How To Love Being Alone
Even if you're not single. And even if you think it's lame!
We’re told to practice “self-love,” yet taught to celebrate a holiday dedicated to love by celebrating someone else. We’re encouraged to embrace being single, yet stigmatized for being alone. We get approval when we’re partnered, yet we baffle our approvers when we decide to do something solo. We love love and all its magic, yet we somehow neglect the magic reflected in the mirror.
What if we finally dared to do the opposite? This Valentine’s Day, I am having a dalliance with myself. I am alone in Buenos Aires with a single agenda: treat myself to lovely alone time all day long. I have reservations for one at a famous steakhouse and a plan to spend the afternoon sketching in the sun. Later, I will be writing myself a love letter because I have never written myself a love letter—and what better time to do it then in Cupid’s celebratory honor?
Since I was a child, I have always enjoyed doing things alone. I love the freedom of following my own whims and the foreignness of figuring out who I am without outside influence. But during the past two years, I’ve gotten surprisingly comfortable with constant companionship after the pandemic put a pause on my independence. I found myself living with my parents in my childhood home again. There, life is blissfully pleasant—like young adulthood cocooned in always-stocked pantries and family meals. Being surrounded by so much love is a huge blessing, but nestled in the cocoon, I started forgetting how to be me without them. I lost touch with loving my solo self.
In pursuit of a reclaimed public relationship with myself, I channeled the cojones of my 19-year-old-solo-backpacking self and booked a flight for South America. As I write this from my Buenos Aires studio apartment, part of me has unfamiliar solo travel butterflies. While I’ve done everything from dining to dancing on my own in the past, I feel out of practice. How do I, uh, go to an event alone again? How does one make new adult friends? My confident-on-my-own muscles may or may not be putty at this point, but at least I’m ready to start moving them again! And, truly, I’m thrilled to be here—alone, abroad, and able to do whatever I want.
One of the most effective ways to start loving yourself is to start loving your solo self. Spending time alone can be wildly delightful—for both the single and the taken. Even if you think today is cheesy, Cupid and I agree: Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity to celebrate love by celebrating ourselves as well.
If you’d like to brave the alone, I put together some tips for how to make the most of it inspired by my previous solo travels—tips that I am in need of myself as I get back into the solo swing of things:
Realize no one cares—and screw those that do
When you first start doing things alone, you might be hyper-aware of everyone around you. Are they judging me? Are they wondering why I don’t have friends? The answer is 99.2% of the time: No! They are living their own lives just as you are living yours. The times I have ended up talking to those very people I thought were judging me, they end up being a) impressed b) solo lovers themselves c) totally ambivalent. And none of those are bad things!
The 0.8% that judge tend to be the ones most afraid to be alone themselves. They’re the types that might associate being alone with being lame or lonely—which feels a bit immature and is not worth your stress. If you’re having a good time on your own, science would agree that you are neither lame nor lonely.
A disclaimer: If you’re traveling alone, especially as a woman, you will hear inevitable concerns over your safety. It’s a strong reminder to do your research and be super vigilant, but don’t let it deter you from flying solo. Moments where I’ve seen new places on my own have been some of the most empowering experiences of my life—especially as a woman. So, take that concern from a place of care and use it to fuel your cautious fun.
Find your solo soundtrack
Gearing up for a solo outing? Cue up your favorite groove. There is nothing like having a hype anthem to help overcome any potential internalized awkwardness.
Not only does having a go-to pump up song enhance your main character energy (and consequently, your confidence), it makes every moment all the more cinematic. Colors come alive. Your feet begin to bounce. You feel an electric wave pulse though your spine, prompting a spontaneous smirk and sashay. With the right solo song, you’re unstoppable. Some of my favorite solo adventures have a song associated with the memory. The movie in my mind has its own soundtrack. What will yours be?
If you find me dancing across Buenos Aires, wielding an empanada, it’s probably because I’m listening to this:
Take yourself on your dream date
One of my favorite things to do on planet earth is get dressed up for a bougie dinner and ball out—on myself. I bring a book, a journal, and usually spend the meal doodling, people watching, and, I kid you not: grinning like a goof. This is my happy place.
The biggest perk of flying solo is being able to do whatever the hell you want. Bike ride? T-bone medium rare? It’s your day, your way. We all have a dream date in our minds—but we tend to wait hoping another person will make that wish come true. Why not grant our own wishes? A solo date doesn’t have to be expensive; some of the most fun is free. So, make it special and take on the thrill of self-satisfaction. Plan a day or plan an hour that’s solely dedicated to your delights. Remember no one gives a flying hoot—and start relishing in the wonders of your wants.
Don’t force yourself into solitary confinement
There is a big, fat myth that must be busted right this second: being alone means being antisocial. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When you’re on your own, you can still be around others—whether that’s at a concert, a hostel, or a bar. And even better, your solo-ness can boost your social-ness. By not being focused on friends you already have, you can open yourself to the possibilities of new ones. You become more approachable. You become more receptive. You become buddies with new people.
Doing things on your own doesn’t have to be isolating, but if your dream solo adventure involves talking to absolutely no one—embrace that. I love my loner dates at my cafes where I don’t want to talk to a soul, but I also love my loner dates at cafes where I trade WhatsApp numbers with the waiter. There is no right or wrong way to doing anything alone. But you might enjoy solo adventures more when you can meet new people beyond the bubble of your people.
Write yourself a love note
Last year, I stumbled upon a simple Wayne Dyer line that sang to my solo heart in not-so-simple ways: “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” If you enjoy your own company, you won’t be craving other company. If you love yourself, you can be alone with yourself. But when was the last time you looked yourself in the eye and said, “I adore you, I love you” with the utmost sincerity? For me, the answer is pretty much….never. Which is why today, I am giving myself my own Valentine’s Day card.
To declare our love for ourselves feels outright uncomfortable, cringe, and mildly conceited. But this isn’t about arrogance, this is about acceptance. And kindness. Whenever I’ve written love notes to people ranging from my partners to my parents, I feel a deep fulfillment that comes from speaking kindly about someone else. I write my love and feel love in the process. Valentine’s Day is a beautiful chance to embrace the love all around us—including the love for our very selves.
Consider sitting down and professing your love on paper to the one person you know best: yourself.
Landing in Buenos Aires: Maybe it’s the meat-loving tendencies of this country or maybe it’s the lure of Patagonia’s landscapes—but for whatever reason, Argentina has always been at the top of my bucket list. Since I’m lease-free, fully remote, and employed at an agency that has an office in Buenos Aires, I knew the “¡Che, boludo!” call could no longer be ignored. I had to come here, even if being away from my suburban shelter in the middle of a global pandemic results in lingering nerves. But this city is so insanely beautiful (and warm!) that I am stoked to be here. If you know anyone in Buenos Aires or have any reccos, please pass them my way!
Choosing an Airbnb with a mini fridge: This might seem flippant, but the fear is factual. I love cooking, I love eating, and I love having a fridge brimming with options. So when I fell in love with an Airbnb in Palermo Hollywood that had everything except one giant catch in the shape of a mini fridge, I had to take a sharp inhale as I hit “Book now.” Now that I’m here, the tiny fridge is growing on me. It’s cute. It’s effective at keeping a handful of items cold. And it’s an adventure to be continued.
An extroverted introvert, Tatiana Gallardo is currently trying to strike the right balance between getting her social fix with new friends and delighting in the discomfort of independence. For now, she’ll be finding her groove—and literally grooving—in the Argentina sun.