Go Alone

Recently I was talking to someone who was telling me that she felt a bit stifled her first two times at Burning Man, since her group of friends could never agree on where to go. This reminded me of one of the most life-enhancing habits I picked up over the last few years: to always go alone.

Sure, you can invite people to tag along, but don’t depend on them and don’t over-adjust your plans to accommodate them; this is your journey and they’re a privileged guest. If you’re always relying on companions to do things, you’ll never explore beyond your weakest link: the person who wants to do the least. Furthermore, you’re always making compromises, whether waiting on people, deciding on what to do in what order, how you’re getting there, when you’re leaving, who’s hungry when, etc.

This last weekend, I went to a beach party and offered people rides. I was happy to do a nice thing for people, but the experience reminded me of why I like to do things alone. With everyone having different ideas for when they could leave, when they wanted to return, etc., I found myself making considerations I’ve gotten used to no longer making. Within an hour at the beach, people kept wanting to gauge when I might be ready to go home, and all I could say is I don’t know because I’m not thinking about it…I’ll leave when I feel like it, whenever that might be. I started to feel like I was being annoyingly fickle because I’d be getting ready to leave, but then the chilly weather warmed up and the music got good, and suddenly I wanted to stay. At the end of the day, that’s my own problem…while I’ve gotten much better at saying no and not trying to please people, there’s still room for improvement.

When you do things alone, there’s never any discussion and you’re always exactly where you want to be, so you’re never bored. After all, if you were, you’d simply move on to the next thing. Any desire you have, you do on a whim without consideration. There’s never any need to make plans. You’re living in the moment. You’re present.

Plus, your world opens up not only because you’re not hindered by others, but also because now you’re far more likely to meet new people, people whose interests and level of adventurousness — not to mention level of independence — align with yours.

One of my best trips was back in May, when I went to South Africa by myself. To enter a continent I’d never been to before — one that felt from my perspective to be a remote and relatively dangerous part of the world — was already stepping outside of my comfort zone, which is part of the reason I knew I needed to do it. But then to do it alone…well, I made so many new friends from all over the world.

When I arrive in Burning Man next week, my modus operandi will be the same as last year: I might “go out” with a group every now and then, but the moment our interests don’t align, I’m off on my own.