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Loneliness and solitude

At some point after my move to Texas, I read an article that distinguished between loneliness and solitude, the former a state of forced aloneness, the latter implying some level of appreciation for solo time. This was a revelatory distinction for me at the time, because the difference in the level of social activities between Arizona and Texas was great.

It makes me think of an incredible experience I had in Costa Rica, at a field site. I went off on a brief hike by myself because I wanted to explore the enchanting beauty of the place at my own pace. As I walked along a trail, eventually I observed some animal movements in the distance, and as I approached I discovered the activity was a pair of white armadillos, rooting around in the vegetation. I quietly watched them until they wandered further off into the forest.

When humans hike in groups, these sorts of animal encounters almost never happen, because groups of hiking humans wind up devoting noise and energy to the social group, even directing the attention of other group members to specific sights. The experience isn't necessarily better or worse, just different.

When I made the distinction in Texas, I realized, hey, all this extra anonymous free time could be really useful for getting a hell of a lot of reading done.  That helped tremendously to offset the feelings of loneliness I had been experiencing.

For some reason, I feel like I am relishing the alone time even more here than in Texas. It might be because I am anticipating a more intense work schedule. Who knows. Regardless, here's to quality solitude!


( 2 remarks — Remark )
Feb. 14th, 2015 04:14 am (UTC)
I think that's one of the things I value about bicycling. It's possible for it to be a social event, but it's easier for it to be solitary, and I see so much more stuff. Less stuff per mile than I'd see on foot, but so many more miles that I see just piles of things I would otherwise not, particularly wild animals.
Feb. 14th, 2015 09:57 am (UTC)

Yes! As I was writing this it also made me think back fondly to two summers ago, bike touring solo around the Olympic Peninsula. Company would have been fun on that trip, but there were many parts where I was happy to be by myself.  As a friend once put it, the longer the bike ride, the more personal it becomes (in terms of energy management in particular). It's a little frustrating to encounter social biases against women going on such solo adventures, but maybe the popularity of that book and movie, Wild, will help counteract that (not that I will be reading or watching...but I am glad it's reaching the social consciousness in general).

( 2 remarks — Remark )

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