack down fog covered beaches, up and down an aging ladder system, through muddy bogs and winding along forests containing thousand year old cedars. While I hiked I was thinking. While I set up camp I got to think further and every night and morning while I prepared and ate my meal I ruminated on things that came to the forefront. Then it repeated again the next day.
"Solitude is a crucial and underrated ingredient for creativity. -Susan Cain"
When you are alone with your thoughts for multiple days in a row, you discover whats really important, because it comes to the surface day after day. It finds you and doesn’t let you run away. It’s telling you something and with nothing to distract you, there’s not much choice but to listen.
Being alone is frightening for most of us. With little to distract us, it’s scary to be alone with our thoughts. It’s uncomfortable, but potentially game changing if you let it be. Learning to sit with discomfort leads to life changing discoveries that power our relationships, first with ourselves, then with others.
When you have the opportunity to take care of only your needs for a week, you are reminded of what you need, what you’ve been ignoring and how you might better focus on these things in order to grow. Time alone allows us to order our priorities according to what we need, rather than the needs of others. Most importantly, when you get to the source of how to best take care of yourself, you become more attentive and responsive to other’s needs.
Time alone to think and do and be as you please, is a gift, a gift to be treasured.