Some of my favourite ever moments have been on solo trips.
Eating four-cheese pizza in the sun at a vegan cafe in Budapest, riding my motorbike to watch various sunsets in Koh Samui, taking self-portraits standing at the cliff sides at Rhossili, meeting strangers on rooftops on the 25th birthday. And more.
Since being a teenager I have been fiercely independent, travelling off to other parts of the country to meet long-distance friends, going away with groups – I tried to distance myself from the dependance of my parents. In my early twenties I spent time living and working abroad (both with my best friend, and alone after she moved back to the UK), and I’ve always tried to guard and maintain that carefully cultivated independence by purposely going away on my own. Even now, happily settled and in a relationship back in the UK.
Even just small ‘backyard adventure’ trips where I just take off for a few hours in the day and wander around in the snow or the sunshine, alone, camera in hand or, occasionally, dog lead towing me along.
I think I am, naturally, an introvert. Actually. Who am I kidding. I know I am an introvert. I have always liked to spend a lot of time alone, which is a battle because I also struggle when I feel isolated, when I feel like I haven’t seen people in while – something I do, a lot. Not because I don’t want to spend time with people, more so that it often exhausts me mentally.
And, after meeting Michael, I have simultaneously spent a lot of time alone and not alone. I live with him, so each night I’m not alone. We both love to climb and see the outdoors, so I’m not alone.
But I’m freelance and work from home. So all day, I am alone. I struggle to find the fun in late nights out, so I am alone. When I am alone I tend to be trying to do something ‘ productive’, so I don’t really, necessarily get time to reflect.
The importance of self reflection and aloneness.
I am putting more value into being alone. Not just accidentally because that’s how I work. But to actually go out and seek aloneness.
A few weeks ago I went to Wales for a week, for work. I rented a cottage, had work plans for some of the days and no plans for the rest. I just went with it. Drove to the coast, wandered around, played with my new camera. I fell part-way up Pen-Y-Fan and smashed my lens, I sat and watched the sunset at Rhossili Bay, I exhausted myself wandering along the cliffs and beach of Dunraven searching for a place to boulder (it was too wet).
And those days, I took some of the best, and most loved, photos I’ve ever taken.
On reflection, I think my mental health was at its worst during the times I didn’t take this kind of time for myself. Of course, it’s not as simple as A causes B, but it’s certainly a huge factor in my happiness – having that time to reflect in a setting that works for me.
And, usually, that setting does involve a sunny day, and a rolling or expansive landscape.
I don’t think it matters if you are in a relationship or you’re at home with a group of friends around you – taking solo trips (even if it’s just for a few hours) is so intensely valuable.