Monday, February 28, 2011

estás sola?

During the month long trip that I took to Argentina this year there was a line of questioning that I learned to expect the moment someone picked up from my accent and my (hopefully charmingly) maladroit Spanish that I was foreign: where was I from and was I here alone?

A woman alone in a foreign country provokes a variety of reactions: from mild surprise and curiosity to outright suspicion and/ or concern. I encountered this everywhere: from taxi drivers to waiters to the locker room attendant at the beach club in Mar del Plata. I learned while I was there to embrace my status as a sort of exotic oddity and to deal with these questions good-naturedly. And often as not, the question that followed ‘are you here alone’ was ‘why?’ I learned that the simplest way to answer this question was to simply say ‘for an adventure’. This was almost always met with a brief, thoughtful silence and then an approving  muy bien’. I took this to mean that people admired my doing such a thing by myself but perhaps they just felt uncomfortable and didn’t know what else to say (part of the freedom of communicating in a foreign language is that it gives you a lot of space to interpret things, and so you can interpret them however you like).

I was lucky during my travels in that I met really great people early on. Being alone too much was something I had worried about initially. But during the times I was alone, I found I was able to embrace it in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to when I was younger: I went to dinner alone, went for walks alone, went on excursions alone. There is something almost magical about being by yourself in a place where no one knows you, where you are freed from the self-consciousness that you might feel if you were worried about running into an co-worker or a former boyfriend without the buffer of someone else by your side.  And as any person whose been single for any amount of time knows, there’s something incredibly freeing about being alone because it allows you to be spontaneous in a way that you can’t be if you’re having to factor in someone else.

Most of us feel more comfortable with a good friend or romantic partner by our side when we’re traveling or doing something new or even when we’re doing something mundane like eating dinner or shopping or going to a party. And there are lots of things that are wonderful to do as a couple: weddings, family functions, Netflix watching, brunch. But for the purposes of adventure? Sorry, but there is just nothing like the thrill of going it alone and unencumbered.

So my question for you is: if there is something you’ve always wanted to do, whether it be learning a new dance, eating at a certain restaurant, or traveling to a far off land, what or who are you waiting for it? Doing it sola could be a lot more fun than you think.


  1. This inspires me. So many times I wait for someone else to be moved by the same things that move me. Wait and wait and nothing.

  2. i was an only child for the first nine years of my life and will always be someone who prefers doing most things alone (most, wink wink). going to the movies, out to eat, shopping, jogging...many of my activities are solo. one of my favorite trips is to go to chicago for the day (a 45 minute plane ride) all by my lonesome.

    the con to all this is that there are times i actively detach myself from my husband and kids. like after dinner when we're all hanging out watching tv, without even realizing it, i'll go off to our bedroom and read by myself or watch the tv in our bedroom alone. my husband will come in and say, "why don't you join us." it's as if i don't even realizing i'm pulling away.